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August 7, 2017 - 11:19am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, batavia, notify, Le Roy.

Eddie L. Miles Jr., 45, of Washington Avenue, Batavia, is charged with criminal obstruction of breathing, and torturing or injuring animals. Mile is accused of putting his arm around the neck of another person and obstructing that person's breathing. He is also accused of injecting an unknown purple liquid into a dog. He was jailed on $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond.

Ronald C. Palmer, 46, of Florida, was arrested as a fugitive from justice. Le Roy PD arrested Palmer with assistance from the Local Drug Task Force. He was located on East Main Street, Le Roy. He was wanted on a warrant out of Broward County for violation of pre-trial release terms. The original charge is grand theft, 3rd. He was jailed without bail pending extradition.

Matthew B. Hardesty, 24, Martin Avenue, Blasdell, is charged with grand larceny, 4th. Hardesty was wanted on a warrant for an alleged grand larceny in May 2016 on Narramore Drive. Hardesty was located by USAF Security Police at Niagara Falls Airbase and turned over to Batavia PD. He was jailed without bail.

Eloise A. Peart, 31, of Wilder Street, Rochester, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear. Peart was released on bail.

Jeffrey T. Garrett, 45, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with disobeying a mandate. Garrett allegedly failed to respond to a grand jury subpoena.

Sean P. Carney, 26, of Hickory Hill Drive, Mayfield Village, Ohio, is charged with petit larceny. Carney is accused of shoplifting at Tops Market. He was jailed on $1,000 bail, $2,500 bond.

Dexter L. Turner, 25, of Church Street, Medina, is charged with failure to appear. He was jailed on $1,000 bail. He was also arrested on another warrant and bail on that arrest was set at $10,000.

August 6, 2017 - 1:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, notify, Alabama, accident.

A head-on collision is reported on Ledge Road, just west of Maple Road, Alabama, with a possible serious injury.

Mercy Flight on ground standby.

One person believed injured.

Alabama fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 1:13 p.m.: Two vehicles involved. One blocking, the other in the woods. Possible medical condition. 

UPDATE 1:20 p.m.: Mercy Flight requested to scene.

August 4, 2017 - 1:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news, notify.

A thunderstorm with 60-mph wind gusts is moving toward Genesee County at 45 mph and is expected to hit Batavia, Pembroke, Byron, Oakfield, Stafford, Alabama, Corfu and Elba.

The storm is currently over Clarence. 

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued by the National Weather Service. 

The weather service says to expect damage to trees and powerlines.

The weather service urges people to seek protection in an interior room on the lowest floor of building.

Hail is also predicted.

August 3, 2017 - 7:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

The three-day trial of a man accused of sexually attacking a person on South Main Street in Batavia ended in his acquittal on all counts after the jury deliberated for 90 minutes today.

Kyle R. Shea was indicted by a grand jury in February on counts criminal sexual act in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the third degree, and first-degree sexual abuse. 

The charges came after an investigation into allegations that Shea forced anal sexual conduct on another person, and that the alleged victim lacked the capacity to consent. in June or July of 2015.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he didn't know why the jury reached the verdict it did and he had no further comment.

August 3, 2017 - 7:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Alabama, notify.

A fully involved car fire is reported after a two-vehicle accident on Route 77 at Ledge Road, Alabama.

There are injuries

Vehicles are blocking.

Alabama fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 7:28 p.m.: A second ambulance requested to the scene.

UPDATE 7:36 p.m.: Alabama and Pembroke fire police requested to the scene.

UPDATE 7:52 p.m.: An ambulance from Medina is on scene.

August 3, 2017 - 2:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, healthcare, news, notify.

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President Trump at a meeting with Chris Collins, right, and other members of Congress.
Photo: Getty Images. Copyright 2017. Published with permission.

The future of health care coverage for some Americans has become uncertain. If your employer provides health coverage through an HMO or PPO, you're probably OK. If you're on Medicare or Medicaid, you're probably OK. But if you're one of the 51 million of U.S. residents who must buy your own coverage, you might be watching the news coming out of Washington with concern.

After seven years of promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans in Congress have been unable to do either. Now, President Trump is threatening to defund the CSRs (cost sharing reductions) that help insurance companies contain coverage costs. He may not be able to do that, at least in New York, but there are other actions Trump can take to hamper the health care exchanges. The funding reductions and uncertainty are creating turmoil for insurers and consumers alike.

There are a reported 5,074 Genesee County residents who purchased their health insurance through the New York exchange for 2017.

A month ago, The Batavian spoke with Rep. Chris Collins at length about his views on health care, with a follow-up interview last week, and learned that Collins doesn't think anybody needs worry about their coverage. When the House repeal and replace bill, the American Health Care Act was still alive (at the time of our first talk), he was confident that bill would be better for New Yorkers. Last week, when the so-called "skinny repeal" was still on the table (it since failed in the Senate), he thought whether it passed or not, New Yorkers would still have no trouble getting the coverage and care they needed.

