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April 7, 2019 - 5:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, news, notify.

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Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, received three awards in the annual Better Newspaper Contest sponsored by the New York Press Association.

Owens won first place for spot news photography and education coverage and second place for elections/politics coverage.

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The five stories submitted for education coverage where:

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The five stories submitted for elections/politics coverage were:

Mark Gutman, photographer for the Batavia Daily News, was also honored with two awards, including second place for photographer of the year. He also received third place for sports feature photo.

Mallory Diefenbach, staff writer with the Batavia Daily News, won second place for health coverage. Jessica Dillon received first place for agriculture coverage. John Anderson and Zach Lyman won first place for best use of video. John Anderson placed second for best column. John Anderson, Scott DeSmit, and Matt Leader received first place for in-depth reporting. 

The Batavian was judged in Division I. The Batavia Daily News in Division II.

April 5, 2019 - 3:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, news, Le Roy, The Greens of Le Roy, senior housing, notify.

This week The Greens of Le Roy senior assisted living facility announced that it has been acquired by St. Ann's Community, a leading provider of senior housing and health services in Rochester with a 134-year history there.

New signage and papwerork will display its new name, St. Ann's Community at The Greens.

Day-to-day operations will continue as they have and Director Kim Pasquale will continue as the day-to-day point of contact person. The St. Ann's finance team will contact residents and their families soon and provide a new W-9 form.

A letter to stakeholders from officials says: "By bringing together The Greens of Le Roy with St. Ann's Community, we benefit from out collective histories, values and missions to provide residents with the best quality of life.

"It quickly became apparent after working together, that our organization becoming one will enhance our abiluty to serve seniors."

The announcement was made by Michael E. McRae, president and CEO of St. Ann's Community, and A. John Bartholomew, president of Bartholomew Healthcare Group.

St. Ann Community is headquartered at 1500 Portland Ave. in Rochester.

April 5, 2019 - 3:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, notify, batavia city school district.

Batavia City School District Superintendent Chris Dailey is moving up the career ladder to a larger school district. He will be formally appointed as the new superintendent of the Gates Chili Central School District on Tuesday, it was announced today.

Gates Chili Board of Education President Jeff Pettenski praised Dailey's leadership skills in an announcement by that district.

Dailey will be officially appointed at the Gates Chili Board of Education meeting April 9.

“We are impressed with his record of accomplishment and commitment to the community he serves," Pettenski said in an announcement. "We are confident he is committed to teaching and inspiring excellence for all learners.”

Dailey's administrative career started with the completion of an internship and being department chairperson at Twelve Corners Middle School in Brighton. He next served as an assistant principal at Churchville-Chili Senior High School before becoming Batavia High School principal. He was quickly promoted by the Batavia Board of Education to deputy superintendent before taking over as superintendent in January 2013.

“I am excited and honored to have been chosen as the next superintendent," Dailey told Gates Chili school officials. "I look forward to working collaboratively with the Board of Education, staff, parents and community to provide a phenomenal education to our students.

"My mission is to celebrate the excellent programs, activities and services that contribute to the student success and outstanding pride that sets Gates Chili schools apart. I commit to modeling the character, integrity and fairness expected of the leader as we write the next great chapter in the tremendous story of the Gates Chili Central School District together.”

Dailey will begin in Gates Chili on July 1, pending contract negotiations.

The Gates Chili Central School District in Monroe County has about 4,000 students, more than 850 employees, and an operating budget of approximately $100 million annually ($24,503 per student).

April 5, 2019 - 2:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, news, notify.

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Dana Richardson said he's going to miss helping people, miss trying to make our community a little bit of a better place to live, which he said is how he saw his job during his 27 years with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

But it's time to do something else with his life, Richardson said during a retirement ceremony this afternoon.

"Deputy Richardson has served the citizens of Genesee County with professionalism, dedication, and enthusiasm," said Sheriff Bill Sheron. "He's been a source of pride for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office."

Richardson started his law enforcement career as a corrections officer in the Genesee County Jail but soon transferred to road patrol and during his career, he received two Commendation awards, a Meritorious Service Award, and the Officer of the Year award from the Kiwanis Club of Batavia.

"It's been an enjoyable career," Richardson said. "It's always different, changing every day. I've enjoyed working with the citizens in this county, trying to help people. I just felt like it was time for a change, time to do something else."

He doesn't know what the something else will be yet, but he will do something because he will need to pay for health insurance, he said.

Richardson's wife, Deborah, is a daycare provider, as she was 30 years ago when the couple first met. They have three sons, Nicholas, also a police officer, Jacob, a loss prevention officer, Andrew, a pastor, and a daughter, Holly, a teller at the ESL Federal Credit Union.

Richardson said he understands that a lot of people see cops as people who just want to write tickets and arrest people but that isn't how he sees the job at all.

"Basically, police officers are social workers," Richardson said. "They're people who are there to help people find solutions to their problems. We get to talk to people about what's important to them in their struggles raising their family, their kids. I'm going to miss that interaction with people on a personal level because as police officers we want to try to help people.

"That's why we got into this. It isn't about the arrests. It isn't about the speeding ticket. That's what police are so much known for, but really it's the public interaction and trying to make our community a better place -- that's why we do what we do."

