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September 14, 2020 - 3:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Schools, education, schools, video.
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With new social distancing protocols in place, the Batavia City School District opened all four of its campuses today for the 2020-21 academic year.

September 12, 2020 - 7:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, video, batavia.
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A group of area residents gathered in front of City Hall carrying signs today protesting the lack of visitation with seniors in nursing homes.

September 11, 2020 - 12:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, business, batavia, video.
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The gaming floor at Batavia Downs reopened this week, along with Fortune's and the Backstretch Grill, and the Grandstands will be opening soon, after a six-month closure mandated by the State of New York in the battle against COVID-19.

Race fans, however, are still prohibited at this point from attending live harness racing.

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Update: Sept. 11, 3 p.m.

Even at a fourth of maximum capacity, Batavia Downs Gaming will be able to keep its employees on the job but, unfortunately, monetary distributions to the municipalities it serves will suffer.

That’s the perspective of Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. that oversee operations at the casino, harness race track and OTB parlors in 15 counties plus the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

A public benefit corporation, WROTB returns a portion of its profits to counties and the two metropolitan communities.

“You know, we've done the math, we've done some projections, and we certainly can pay our bills probably at 25 percent,” Wojtaszek said on Wednesday, the day the gaming facility was allowed to reopen – but only at a quarter of the maximum occupancy. “If we remain pretty steady, we can pay our bills. We can keep our employment levels pretty close to where we were before.”

Wojtaszek said “difficulty” comes into play when considering profit and return to municipalities – “which is obviously one of the big reasons why we exist.”

“We exist to make sure we create jobs and create an environment for people to have an entertainment venue, but also to return money to the municipality. So that's going to be a little tough. But I think for now, even at 25 percent, we can cover our costs.”

He said the business has to dig itself out of a “deep hole” caused by ongoing utility and building maintenance costs and unemployment insurance and by having to pay employees still on the job.

Despite the setbacks, Wojtaszek said he it is “very rewarding to see people come back so quickly.”

“We were having people call us all the time during the last six months," he said. "They were stopping at the front door. A lot of emails following our Facebook page. So, when we knew we had a pretty good following of people who want to come back here, we'd like to think we do deliver great customer service."

Batavia Downs has had to cancel its summer concert series due to the pandemic, but six of the eight bands have been rescheduled for next year, Wojtaszek said.

“And we’ve added two,” he said. “We have Queensrÿche signed up for sure. And then the eighth band will remain silent until I confirm it. But it's a great band. They'll be probably the best band we've ever had here.”

September 4, 2020 - 3:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in the batavian sessions, music, Eli Fish Brewing Company, video.
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Recorded at Eli Fish, Feb. 15, 2020

August 26, 2020 - 7:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tai chi, DeWitt Recreation Area, batavia, video.
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Nancy Wee's Tai Chi class at DeWitt Recreation Area. The classes are at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and Sunday. They are free and open to everybody. Masks and social distancing required.

August 24, 2020 - 10:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, civil war, history, batavia, video.
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Ten months ago, the Civil War-era cannons that have sat as sentinels outside the Holland Land Office Museum since at least 1905, were sent to Altoona, Pa., for restoration by Seed Artillery and today, they returned to Batavia looking almost certainly much like they did when they were shipped to Batavia in the 1860s.

August 22, 2020 - 2:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Ed Rath, 61 Senate District, video.
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Ed Rath, candidate for the 61st State Senate District, up for election in November, visited Genesee County this week and met with local farmers to find out more about what issues they face in New York.

August 20, 2020 - 9:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Thomas Rocket Car, news, video, batavia.
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It's turned out to take more than four years but restoration work on the Thomas Rocket Car is nearly complete. To finish the restoration work, the volunteers handling the project -- with Dick McClurg of Old World Collision leading restoration -- need to raise another $4,000.

They're asking the community to pitch in. Here is a link to a GoFundMe page where you can make a contribution.

The Thomas Rocket Car was designed by former Batavia resident Charles D. Thomas. He and Norman Richardson, a talented welder and body man just out of high school, built the car in a rented garage near Main Street and Ellicott Avenue in 1938.