The Congressional Budget Office has issued reports saying from 15 million to 25 million Americans could lose health benefits if either of those bills passed, but when pressed, Collins maintained there remained viable ways for anybody who needed coverage to get coverage.

Collins believes we have the best health care in the world, that Medicaid should be the same in all 50 states, that Republicans will never support universal health care, and he plans to continue the push to shift the cost of Medicaid from county taxpayers to the state.

"My buddy just had two grandchildren that were born twins two and a half pounds each," Collins said. "They finally just came home at six pounds. In days gone by the outlook for those kids would not have been good. The advances are tremendous in this country. I think we stand alone in this country with many of those and there's a cost that goes with it. We can get better everywhere. We have to go step by step but we've got to get rid of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). That's imploded."

That implosion, Collins said, is not because of anything the Republicans did -- eliminating support for risk corridors, creating uncertainty about the future of funding for individual market insurance, blocking the expansion of Medicaid, and not working on amendments to the original language of the act; rather, Collins said, it is because the ACA was doomed to fail.

"It was a house of cards that was never realistic," Collins said. "I called it out for what it was on day one."

On risk corridors, that was a flawed plan from the beginning, he said.

"I'm saying they (insurance companies) gamed the system," Collins said. "They priced the product low when they knew they would be reimbursed by the government. That all turned to mask how bad Obamacare was. It was masked for three years through this risk corridor reimbursement. Well, now the emperor's got no clothes and we see him standing there naked. That's what ended up happening when we stopped (the risk corridors). Now they have three years of actuarial data to know where it's got to be priced and sure enough, Blue Cross Blue Shield just announced a 47-percent price increase."

There are reports that the insurance companies are owed an more than $5.8 billion. Collins said they are owed nothing.

"They got their money," Collins said. "They got their money and now they have three years of actuarial data. They should be on their own."

Provisions in the Affordable Care Act such as risk corridors were meant, according to groups such as the Kaiser Foundation, to provide safe guards for insurance companies against taking on a wave of people with pre-existing conditions.

Remember, before the ACA, those $51 million Americans in the individual pool could be denied coverage if they didn't already have insurance or changed insurance -- such as going from an employer-based plan to an individual plan -- if they had a pre-existing condition, or that condition might not be covered. The ACA, which became law in 2009 and took effect in 2014, made that practice illegal. Risk corridors were intended to recognize a period of instability while insurance companies took on millions of people who had been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions all in a short period of time.

The risk corridors were not directly funded by the Federal government. It was expected that some insurers would under estimate and some would over estimate their costs. The risk corridors set a range of acceptable variance and then used profits from above that range to reimburse insurers who fell below that range.

Collins contends no insurance companies were profitable in the first three years of the ACA, or profitable enough to fund the risk corridors. 

"The young and healthy did not sign up," Collins said. "They are not signing up. Therefore the people in these plans are sicker. Those are the ones who flocked to them. There was never any money on the surplus side to give to the companies who all, in a race for the most patience, I would say negligently, priced their products knowing their losses would be covered by the federal government for a period of time. That was the house of cards. Set to fail. And it has failed. It was not anything the Republicans did."

According to a study by Common Wealth Fund, some insurers lost their shirts under the ACA while others raked in record premiums. Then, in the first quarter of this year, health insurance providers had their most profitable quarter ever. The volatility over the past three years in the health care exchanges is exactly what you would expect to find in a newly created market, according to a paper co-authored by conservative economist Craig Garthwaite.

The loss of risk corridor protection isn't the only shoal in the storm weathered by the Affordable Care Act.

There were more than 100 lawsuits filed against the ACA, some of them backed by Republicans. The fact that some of those challenges prevailed is evidence, Collins suggested, that the health care insurance law was bound to fail.

"This was a fundamentally flawed plan trying to get universal health care," Collins said. "The biggest issue was the Supreme Court struck down the exchanges being mandated across the country. That was the beginning of the end. That was not the Republicans. That was the Supreme Court ruling on an unconstitutional aspect of Obamacare. This thing was bound to fail."

The Affordable Care Act was meant to help lower the cost of health insurance for the approximately 51 million Americans (in a nation of 302 million adults, or 17 percent of the population) who are not covered by employer-provided health insurance or already receiving Medicaid or Medicare. Most of these Americans, prior to the ACA, did not have health coverage.  Since passage of the ACA, an additional 20 million people in the United States now have health insurance.

The ACA expanded Medicaid (though some states rejected the expansion) to include low-income workers (that's about six million of the 20 million mentioned above). There are also more people covered under their parents' plans because the law extended required coverage for children up to age 26.

A key provision of the ACA -- and one most reviled by conservatives -- is the individual mandate. The mandate was intended to push healthy young people toward signing up for insurance so their premiums (because on average they wouldn't require care resulting in claims) would help keep costs down for people with more health concerns.  People in the individual market who don't buy insurance can be assessed a tax penalty. 