Those are the values about police work Richardson said he learned from his father, who spent 26 years with the Batavia Police Department. He said he was fortunate to work in a department that shared those values, where officers strive to maintain a professional demeanor and attitude.

"We hold ourselves to a higher standard," Richardson said. "We're supposed to be people of integrity. That includes when you're not in the public eye as well as when you are."

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Three Generations in law enforcement: Dana Richardson, his father Roger, who is a retired Batavia PD officer, and Nicholas, Dana's son, who is a detective with the Albermarle County Police Department in Virginia.

April 4, 2019 - 3:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, news, notify.

District officials have trimmed more than $1.1 million in proposed spending from February's draft budget for the Batavia City School District. Combined with an additional $500,000 in state aid, it means the proposed 2019-2020 tax levy will stay below that state-mandated tax cap amount and allow local homeowners to get their annual rebate checks.

That's a pretty good deal for Batavia homeowners, who have received an average of $500,000 more in rebates each of the past five years than whatever increase in taxes the school district has initiated for the year.

Voters will be asked to approve the $50.518 million spending plan, which anticipates a tax levy of $19.5 million.

Tax rates won't be set until assessments are done but Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said the early estimate is that local property owners will see a tax-rate increase of 27 cents on each $1,000 of assessed value.

In the search to cut proposed spending, Rozanski said the district will delay $300,000 in technology spending, reduce spending on new library books to the state-aid amount of $24,000, and delay additional equipment purchases for another $19,000 in savings. Some personnel's salaries can be covered by grants.

Last year, the tax levy increased by $444,000 and local residents received rebates on school property taxes of $1.1 million. The three previous years, there was no increase in the levy and taxpayers received cumulative rebates of $424,000, $ $825,506, and $535,194.

The 2014-15 school year was the one year in which the tax levy increased more than rebates, with about a $150,000 difference.

Rebates for local residents are set based on an income formula so people with lower incomes receive bigger rebates proportionally.

Since the tax cap became law, the district has kept the tax levy below the allowable tax cap amount. For the 2019-2020 budget, it will be $331,886 below the potential levy amount.

Over the previous seven years, the district budgets, cumulatively, have been $3.8 million under what the tax levies could have been in those years.

Previously: No significant program cuts anticipated as City School District looks to trim spending by $750K

April 4, 2019 - 1:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rick Palermo, news, notify.

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There were 16 other people who received awards at the Rochester Radio-Press Club banquet last night at the Rochester Convention Center, but in many ways it was Ricky Palermo's night.

The Major Donald Holleder Award is the biggest award of the 70th Annual Day of Champions dinner but the love and appreciation for Palermo in the room was apparent, especially after a surprise presentation speech (via video) by college basketball, NBA, and basketball broadcasting legend Bill Walton.

"I stand in awe of you Rick Palermo, as fine a man as I’ve ever known," Walton said in his own baritone, effusive style. "In the game of life, Ricky, it’s not how big you are. It’s how big you play. You and Major Holleder are the truest of giants. We love you Ricky, more than words can ever tell. You’re my hero. Thank you, Ricky, for your life, which has given me mine."

Palermo was a three-sport team captain at Byron-Bergen High School. In 1981, he suffered a spinal cord injury in an automobile accident that reduced his mobility. In 1987, Palermo and his family decided to host a golf tournament to raise funds for spinal cord research. They raised more than $11,000 that first year and so decided to do it again, and again, and again. The tournament has now raised more than $1.4 million.

Emcee John Kucko said Ricky has "touched thousands of people, including some of the biggest names in sports," just before Walton, a graduate of Helix High School in East San Diego County, appeared on the four massive TV screens in the convention center.

"You are as great a champion as I’ve ever known," Walton said. "This spectacular award is a testament to your character, to your courage and to your achievements."

The Helix Highlanders won two championships with Walton as their star. UCLA won two NCAA titles with Walton at center. Walton was also on NBA championship teams in Portland and Boston.

"Ricky, your life is a shining beacon," Walton said. "It is a beacon on the horizon of life and it gives us a reason to believe that tomorrow is worth fighting for. You led this effort, Ricky, to make all aspects of our world a better place, inspiring me to try and become a tiny fraction of the person that you are. Our decades' long friendship, Ricky, has shown me the best of the human spirit and the unlimited possiblities of life."

There were other connections with Genesee County at Wednesday dinner. The dinner chairman is Batavia-native Mike Kauffman. John Grillo, a former Pavilion coach and father of Ashley John Grillo, who is the principal of Batavia Middle School, received the Charlie Wagner Award for his lifetime contributions to local sports.

Grillo retired from Holly-Kendall after 44 years of coaching. As a wrestling coach, he guided 795 dual-meet wins, 22 Genesee Region titles, and 12 sectional titles.

Kansas City Chief's quarterback Pat Mahomes was also honored at the dinner.

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John Grillo

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Nancy Palermo, Ricky's sister-in-law, getting video of Ricky's acceptance speech. Ricky said of his family, "If it wasn’t for them I know it would not have been the same thing. You don’t know what it’s like to be held on a pedestal, and it’s it not just for a couple of years. It’s been 38 years and I’m still spoiled. I’m very fortunate."