The bill also required companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance. Like the individual mandate, this provision has been unpopular and one report said as many as 22 percent of small businesses are hiring few workers as a result.

One thing Collins believes about the ACA is that the bill was really a trick to institute universal health care in the United States.

"The Democrats want universal health care," Collins said. "No if ands, or buts. Hillary Clinton wanted that. Barack Obama wanted that. They never could get there and that's when we ended up with the abomination that I call Obamacare."

At the time the ACA passed, the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate, with enough votes in the Senate (58 Democrats and two Democrat-leaning independents) for Obama to get through just about any legislation he wanted, including single-payer, Medicare-for-all, or any other universal system.

The ACA seems to be largely based on proposals first put forward by the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. That that is not an indisputable fact. Stuart Butler, a Heritage director, says it's not true but there are documents out there that show Heritage and Butler pushing coverage for all Americans with an individual mandate.

At the time Butler was offering any kind of proposal for health care, Bill Clinton was president and Hillary Clinton was heading a commission aimed and creating universal health care for the nation. To counter the Clinton plan, Republicans were proposing alternatives, including the Heritage plan.

Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to universal health care, Collins said, even though Trump has seemingly promised just that during his campaign for president.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said on Jan. 11. “We’re going to have a healthcare that is far less expensive and far better.” 

In an interview with 60 Minutes in September 2015, he said, “I am going to take care of everybody. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Collins deflected questions about Trump's promises.

"I don't speak for the president," Collins said. "I would say on the campaign trail he talked about a lot of different topics."

And in response to a follow-up question, Collins said, "The life I live is here now, and Republicans will never support universal health."

Interestingly, not all conservatives agree. The American Conservative has recently published two columns suggesting that within five years Republicans will embrace universal health care and that universal catastrophic coverage is what is best for the nation.

Collins is opposed to universal health care, he said, because he believes it's inferior to what we have now.

"(I) would point to the situation in Europe certainly the situation in Canada where we have Canadians pouring over the border to get health care that's just not available within their universal health care system," Collins said. "You look to Europe; the elderly are denied health care. The ROI is not there, whether it's a new hip for it or something else -- how old are you? What's your life expectancy? Some of the life-saving cancer drugs are not available in Europe from a cost perspective because those nations budget health care." 

According to this op-ed in the Denver Post from 2009, the idea that Canadians come here for routine coverage is a myth, through when Canadians do come to the U.S. for care, for whatever reason, their universal healthcare plan covers their medical expenses. (Colby Cosh, a journalist in Canada, read the Denver Post piece after I sent him a link on Twitter and he said, "Some of its plain nonsense, like 'no waits for urgent care', obviously."

There does seem to be some issue with the elderly being denied care in Great Britain (care rationing), but apparently, that is not how their care should be handled since they can sue if denied care.  

While there is a report in England recently of patients being denied expensive treatment, those same treatments are available elsewhere in Europe, and American pharmaceuticals tend to be substantially less expensive in Europe than the United States.

The idea, however, that drugs make health care more expensive for Americans, is a myth, Collins said.

"There's so much misinformation out there," Collins said. "For instance, if you surveyed the average American they will tell you the biggest cost driver and the biggest problem we have are prescription drugs. That's what they say. But that's not the reality. As I understand that prescription drug coverage is nine percent of health care cost. Ninety-one percent is everything else. So if all these, and they are expensive drugs, and as I just illustrated through my ill-venture down in Australia, nine out of 10 drugs are going to try and fail, there's a huge cost. It's got to be recovered one way or the other but you're simply not going to have new R&D and new drugs to cure the next disease."

Pharmaceutical research, however, is not a totally free-market system. While drug companies fund about $60 billion of the $100 billion spent on R&D each here, about 1/3 of that tab is paid for by taxpayers (with the rest covered by charitable contributions). Many drugs are formulated based on publicly financed research and some drugs are developed through a public-private partnership.

Even so, Collins expressed no interest, when asked, about reforming the current patent law system that gives drug makers monopoly pricing on drugs, though he did say he supports making it easier for patent-expired drugs to enter the generic market.

"None of us would ever suggest that anything's perfect," Collins said.

He said he's especially interested in reducing the approval process around what is called "biosimilar" drugs. Biosimilars are the same in every respect to FDA approved drugs, except for some inactive ingredients. The process for biosimilars was supposed to be reformed under the ACA.

While not addressing the patent issue, he said he would like to see new drugs get to market faster.

"It begins with things that we've done, that I helped with, with the FDA and the 21st Century Cures Act, to get drugs to the market quicker," Collins said. "I sat down with the administrator of the FDA and asked her about her personnel needs and the skill set she needs to get drugs to market quicker, to save lives, to treat illnesses, to treat debilitating diseases because the quicker they get to market the cheaper they'll be. There's a cost. Whatever it does and it takes you eight years to get it to market, and we can get it down to five years, we can save the net cost, and I believe it will be substantially reduced."

Whether the Republicans the Republicans let the ACA die, repeal it outright, repeal and replace it, Collins doesn't believe that people are going to die for lack of health insurance.

The poor, he said, will continue to be covered by Medicaid. As for people not eligible for Medicaid, nobody will face bankruptcy because they can't afford health care.

"We, Republicans, and everything we've said are they don't have to go bankrupt," Collins said. "That's was the old system. The old system said, because it was no safety net whatsoever, you have to go on Medicaid. The only way to get on the Medicaid was to go bankrupt. Well, that's not where we are today. Where we are today -- we don't know where it's going to end but certainly, American Health Care Act said very simply, you can get insurance."

It might be expensive insurance because if you were without insurance when you developed what carriers would consider a pre-existing condition, the insurers could charge you premiums that are 30 percent higher for 12 months.

"You are perhaps in that uncomfortable slice of working poor and your numbers didn't work and you did not have coverage through your employer and you made the decision to not carry that insurance," Collins said. "There were other things that took priority in your life. We're not going to now force you into bankruptcy, which was the old way. What we said is there would be a 30 percent added cost for 12 months then you would go back into the community rate. Personally, I think that is a pretty fair compromise."

The AHCA seems to be dead, at least for now, and Collins defended it at length during our conversation. You can read his comments in the transcript (links to the full interviews below).

Even with the AHCA seemingly consigned to legislative history, Collins said the proposal he backed to provide mandate relief for cash-strapped counties hit with the high costs of supporting Medicaid isn't dead. He will continue to pursue that legislation, he said.

"John Fasso and I are going to continue to pursue our Medicaid language and find something else to attach it to because we have some other must pass stuff," Collins said. "We've got S chip that's got to pass. We've got some extenders that need to pass, so let's just say John Fasso and I are not giving up on the Medicaid piece regardless."

Many economists have raised concerns about the lack of free market mechanisms in health care, a key factor in driving up costs. Employer-provided health insurance distorts the market, creates what economists call the principle-agent problem (the ultimate consumer isn't making the key buying decisions) and information asymmetry (buyers have less information than sellers). Liberal economist Dean Baker has been especially vocal about the American Medical Association, which he labels a "cartel."   The "cartel" he contends, is able to artificially reduce the number of hospitals and doctors in the United States. to constrict supply and drive up costs.

The United States has only 3.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 3.7 in Canada and 4.2 in the United Kingdom. At 2.2 physicians per 1,000 people, the United States ranks 52nd in the world, though a tad higher than Canada or the United Kingdom. The United States spends more, much more, per capita on health care than any other nation on earth, yet ranks 43rd in life expectancy.

We asked Collins about the underlying causes of high health care costs in the United States and he didn't answer the question directly.

"Well there's one big issue and it's lifestyle," Collins said. "Two-thirds of our country is obese. Through that, all kinds of things happen whether it's diabetes, whether it's joints, whether it's heart, or whether it's cardiovascular. If you want to look up and down in health in the U.S., it's we got a weight problem. So what can we do? We got to talk about it. We've got to remind people of it. Health insurance companies now have fitness plans. Government plays a role and then people play a role. I'm just a firm believer in personal accountability. We make decisions good and bad. Certainly, our health decisions are more under our control, not to say that bad things genetically don't happen but there's an awful lot of the health care world that we do control individually. We're not doing a very good job."

PDF transcripts for full interviews:

July 28, 2017 - 2:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GO ART, art, entertainment, news, notify.

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For more than 100 years, there was a bar serving drinks at 201 E. Main St., Batavia, and GO ART! is looking forward to reopening the bar once the art council's application for a liquor license is approved.

"We're really excited because of our use of the old Batavia Men's Club," said Gregory A. Hallock, executive director of GO ART. "I can't wait till it's midnight and there are people walking on the street because the City applied for a DRI grant and they're hoping to get $10 million to do some arts and cultural stuff.

"So they're going to get that grant and people will be walking down the streets and they're coming here at 11:30 at night to get a glass of wine and walk around looking art. I'm really excited to have that happen."

Hallock made his announcement during GO ART's inaugural media dinner, with catering donated by Red Osier Landmark Restaurant, last night at Seymore Place.

The liquor license is just for beer and wine, but Hallock is working with an old friend, a bartender in Hawaii, to create cocktails that use beer and wine.

"We're actually going to have mixed drinks and we're going to have the bar open and we're putting in to open our back ally way," Hallock said. "It's going to be a beer garden so people can just hang out. It's just going to be incredible."

To start, the bar will just be open on weekend evenings.