April 3, 2019 - 4:21pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, Le Roy, elba.

Dorsie J. McGill Jr., 34, of Quaker Hill Road, Elba, is charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, and second-degree criminal trespass. McGill was arrested at 4:14 p.m. on March 31 on North Spruce Street, Batavia, after allegedly arriving at the home of a family member and kicking the front door in and entering the residence without permission. After arraignment in Batavia City Court, he was jailed in lieu of $1,500 cash or bond. He was due back in court on April 1. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Cronmiller, assisted by Officer Matthew Wojtaszczyk.

Ryan James Wetsell, 25, address unspecified, of Batavia, is charged with second-degree harassment. At 9:30 p.m. on March 28, he allegedly grabbed another person and struck them in the face while at a hotel on Federal Drive in Batavia. He was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia Town Court on April 22. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy David Moore, assisted by Deputy Kevin Forsyth.

Paula A. Cipro, 51, of Tracy Avenue, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree -- use of a stolen credit card, and petit larceny. Cipro was arrested following an investigation into the use of a stolen credit card at Northside Deli. The alleged incident occurred at 1:01 p.m. on March 21. She was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on April 9 to answer the charges. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Ivison.

Christine A. Wark, 34, of School Street, Le Roy, was arrested April 1 at 4:32 p.m. on a bench warrant out of Batavia City Court. She allegedly failed to appear in court on Nov. 28 on two misdemeanor traffic charges. She was arraigned and released under supervision of Genesee Justice and was due back in court today (April 3). The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay.

April 2, 2019 - 3:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Le Roy, notify, crime, accidents.

Shawn W. Cross, 48, of Le Roy, is identified as the man who suffered a severe head injury following an incident late Saturday afternoon in which he exited a moving vehicle on Lake Street in the Village of Le Roy. He remains in critical condition at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

The driver, Lorie A. Litolff, 57, of Craigie Street, Le Roy, is accused of leaving the scene of a serious injury accident, a felony.

She is also charged with DWI, failure to report an accident with injuries, driving without an ignition interlock device, and failure to submit to a breath test.

Litolff was jailed on $10,000 bail.

Several witnesses were interviewed and Le Roy police believe Litolff and the victim were engaged in a verbal argument prior to the man exiting the vehicle.

When he exited, according to witnesses, he lost his balance and fell, striking the pavement, which is the cause of at least some of Cross's injuries.

For previous coverage, click here.

For initial post, click here.

Our news partner WBTA contributed to this report.

April 2, 2019 - 3:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, Oakfield, byron.

Richard White Jr., 37, of High Street, Brockport, is charged with: second-degree vehicular assault; aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree; operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 percent or more; driving while intoxicated; operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs; driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs conbined; and following too closely. White was arrested April 1 at 6 p.m. and arraigned in Byron Town Court. His arrest follows an investigation into a crash that occured at 7:07 p.m. on Feb. 15 at 6385 N. Bergen Road, Byron. It is alleged that White drove while his license was suspended and got in a crash while he was intoxicated. His passenger sustained a serious physical injury. Following arraignment, he was released on his own recognizance and is due back in Byron Town Court at a later date. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Travis DeMuth, assisted by Deputy Michael Lute.

Ronnie J. Sumeriski, 37, of Batavia, was arrested on March 28 by Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Chase on Route 98 in the Town of Orangeville following a traffic stop. He is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. Sumeriski was stopped for allegedly having a tinted license plate cover and inadequate plate lamps, making the rear license plate barely visible. After a roadside investigation, Sumeriski was allegedly found in possession of a THC vape cartridge containing concentrated cannibis. Sumeriski is also charged with inadequate plate lamps and obstructed license plate. He was released with appearance tickets and is due in Town of Sheldon Court on May 6.

Vidal Chavez, 63, of Oakfield, was arrested on March 26 by Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Chase on Route 20A in Sheldon following a traffic stop. Chavez was found to be operating a vehicle with a suspended registration due to insurance lapse, an unclassified misdemeanor. He was released with an appearance ticket returnable to Town of Sheldon Court on April 15.

April 1, 2019 - 4:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, notify, batavia.

After a meticulous investigation inside the burned-out home at 109 Evans St., Batavia, fire investigators have determined the fire that claimed the life of John Sherman, Sr., 41, has been ruled accidental.

In a press release, City Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano said investigators concluded the fire started on a stove top in the kitchen.

Joining city fire investigators in the investigation was a Batavia PD detective and two investigators from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

There were eight people in the residence Saturday morning when the fire broke out and spread quickly. Smoke detectors and closed doors helped save the lives of several occupants, Napolitano said, but Sherman was unable to escape from a room on the second floor.

After Sherman was rescued by firefighters, medics initiated CPR and he was transported by Mercy EMS to UMMC, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Sherman was born Aug. 8, 1977, to Jan Beach of Batavia. He was a graduate of Alfred State and Empire State College and worked at Pizza Hut in Batavia and was recognized locally for his culinary and sculpting skills. He was a member of City Church and volunteered at the Animal Shelter. For his full obituary, click here.

Multiple pets were rescued or managed to escape the fire but one dog did die inside the residence.

In City Fire's release, Napolitano reminded residents of the importance of working smoke detectors and sleeping with bedroom doors closed.