Hallock's other big news of the night was an announcement of a planned showing for photographer Ryan Gustman. Hallcock discovered Gustman's working during the Sprout Film Festival and wanted to feature his work locally. Gustman has autism. He's from Winston-Salem, N.C. He also happened to be in town this week because he's doing a new series of photographs in Rochester and Buffalo.

Gustman specializes in art photos of old, decaying buildings (below, the video about him that was part of the Sprout Film Festival).

Through his discovery of photography and abandoned buildings, Gustman has found a way to focus and better manage his autism. Since then, he's been able to move out of his parents' home and take a job in IT with a company in Winston-Salem.

The process started when Gustman wandered into an abandoned building and sat for 30 or 40 minutes watching old lead paint fall from a ceiling like snow.

"There was this utter silence and I found out with the silence that I can actually calm down," Gustman said. "I'm not sure you understand how the autistic mindset works. There's always something clicking and everything --  that sounds a little crazy -- and normally and you can't basically focus. I was able to calm down and I took that feeling and I started taking pictures with it."

Hallock said he's hoping to draw wide attention for the show, bring in other autistic artists at the same time, and Gustman said he wants to use his newfound notoriety as a photographer to help other autistic artists.

"There's not enough programs or creative avenues for people with autism," Gustman said. There are plenty of classes you can go to for 30 minutes. But then there's nothing to show. So I'm trying to use this platform reaching out and actually helping these people."

That show should be in September.

Hallock also laid out a series of ambitious plans for the coming year, from a 1940s themed Picnic in the Park, more member shows, including one with theme of "Guilty Pleasures," a tea for children, a puppet show, a show by local artist Sean Madden (who has a regional following), and a return of the popular juried art show (which got 130 entries in its first year this year).

He's also very ambitious about what to do with Seymore Place. His goal is to get art on every wall.  

There are currently two shows at Seymore Place, one by Mary Ann Fritz, from Delavan, of her work of painted and sewn cloth, and Stacy Kirby's show of en plein air paintings and illustrations.

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Mary Ann Fritz

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Ryan Gustman

July 28, 2017 - 10:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, State Police, history, news, notify.

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The first troopers to deploy in Western New York was in Batavia's Exhibition Park in September 1917, so Al Kurek thinks it's appropriate that displays celebrating the 100th anniversary of the New York State Police be held at the same location, now known as Batavia Downs.

"I started collecting historical memorabilia after I retired in 1990 and I've been doing it every day since then," said Kurek, who lives in East Pembroke. "This is our 100th anniversary and we have an active retired trooper organization in Batavia.  We meet monthly and we decided to put this together as our last hurrah before we hit, oh, I don't know what you want to call it, but, you know, we're all in our 70s and pushing 80s."

There are vintage patrol cars, motor cycles and uniforms on display, as well as the accouterments of the trade, from billy clubs, pistols and handcuffs to crime scene cameras and forensic tools. There are also historical documents, including photos and info on every trooper to work in Troop A.

"We've got videos and memorabilia from the 66 and 77 snow storms, Kurek said. "We have a little bit on the Attica riot. We have the 3407 plane crash in Clarence, the 1980 Olympics, which everybody kind of likes. We've got a canine that will be here today and tomorrow -- nothing on Saturday -- but we have a German Shepherd here on Sunday."

The exhibition is open today, tomorrow and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. each day.

Kurek also invited troopers and their families to bring in any items related to the history of Troop A.  

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July 27, 2017 - 12:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, pembroke, corfu, notify.

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A 37-year-old Corfu resident was flown by Mercy Flight to ECMC yesterday morning after her car struck a parked construction trailer on Hopkins Road, Pembroke, at 8:18 a.m.

The trailer was parked partially in the roadway and it may have been difficult for Lori Schwab to see in the early morning sun as she came over a rise in a hill, according to investigators.

She was driving a 2009 Chevy sedan.

The trailer is registered to B&B Paving and Excavating, of Middleport. It wasn't attached to another vehicle at the time of the accident.

The owner was cited for alleged parking or standing on a main traveled paved roadway.

The accident was investigated by Deputy Kevin McCarthy.

Photo: By Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

July 27, 2017 - 10:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, batavia, sports, harness racing, notify.

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Batavia Downs opened its 71st season Wednesday night with a big crowd and record purses for drivers.

Todd Haight, director of living racing, said the Downs has been able to boost the purses because increased revenue from the gaming floor and the concert series this summer helped bring more people to Batavia Downs, and also generated revenue that could add to the purse pool.

The bigger purses mean more big name drivers. This season, Ake Svanstedt, from Sweden, and Jason Bartlett joined the field.

The track also moved up start times this season. Haight said the new start time is closer to the final race time for the thoroughbreds at other tracks, so OTB betters around the state are more likely to stick around for harness racing. That means bigger prize pools for wagers, Haight said.

This is also the first full season the Batavia Downs Hotel has been open, and on opening night for the race season, all the rooms were booked, Haight said.

He also highlighted the food service at the gaming facility and the special promotions that will be taking place throughout the year.