Saturday, Napolitano said, "A room that has a door closed is a safe haven," Napolitano said. "They were alerted by a smoke detector and they were able to safely exit the house. That is why it's so critical when you have young children or yourself in a home, you need to sleep with the door closed. It stops the fire from entering. It gives you a shelter so you can shelter in place, a safe haven, or whatever you want to call it. But it gives you an opportunity to escape."

April 1, 2019 - 3:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, byron.

Laura J. Reed, 27, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree harassment. Reed was arrested at 10:22 p.m. on March 25 after a disturbance at 160 Bank St. She was processed and is due to be arraigned in Batavia City Court on April 2. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen, assisted by Officer Jamie Givens.

Valentin Brito III, 21, of Seven Springs Road, Batavia, is charged with trespass. It is alleged that after being issued a written trespass warning, Brito returned to College Village at 4:05 p.m. on March 31, in violation of the written warning. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Town of Batavia Court on April 8. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Mullen, assisted by Deputy Joshua Brabon.

Andrew Michael Pridmore, 34, of Mechanic Street, Elba, is charged with: driving while intoxicated; operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 percent or more; and speed not reasonable and prudent. On March 30, following a complaint of a property damage accident at 2:13 a.m. on Byron Road in the Town of Byron, Pridmore was arrested. He was issued appearance tickets for Town of Byron Court and is due there on April 15. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Brabon.

Tyler Michael Powers, 21, of Frederica Street, North Tonawanda, is charged with second-degree contempt. He was arrested after an investigation into an incident in the City of Batavia. He allegedly disobeyed a court mandate. Powers was arraigned in City of Batavia Court and jailed in lieu of $500 cash or $1,000 bond. He was due to return to court on March 29. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Lute.

Kevin Wayne Howard, 19, of Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with promoting prison contraband in the first degree. Howard was arrested while being processed at the GC Jail on March 21 after he was allegedly found in possession of a dangerous drug upon entering the facility. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court on March 28 then jailed in lieu of $1,000 cash or bond. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Lute, assisted by Deputy  Matthew Burgett.

Joseph J. Kuzma, 39, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument. During a home visit at 10:32 a.m. on March 29 by GC Probation, Kuzma was allegedly found in possession of nine hypodermic instruments. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and put in jail in lieu of $2,500 cash bail. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Frank Klimjack.

Jacob J. Sponaugle, 20, of Liberty Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. At 10:40 a.m. on March 30, Sponaugle was arrested at his residence on Liberty Street in Batavia after a search by GC Probation. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on April 9 to answer the charge. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post, assisted by Officer Kevin DeFelice.

March 31, 2019 - 1:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, Le Roy, notify.
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       Lorie Litolff

Lorie A. Litolff, 57, of Craigie Street, Le Roy, has been accused of leaving the scene of a serious injury accident following an incident on Lake Street, Village of Le Roy, at 5:05 p.m. Saturday where a man exited a moving vehicle and suffered a head injury.

The charge of leaving the scene of a serious injury accident is a felony.

She is also charged with DWI, failure to report an accident with injuries, driving without an ignition interlock device, and failure to submit to a breath test.

Litolff was jailed on $10,000 bail.

The name of the victim has not been released and there's no current information available on his condition.

The investigation is being led by Sgt. Emily McNamara, who reports that police have yet to determine why the victim exited the vehicle while it was moving but believe he did so voluntarily. 

Several witnesses were interviewed and police believe Litolff and the victim were engaged in a verbal argument prior to the man exiting the vehicle.

When he exited, according to McNamara, he lost his balance and fell, striking the pavement, which is the cause of at least some of the victim's injuries.

After the victim exited the vehicle, witnesses said the dark-colored, small SUV continued northbound on Lake Street.

Witness descriptions helped police identify and locate the vehicle. Litolff is accused of driving the SUV at the time of the incident, which occurred in the area of 78 Lake St.

Multiple witnesses attempted to render first aid to the victim. He was transported to an area hospital by Mercy Flight.  

Le Roy ambulance and Le Roy fire assisted at the scene.

Previously: Man reported to fall out of vehicle on Lake Street, Le Roy

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March 30, 2019 - 5:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Le Roy, notify.

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A man has reportedly fallen out of a moving vehicle in the area of 78 Lake St., Le Roy, and may have suffered a head injury.

The vehicle he was believed to be in continued northbound on Route 19.

It's a maroon Jeep Liberty.

Le Roy fire and Le Roy ambulance dispatched.

Mercy Flight being put on ground standby.

UPDATE(S)(By Billie) 5:41 p.m.: Mercy Flight is at a field near the crash site preparing to transport the victim to a hospital.

UPDATE 6:03 p.m.: Mercy Flight is airborne; destination not known. The patient suffered severe head trauma and was in and out of consciousness at the time of transport.

UPDATE 6:29 p.m.: Le Roy Police Sgt. Emily McNamara said it is not known at this "very, very early stage of the investigation" how or why the victim exited a moving vehicle, or what speed the vehicle was going at the time. The speed limit on Route 19 in the village is 35 mph. The vehicle continued on without stopping. It is thought to a smaller, dark-colored SUV; the previous description of a maroon Jeep Liberty is not certain, nor is it ruled out. In fact, any witnesses of this incident are asked to call the Emergency Dispatch Center directly with information that might help the investigation at 343-5000. Although the victim's identity has been established, police are not yet releasing the name until they have contacted family members.

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March 30, 2019 - 4:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Evans Street, news, notify.

109evansfire200b.jpgA deadly fire at 109 Evans St., Batavia, this morning, claimed the life of 41-year-old John Sherman Sr., said City Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano this afternoon while supervising the investigation into the cause and origin of the fire.

He said it's too soon yet to even speculate on how the fire started.

There were at least six or seven other people in the residence when the fire started, Napolitano said, and some of them owe their lives to smoke detectors and the fact that they were sleeping with the doors of their bedrooms closed.

"A room that has a door closed is a safe haven," Napolitano said. "They were alerted by a smoke detector and they were able to safely exit the house. That is why it's so critical when you have young children or yourself in a home. You need to sleep with the door closed. It stops the fire from entering. It gives you a shelter so you can shelter in place, a safe haven, or whatever you want to call it. But it gives you an opportunity to escape."

Sherman was the owner of the 1,528-square-foot house, which was built in 1890 and has an accessed value of $69,000.

Evans Street remains closed during the ongoing investigation but Napolitano said the investigation is nearing completion. 

Joining city fire investigators in the house is a Batavia PD detective and two investigators from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

It's city fire policy to call in state investigators when there is a fatal fire.

Napolitano described the investigation process as meticulous.

"They're methodically going through layer by layer, removing debris, removing furniture, trying to put a puzzle together, if you will," Napolitano said. "You know when you open up that box with all the puzzle pieces and you have to find the outside edge first, and then you build. That's what they're doing. They're building a puzzle."

It's a bit like reverse engineering the fire, he said.

"We're trying to figure out, OK, from the patterns and the indicators that were left, how and where that fire started, and how it traveled, where it migrated to, what could be a cause, what could be the origin."

The chief said the results of the investigation will be released as soon as some conclusions are reached about the findings.

Previously:

March 30, 2019 - 10:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, batavia, notify.

One person died in a house fire this morning at 109 Evans St., Batavia.

The fire was reported at about 7:15 a.m.

When firefighters arrived on scene, they found heavy smoke and flames at the rear of the house from the ground floor to the roof line.

Capt. Bob Fix described the situation as "untenable" and it wasn't possible for firefighters to enter the house until the fire was knocked back.

"We were dispatched to report of a building on fire just down the street from the fire station," Fix said. "As we pulled out of the station we could see heavy smoke in the sky so we knew we had a fire."

There were at least seven people in the residence at the time the fire was reported, including four adults who lived in the house. Residents told firefighters that one person was still in the house and provided firefighters with the person's location in the residence.

"We found heavy smoke and flames coming from the back side of the building as well as several people telling us the there was a victim inside a window," Fix said. "We attempted to make entry. Conditions were untenable at the time. We got some water on the fire there and tried to make entry again a short time later."

Once firefighters were able to make entry, they located the victim on the second floor and carried him out a window and down a ladder. He was placed on a stretcher and Mercy EMS personnel immediately began performing CPR.

While CPR was in progress, he was transferred to a nearby ambulance and transported to UMMC where he was later pronounced dead.

The victim's name has not yet been released.

"As it happened, the call came in right shift change and we had quite a bit more people available than we normally would have," Fix said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and Chief Stefano Napolitano said it's too early in the investigation to even speculate about the cause. The origin appears to be on the first floor.

State Fire, as is standard operating procedure, assist City Fire with the fire investigation.

The house is uninhabitable and The Salvation Army was contacted to assist the four adults who lived at 109 Evans.

Three pets, two dogs and a cat, were rescued from the fire.

Assisting City of Batavia was Town of Batavia fire, Alexander fire, and Darien fire.

Also assisting at the scene was Batavia PD.

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March 30, 2019 - 7:18am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, batavia, news, notify.

Heavy smoke and fire are reportedly coming from a residence at 109 Evans St. in the city. City Engine #11 is on scene, reporting a working structure fire at a two and a half story building. Smoke and flames showing. One person is still said to be inside.

All city platoons are called to respond. Mercy medics are on scene. Alexander's Fast Team is called for mutual aid; Town of Batavia is to report to its quarters; and Darien's rescue unit is called to the scene.

UPDATE 7:20 a.m.: An engine from Town of Batavia fire is called to the scene; one other from the town is to report to its headquarters for standby. Firefighters are working to extricate a person from the house on Evans Street.

UPDATE 7:28 a.m.: "Fire's been knocked down; looking for any hidden fire," fire command resports, and the person inside has been extricated and is being seen by medics. Utilities have been notified.

UPDATE 7:31 a.m.: "Looking for hot spots in the ceiling -- C side," reports command, "no fire below you (on the first floor)." A crew is called to the second floor to pull open the ceiling to check for extensions.

UPDATE 7:36 a.m.: Working to ventilate the structure now.

UPDATE 7:41 a.m.: Stairs to the second floor are bad. Firefighters are to enter and exit from the C side ladder. Water and electricity have been secured -- cut -- to the building.