“We really think it’s going to be another good year,” Haight said.

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Ake Svanstedt won the fourth race driving Natalie Hanover.

July 26, 2017 - 3:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, news, notify.

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There is no separating the Christian faith of Deputy Brian Thompson and his work over the past 25 years with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

From his positive spirit, ready encouraging words for everybody he comes across and his gentle reminders that "life is temporary but eternity is forever," Thompson makes it clear he doesn't do one thing on Sunday and live his life differently.

"Sometimes we think we can compartmentalize things and say, 'Well I can have faith on Sunday but the rest of the time I'm just going to be like the world and be harsh,' and we can't be that. I tried not to compartmentalize who I am in God. And I think that's made me who I am as a police officer on the scene."

Thompson retired today and he said he can look back on a career where he thinks he's made a difference in people's lives, even people he's arrested.

"A lot of those citizens on that side of the law have become my friends over the years," Thompson said. "That's very rewarding to see people that are hating law enforcement, hating authority more or less -- and then to become great citizens in the community, and loving God or loving the Lord, or just maybe even having a wake-up call and change your life, and then reaching back and saying that they love me and care about me is very humbling."

Thompson said people have reminded him over the years that it wasn't his job to be a preacher or pastor while on the job, but that didn't mean he couldn't keep seeing each person he met someone special.

"Each individual person I run into is special and unique and made in God's image," Thompson said. "When we do that and we put them first in God's eyes, it makes you have more of a compassion for them. I haven't always perfectly done that, but I would say for the most part God has given me the courage and the patience and the endurance to be that for most of those persons over the years."

Thompson grew up in Genesee County. He attended Pavilion High School and then transferred to Oakfield-Alabama, where he graduated in 1986.

Thompson accepted Christ when he was 18.

At the time, from the outside people might have thought he had things together. He was an athlete and among the top 10 academically in his class, but inside, he said there was more anger than love.

"Alcohol was taking over my life," Thompson said.

Jesus, he said, "changed my life for eternity."

After graduation, Thompson joined the Army, which is where he got involved with K-9s.

He returned home in 1990, already a married man.

He met his wife, Amy, while in high school and through the first two years of his Army hitch, they stayed in touch through letters and phone calls and were married in 1988.

Brian and Amy have four children, Ethan, 23, Olivia, 20, Sophia, 16, and Gideon, 9.

In 1991, Thompson went to went to work for the Sheriff's Office as a corrections officer. After 18 months in the jail, he was transferred to road patrol. After road patrol and a sent on the Local Drug Task Force, he was offered a chance to become a K-9 handler again. He worked with three dogs over the course of his 14-year K-9 career: Yentl, Jay, and Pharoah.

One of the most dramatic events of Thompson's career occurred in Corfu in January 2014. The incident began when Thompson was dispatched to check on a car off the road. When he arrived, he recognized the subject in the car as Scott A. Kopper, who was wanted on a parole warrant. When Thompson attempted to get Kopper out of his vehicle, Kopper tried to drive off, dragging Thompson, whose arm was caught in the car door. A nearby truck driver intervened, possibly saving Thompson's life.

Kopper is currently serving a seven-year prison term for the assault.

"I love Scott," Thompson said. "I haven't had an opportunity to touch his life in jail yet but I'm hoping to, as I retire, to be able to reach out to Scott and continue that love. This started at the sentencing time to say 'I forgive you and I love you and you mean something.' But we all have to be held accountable for our actions. And he did something that almost cost me my life and almost cost other people's lives.

"But his life was spared. And I think it was spared for a reason. So I do pray that Scott comes to know the Lord and turns his life over to him. I have no control over that. All I can do is extend my hand to him and say 'I love you and I care about you and I hope your life is more fulfilled than it was before.' "

Top Photo: Thompson, middle, with Undersheriff Greg Walker and Sheriff Bill Sheron.

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July 24, 2017 - 5:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

A second arrest has been made in the case of a man who was hospitalized with serious injuries after being knifed and beaten in the area of 318 E. Main St., Batavia, at about 1 a.m. on July 18.

Anthony Spencer Jr., 26, of Columbia Avenue, Batavia, is charged with gang assault and first-degree assault. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court on July 20 and then jailed without bail. He is due in City Court on Tuesday (July 25). A photo is not yet available from the Batavia Police Department of the suspect.

Batavia PD investigators took less than a day to identify the first suspect arrested in the case -- 30-year-old JW Hardy III, of 216 Liberty St., Batavia. He was jailed without bail and is charged with assault in the first degree and gang assault, 1st.

Under NYS Penal Code, the charge of gang assault does not mean that the person charged is a member of an organized, ongoing, criminal enterprise. It does mean that the police suspect was aided by two or more other people in perpetrating an attack that caused serious physical injury.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Batavia Police Department Detective Bureau at (585) 345-6350 or the Confidential Tip Line at (585) 345-6370.