UPDATE 7:45 a.m.: "We're hitting some fire from the Bravo-Charlie (C-D) corner." The male resident, who was pulled from the second floor, which was fully charged with smoke, is being transported to UMMC in emergency mode.

UPDATER 8:32 a.m. (by Howard): Alexander and Town of Batavia going back in service. Salvation Army requested to the scene to assist four adults. Code enforcement also requested to the scene.

March 29, 2019 - 5:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, pembroke, news, notify.
saelijacquelinemugf2018.jpg
     Jacqueline Saeli

The ex-boyfriend of a Pembroke woman who destroyed his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a garage fire Jan. 6, 2018, let Judge Charles Zambito know today that he wasn't happy the 53-year-old woman is able to avoid jail time as part of her plea agreement.

"What kind of lesson will she learn with no prison time or no jail time?" asked Ben Reuben. "Local jail time would be an education for stopping her from doing something like this again."

Zambito told Jacqueline Saeli that both the probation department and Sheriff's Office investigators recommended jail time for her, but in order to send her to jail, he would have to allow her to withdraw her guilty plea and take the case to trial.

He said he wasn't inclined to send her to jail because she has paid $10,000 in restitution. She has a 30-year career caring for other people as a nurse and no prior criminal record. Saeli has successfully completed alcohol abuse treatment on her own.

All of those factors figured into his decision, Zambito said.

Saeli's attorney requested three years probation but Reuben and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman both said they thought five years probation was more appropriate. Zambito agreed that the case called for at least five years probation.

"This case isn't just about you and the victim," Zambito said. "This crime put at risk an entire neighborhood. You set a shed on fire out of anger at your boyfriend. That required volunteer firefighters and the police to show up and deal with a substantial fire. These firefighters are people who are there to serve you and your community and you put them all at risk. What if a volunteer had had a heart attack? How would you have felt if somebody had died because of what you did?"

Though Zambito couldn't send Saeli to jail, he did order to serve 200 hours of community service over the next 18 months and fined her $1,000.

Before being sentenced, Saeli had told Zambito that she was raised by her grandmother who instilled in her a sense of integrity, honesty and accountability, and that "you always do your best to help others."

She said the Jan. 6 incident was prompted by what she thought was a betrayal by two people she trusted. She said she was hurt and distraught and she admitted to drinking that night.

"I can't take back what I've done," Saeli said. "I've lived with regret and shame every day since. I can't believe I did this to somebody I loved. I wish I could take this back but I can't."

Saeli and Reuben didn't look at each other as she left the courtroom.

March 29, 2019 - 4:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, notify, Darien, fire.

Darien beekeeper and mead maker Michael Potoczak is managing to keep his chin up along with his spirits after a swift-moving fire early Sunday morning destroyed his businesses at 541 Bell Road.

Around 6 a.m. on March 24, callers half a mile away on Sumner Road called 9-1-1 to report the blaze. The Darien Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene quickly, but the buildings which contained the beekeeping and winemaking equipment were already "on the ground."

A Sheriff's deputy pounded on the door of the nearby house to alert the residents, prompting the family's two dogs to bark, waking up Potoczak and his two sons -- who all got out safely, including the dogs. A beloved 14-year-old calico cat named Lily perished in the fire.

"I tried to save my diesel truck," said the 77-year-old, who is an associate professor emeritus of Math and Physics at the University of Buffalo. "But it was so hot I couldn't even get near it to open the door."

The cause of the fire is unknown.

"I've really stood strong. I just deal with it. But it does get emotional," Potoczak said, noting that he lost all the equipment that he had accumulated during 45 years of beekeeping and making wine from honey on his 150-acre property.

He's not sure what the future holds for the businesses -- Potoczak Bee Farms and Midgard Winery -- but he will have a better idea of whether starting completely over is possible once the insurance claims are settled in the coming weeks.

Turns out the metal buildings, 40' by 60', were insured but nothing inside them was covered.

"They really did a number on me," he said. "The insurance agent came out and I took him through and showed him everything. He said I'd have the same coverage; it's not even close. He put in zero where it said the value of the contents and I didn't notice that. You have to have someone who knows insurance read the document to know what it says."

By Potoczak's estimation, his loss is worth $400,000 or more. He figures the buildings' value at $250,000 (insurance says $130,000), plus he lost the heating furnace, a new skidster worth $33,000 and the $20,000 diesel truck; $75,000 in winemaking equipment including four stainless steel fermenting tanks worth $4,000 each, filters, and $85,000 in beekeeping equipment.

How much he can recoup will influence his decision whether to continue the businesses, which are intended as a way for his children to make a living.

His customers, he says, "have been phenomenal" and are encouraging him to start anew.

His beehives are all outside and located at different 20 sites for his WNY customers. The mead, which he has sold for about five years, can be found in 50 WNY liquor stores, including locations in Genesee County (Mr. Wine & Liquor), Wyoming County (Warsaw, Attica), Orleans County (Medina), and Erie and Chautauqua counties. The fermented honey wine is about 12 percent alcohol by volume, on a par with, say, cabernet sauvignon.

Regardless of what the future holds, Potoczak's daughter, Elizabeth Knaus, said she is grateful to everyone who came to her family's rescue.

"I would like to send out a big thank you to the emergency personnel who responded so quickly," Knaus wrote in an email. "Also to the our neighbors who could see and hear the fire and called it in. If it wasn't for them, I probably would not have my dad or my brothers today. Thank you!"

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Knaus.

For initial report, click here.

March 29, 2019 - 9:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in marijuana, news, notify.

deputyryandelongjan2019.jpg

img_3282chiefsheriff_0.jpg
Chief Shawn Heubusch and Sheriff William Sheron at a Public Service Committee meeting in January.

Rather than a potential revenue windfall, marijuana legalization could drive up costs for county government, County Manager Jay Gsell warns, as the county will need to cope with several matters related to law enforcement, public health, and federal contracts.

He's concerned state officials pushing for legalization haven't fully thought through these issues.

"I see it mostly as there could be more negative cost implications to the county as far as what we'll be dealing with in terms of our social service agencies or treatment agencies, and the related people that are part of what we fund in county government, such as law enforcement, and the public health considerations, rather than, 'oh, I see this as just another nice thing to do -- a little bit of a revenue stream,' " Gsell said. "I just don't even see that happening per se."

State officials are talking about implementing a 2 percent or 4 percent sales tax on marijuana sales and remitting some portion of that tax to local jurisdictions that don't opt out of permitting sales.

Gsell said since consumption will be legal in all counties in the state, opting out of allowing local sales will really be just turning down whatever revenue a county might be able to recoup for the potential increase in expenses that go with legal pot.

Both Sheriff William Sheron and Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch have publicly opposed legalization of marijuana, expressing concern about the potential for more highway fatalities, easier access to cannabis for teens, and the potential for increased crimes. Last month they shared these concerns with the county's Public Service Committee.

"The public safety issue is really what has law enforcement against it," Sheron said.

Both top cops have sent out press releases generated by their respective state law enforcement associations opposing legalized marijuana. In both cases, the Sheriff and the Police Chief say that marijuana-related traffic deaths have increased in Colorado since recreational use of cannabis became legal.

However, various reports available online contradict this assertion.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported last summer that while the number of fatal accidents where some trace of marijuana was present in one or more of the drivers involved had increased, fatalities in accidents where a driver was considered impaired by marijuana dropped significantly, from 52 in 2016 to 35 in 2017.

The Reason Foundation compiled a comprehensive report on driving and marijuana use that also suggested there is little correlation between legalized marijuana and increased traffic fatalities. Reason also found some data to suggest that legalized marijuana helps reduce drunken driving fatalities either because people consume less alcohol or since states like Colorado ban public consumption of marijuana, people who mix alcohol and marijuana are more likely to do so at home.

On the law enforcement front, a report from Police Quarterly, cited in a story from the Seattle Times, said that legalized marijuana seems to correlate to high clearance rates (cases solved) for reported crimes as officers spend less time on drug offenses.

It might surprise some that Jeremy Almeter, owner of Glass Roots on Center Street, isn't exactly eager to start selling marijuana from his shop, should it become legal. But he does support legalization and takes issue with opponents who say marijuana will lead to more traffic accidents or that it's some sort of gateway drug.

"I've been hearing marijuana is a gateway drugs since I was a kid, and I can tell you that the only true gateway drug in our society right now is alcohol," Almeter said. "You know, nobody smokes a joint and then goes out and decides to rob a liquor store. Bad decisions are made by people when they're inebriated.

"You know they're making decisions that they wouldn't normally make. I have seen, firsthand, the effect of alcohol on people doing exactly that. I think marijuana is one of the safest plants on the planet. I think hemp is right in the same plant family and they both deserve access for every person on the planet.

"If they if they're helping you, great, but they've never killed anyone. How many people are we losing a year to drunken driving?"

Almeter added, "Alcohol kills 88,000 people a year. Cigarettes kill 480,000. Cannabis has never killed anybody."

Whether marijuana has ever killed anyone is a disputed assertion. Here's Politifact on the topic.

Dealing with drivers who are so high their ability is impaired, regardless of what the statistics out of Colorado and elsewhere say, is a major concern for both Sheron and Heubusch. The chemical test for driving under the influence of alcohol is pretty straightforward. Blood alcohol content is scientific, objective and reliable. Busting a driver impaired by marijuana is more of a judgment call, and getting such a charge to stick in court requires officers who are trained as drug recognition experts.

It's an expensive proposition to have a DRE on a department's force. The Sheriff's Office has six currently. Batavia PD, only two.

It takes an experienced officer six months of training before obtaining DRE certification.

"In the law enforcement realm, the DRE program is one of the most difficult and time-consuming certifications that you can obtain," said Undersheriff Bradley Mazur.

During a recent interview, Deputy Ryan DeLong (top photo), who is DRE certified, discussed the process involved in making an arrest of a driver suspected of driving while impaired by a drug.

First, there needs to be probable cause to make a traffic stop. Second, the officer must observe something about the driver that indicates he or she is either high or intoxicated. Then the officer can initiate a field sobriety test.

If the officer isn't DRE certified but has a good reason to believe the driver is impaired by marijuana or another drug, then the officer will require the assistance of a DRE officer.