For previous coverage, see: Arrest made in knifing on East Main Street, Batavia

July 24, 2017 - 5:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, elba, news, notify.
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       Scott Reed

After hearing his victim call him a monster and a disgusting and sick person, Scott Reed cried as he told Judge Robert Zambito in Genesee County Court this morning that he's come to realize there is nobody to blame but himself for his 10-year course of sexual abuse of a girl in Elba.

Reed came to that realization only after undergoing psychological therapy. 

When he was first arrested, and in his first meetings with officials, he blamed his victim for approaching him first.

She would have been less than 11 years old at the time.

"This is all my fault," Reed said. "No matter how I slice and dice it, it all comes back to me. I did this."

In the process, he's destroyed his marriage and broken up his family, according to statements from Reed and attorney Benjamin Bonarigo.

Zambito heard from his victim through a videotape that had been supplied to the court and to the defense prior to today's hearing.

The victim detailed her years of abuse by Reed and, though she said she knew her request for a harsh sentence wouldn't change the outcome of the case, she said Reed should get a year in prison for each of the 10 years he abused her.

The 51-year-old defendant came into court in faded blue jeans, a short-sleeved white dress shirt, and dark tie. He read a written statement and started to sob some as he recalled how he came to realize that he was totally responsible for his own actions and the damage it caused. 

"I hope she can get the help she needs and go on with her life," Reed said.

He entered a guilty plea in April to a course of sexual conduct with a sentence cap of six months in jail and 10 years probation, which is exactly what Zambito did.

Mindful of Reed's long-standing employment that he could lose if sent to jail for six months, and the need for Reed to continue providing financially for his family, Zambito said he couldn't justify a weekend incarceration arrangement or shorter term.

"I can't overlook that this went on for 10 years," Zambito said.

The judge said he hoped, given Reed's reputation as a productive employee, that his job will be waiting for him when he gets out or that he will be able to find suitable employment.

Reed was arrested in May 2016 along with his wife Deborah S. Reed, 52, of Elba. Deborah Reed eventually entered a guilty plea in Elba Town Court to endangering the welfare of a child.

Arrested at the same time in Wyoming County was Reed's son Jonathan M. Reed, 23, who was charged with several counts of second-degree rape, second-degree criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child in the Town of Perry, and with second-degree rape, third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sexual act in the Town of Lancaster. 

Jonathan Reed eventually entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

July 24, 2017 - 4:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, batavia, notify.
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   Jeremy Armstrong

A trial date has been set for Jeremy R. "Boog" Armstrong, 26, of Batavia, who faces six felony counts, including attempted murder, for an alleged assault on a person on Jackson Street in December.

Armstrong is accused of shooting the victim.

The defendant, who is being held without bail, will have until Aug. 21 to decide whether to accept a plea deal rather than go to trial on Nov. 13.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman has not publicly disclosed any potential plea offer.

Under a separate indictment, Armstrong is also facing drug charges. Unless there is a plea, Armstrong could go to trial on those charges Nov. 27.

In the attempted murder case, also faces accounts of assault in the first degree, criminal use of a firearm in the first degree, criminal use of a firearm in the third degree and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.

Armstrong and the victim reportedly knew each other.

According to sources, the victim suffered shoulder and chest wounds. He was treated first at UMMC and then transferred to ECMC.

After the incident, Armstrong allegedly fled the area and was located in March in East Hartford, Conn., and taken into custody without incident by East Hartford police.

July 24, 2017 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, bergen, news, notify.

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Seventeen fire companies from three counties -- Genesee, Orleans, and Monroe -- battled a house fire at 7735 Creamery Road, Bergen, that may have been sparked by a lightning strike.

Neighbors described one and possibly two wall-rattling lightning strikes and thunder claps in the neighborhood this morning followed by a brief power outage.

The call for smoke in the residence came in at 7:58 a.m. and the next call from a neighbor who reported flames.

Bergen Fire Chief Garrett Dean said the fact that flames were reported and that on a weekday morning, fewer volunteer firefighters are available, he immediately called for a second alarm.

The Bergen ladder truck was on scene first and quickly knocked down the blaze inside the rooms on the south side of the house, though the rooms appeared to be largely destroyed and Dean said the stairwell was heavily burned and firefighters couldn't use it to access the second floor. 

The difficulty firefighters faced was in the roof. The original house was built in 1850 (it looks like there were one, and possibly two additions), and the older portion is constructed in a way that makes it easier for smoke, heat, and fire to pass to different sections. The roof has been reroofed a couple of times, leading to an extra layer of plywood. Firefighters had a hard time getting to the fire in the roof and ventilating the roof.

The residents were not home when the fire was reported. Dean said there was no indication of pets in the house. No firefighters were injured during the fighting of the fire.

The cause has not been confirmed and we don't have an estimate of damage at this time.

Firefighters were able to keep the fire contained to the south end of the house, with the other two-thirds suffering only smoke and heat damage.

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July 24, 2017 - 8:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, bergen, notify.

A house fire is reported at 7735 Creamery Road, Bergen.

Flames are showing

Bergen fire dispatched.

Second alarm going out.

UPDATE(S) (By Billie) 8:05 a.m.: The City's Fast Team is called to the scene along with mutual aid from Elba, Byron, Le Roy, South Byron and Stafford fire departments. The location is between Cross and North Lake roads.

UPDATE 8:07 a.m.: The second platoon is asked to report to City fire headquarters. A firefighter on scene confirms this is a fully involved structure fire. Two Churchville fire trucks are responding. Mumford is asked to fill in at a fire hall (not clear which one). The second platoon is asked to report to City fire headquarters. A neighbor on Creamery Road says no one is home.

UPDATE 8:15 a.m.: A crew from Le Roy is also asked to fill in at Bergen's fire hall.

UPDATE 8:19 a.m.: Caledonia is asked to stand by in their own quarters. Le Roy is called to the scene emergency mode. Chili's ladder truck out of its Company #2 is asked to fill in at Bergen's Fire Hall.

UPDATE 8:24 a.m.: Route 19 is being shut down at Creamery Road. Caledonia is now called to Le Roy's fire hall.

UPDATE 8:51 a.m.: It's unconfirmed but there's some speculation that this fire was caused by a lightning strike. There are no flames showing at this time but smoke remains heavy. One Mercy ambulance is on scene for rehab and a Byron ambulance has been called in.

UPDATE 10:02 a.m.: Bergen Fire Chief Garrett Dean said the initial call came in to dispatch at 7:58 a.m. and it was reported that smoke was spewing from a vent at the top of the house. A second call reported flames coming from a window. The first crews to arrive on scene quickly knocked down exterior flames and then focused on the interior. Balloon construction, Dean said, along with some remodeling made fighting the blaze challenging. Stairways "were compromised" so firefighters used ladders to fight the fire in the second story. They had a difficult time ventilating the thick roof, which they found had half-inch plywood on top of three-quarter-inch plywood, leaving a thin airspace for smoke to seep in. Dean said most of the fire damage was contained to the south end of the structure; there is smoke and heat damage on the north end of the second floor; the first floor is mostly OK. No pets were known to be on the property and none were found. No one was injured, but due to the humidity, Dean said three ambulances were called in for rehabing firefighters. Power is off, so is gas. Dean said he hasn't talked to investigators and did not know what caused the fire, whether it was lightning or what. Dean said because volunteer fire companies have manpower issues during workdays, many companies were called to the scene early to the working structure fire. A total of 17 companies responded from Genesee, Monroe and Orleans counties. 

July 23, 2017 - 3:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news, notify.

A severe thunderstorm warning is in effect until 4:45 p.m. with wind gusts up to 60 mph and quarter size hail through parts of the county.

The storm is coming in from the southwest and will mostly hit the southern part of the county, according to the National Weather Service.

Minor damage is possible along with localized power outages.

There is an apparently unrelated power outage now in the Narramore Drive area. Some 100 customers are without power. Power is expected to be restored by 5:30 p.m.

UPDATE 4:18 p.m.: Flash flood warning in effect until 7:15 p.m.

July 21, 2017 - 8:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in accident, Pavilion, news, notify.

These are photos from the accident scene discovered after-the-fact in Pavilion this afternoon. A deceased male victim, who is not from Genesee County, was found inside the wreckage.

It remains unknown when the accident occurred. The Genesee County Sheriff's Office expects to put out a press release on the incident later. The family has already been notified.

UPDATE 9:50 p.m.: The victim is identified as Gregory A. Walters, 29, of Marilla. The cause of the accident remains under investigation. The accident was reported at 2:58 p.m. The time of the accident remains unknown. The accident investigation is being conducted by Deputy Ryan DeLong, Deputy Richard Schildwaster and Investigator Chad Minuto. Assisting at the scene were State Police, Pavilion fire, Mercy EMS, Coroner Tom Douglas.

July 21, 2017 - 3:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
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         Steven Vega

Press release:

The Batavia Police Department is reporting the suspect has been identified as Steven Vega, 25 years old, from Rochester. Vega is currently in the custody of RPD for a separate incident.

Vega’s arrest is pending and he will be arraigned in Batavia City Court. Vega is a New York State Parole absconder.

The Batavia Police Department would like to thank the Rochester Police Department and the Batavia community for all of their assistance and tips that led to the identification of this suspect.

UPDATE: Vega was also a suspect in a bank robbery in Rochester in 2015.

July 21, 2017 - 11:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Fair, 4-H, agriculture, news, notify.

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Among the grand champions auctioning off their livestock last night at the Genesee County Fair's annual 4-H auction was Morgan Hofeins, of Attica (top photo), and Hudson Weber (second photo).

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