"The first thing that we do really doesn't change and that's just the administration of standardized field sobriety testing," DeLong said. "At the roadside, we're doing the battery of tests --  horizontal nystagmus (follow a pen with your eyes), walk and turn, and the one-legged stand. If we determine that the person is intoxicated or impaired by drugs, we take them into custody and start the process of bringing in a drug recognition expert. The drug recognition expert's job is to do three things: Determine is a person impaired? Is the impairment a medical impairment or a drug-induced impairment? And what category of drug or drugs is a person under the influence of, and how the DRE determines that is a 12-step process."

The process involves question, observation, and chemical testing (and those results can take some time to come back from the lab).

"What we're looking for, is there an abnormal dilation of the pupil for the lighting conditions or an abnormal constriction of the pupil and also how the pupil will react to a light stimulus," DeLong said. "We're looking at their muscle tone. We're going to check to see where it's most rigid or flaccid. We're checking for any injection sites for intravenous drug use throughout this whole process, and also just conducting an interview as we're interacting with the person.

"We're looking for observable signs of a drug usage such as somebody being on the nod, as we call it, where they're basically falling asleep in front of us, or different body tremors, or different signs of impairment. If we determine that this person is under the influence of a drug and what category of drug they are under, they'll go for a blood test or spittle test and (depending on the results) they'll be charged accordingly."

When it comes to law enforcement, marijuana legalization and the correlating expenses, the potential need for more DREs, aren't the only concerns for the county.

The Sheriff's Office has two new K-9s coming into service and of course, today's K-9s are trained to detect marijuana. That's a skill a K-9 won't unlearn, so there is some question about whether weed-sniffing dogs can remain in service.

Gsell is also worried about how legalization might impact Federal grants. The county receives more than $11 million a year from the Federal government and many of those contracts are contingent on the county maintaining a drug-free environment. Even if the state decriminalizes cannabis, that won't change Federal law or policy.

"As far as where federal money is used to fund positions and things of that nature, we have to provide assurances, like we do with our CDL drivers at the County Highway Department, that there are random drug tests done and there is a zero tolerance with regard to persons having any of that stuff in their systems," Gsell said.

While the state is promising an increase in revenue if marijuana sales become legal, a share of that revenue will only be available to counties that don't opt-out of legal pot sales within their borders. Given the anticipated increase in expenses, Gsell suggested the county will have little choice to allow local sales even if the additional revenue doesn't totally offset the additional expenses.

"The prospect of revenue or increased revenue is an ephemeral situation at this point," Gsell said. "There's no way to predict what that is and the things that we see from the state are not what I would call vetted enough, nor necessarily what I believe is actually going to come to reality."

March 28, 2019 - 4:58pm
posted by Billie Owens in bergen, batavia, crime, news, notify, Le Roy.
     Sylvan Grayson

On March 25, the Le Roy Police Department arrested 19-year-old Sylvan P. Grayson, of Myrtle Street, Le Roy, and charged him with one count each of burglary in the second degree, a Class C felony, and grand larceny in the fourth degree, a Class E felony.

The arrest stems from a complaint that during the evening hours of March 4, people unlawfully entered a residence on Lake Street in Le Roy with intent to commit a crime and stole property while the tenants were away. It is alleged that Grayson stole more than $1,000 worth of property. 

He was arraigned in Le Roy Town Court and released on his own recognizance.

Thomas L. Crawford, 29, of Dorstone Road, Rochester, is charged with third-degree assault -- intent to cause physical injury. Crawford was arrested at 2:30 p.m. on March 25 on Liberty Street in Batavia after he allegedly struck a person in the forehead during an argument, causing a large laceration. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and jailed in lieu of $2,500 bail. He was due back in city court on March 27. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jamie Givens, assisted by Officer Jason Davis.

Ryan Christopher Northup, 35, of Chamberlain Street, Rochester, is charged with: aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree -- mandatory suspension; operating a motor vehicle with without a required ignition interlock device; leaving the scene of a property damage accident; and unlicensed driver -- license revoked. On March 24 in the Town of Bergen, Northup was arrested during a vehicle checkpoint conducted by GC Sheriff's deputies on Route 33. It is alleged that Northup, while attempting to avoid the checkpoint, pulled into a driveway and missed it, striking a drainage culvert and causing damage. He then left the scene of the accident and was arrested at 4:36 p.m. He was arraigned in Town of Bergen Court and put in jail on $1,000 cash bond. He is due in Town of Bergen Court on April 17 to answer the charges. The case was handled by GC Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy McClellan, assisted by Deputy Travis DeMuth. Subsequent to his arrest on the above charges, Northup was arrested at the jail and charged with introduction of dangerous contraband into a prison in the first degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. On March 24, while being processed at the jail, Northup was allegedly found with a white substance tucked into his wallet. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and put in jail on those two charges without bail. He is due back in city court at a later time and date. The contraband case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy McClellan, assisted by Sgt. Andrew Hale.

Teesean T. Ayala, 20, of Walnut Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree burglary. Ayala was arrested March 19 on a grand jury warrant following an investigation into a residential burglary that occurred on Hutchins Street in Batavia at 9 p.m. on Aug. 2. Ayala was jailed without bail and is due in Genesee County Court in May. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Det. Thad Mart.

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