The design, and several innovations in the car, such as a rearview periscope and independent suspension, were dreamed up by Thomas while working on his 1935 thesis for the General Motors Institute of Technology in Flint, Mich.

Once the car was built, Thomas tried to interest any one of the Big Three in Detroit to move the car into production. But whether the automakers felt threatened, or because of the prospect of the World War, or it would have been too expensive to retool, all three companies took a pass. One Detroit executive reportedly told Thomas that his car was 10 years ahead of its time.

Thomas went onto a successful career in Buffalo with the maker of the Playboy automobile, and he apparently kept the Thomas car and drove it for some time. He eventually sold it. Local car buffs searched for it a few years ago and found it stored in a barn in Lockport.

They bought the car and returned it to it's rightful home, Batavia, with the intention it become a display piece of history in the city.

August 15, 2020 - 7:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in the batavian sessions, elba, music, video.
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The Elba Betterment Committee hosted another night of live music in the Village Park, this time featuring What About Jane, an Albion-based band.

The next show is Thursday, featuring the Old Hippies.

August 15, 2020 - 2:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rabies Clinic, health department, video, pets.
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At one point Thursday, cars lined up for free rabies shots for their pets were backed up on Route 5 and a deputy was dispatched to assist with traffic control.

Sarah Balduf, environmental health director for Genesee County, said it was a larger than normal turnout for the rabies clinic and that cars started lining up at 2:30.

Staff members started processing paperwork and vaccinating pets as soon as they were set up, ahead of the 4 p.m. start time, which helped workers keep up with the stream of cars coming through the fairgrounds.

August 13, 2020 - 9:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in anti-slavery, Le Roy, history, video, Frederick Douglass.
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Anti-slavery sentiment ran strong in Le Roy in the 1830s and 1840s, with much of the activity centered around the First Presbyterian Church, where at least five significant anti-slavery meetings were held, culminating in December 1847 with a speech by famed abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass.

Local history buffs have long believed Douglass once spoke in Le Roy, but the date was placed in 1838. That wouldn't be possible because Douglass was still a slave in Maryland in 1838. 

James Evinger, a Presbyterian minister in Rochester, noticed the discrepancy and that sparked his curiosity. He began digging. With the assistance of Lynne Belluscio, Le Roy historian, he started down a path where he uncovered secondary and primary sources for all of the notable anti-slavery activity in Le Roy, including the first important anti-slavery meeting in Le Roy in 1833 where Rev. Thomas James spoke.

James was an escaped slave and founder of the first Black church in Rochester. A few years later, while working as a pastor and abolitionist in Boston, James would find the recently escaped Douglass a capable speaker and mentor to the young man as a touring speaker in the cause of abolishing slavery.

The 1833 appearance of James also brought out the pro-slave racists who mobbed the church, throwing rocks at the windows, trying to drive James from the building. A Le Roy resident, Henry Brewster, sequestered James at his home. 

Thanks to the work of Evinger, the anti-slavery movement in Le Roy is now commemorated on a historical marker in front of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

You can read a complete account of Evinger's work and his findings in the latest edition of the Universalist Herald. Click here (pdf).

August 10, 2020 - 5:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, video, Stafford.
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First, there was a pickup truck accident with a car fire and just as Stafford fire had things under control at the first location on Clinton Street Road, an MVA with serious injuries was reported a quarter-mile away on Route 33 at the intersection with Horseshoe Lake Road.

It turned out there were no serious injuries in either accident.

But it was a hot, humid day for the volunteer firefighters, deputies, and medical personnel who responded to both incidents.

Previously: 

August 8, 2020 - 7:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YMCA, summer camp, batavia, video.
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In the age of coronavirus, the YMCA has been carrying on with socially distanced summer camps. Kids are taught to use their "alligator arms" to ensure they're keeping their distance from other kids and there's ample sanitizer on hand.

This week, the kids competed in their Camper Cup, an Olympic-style event that culminated in a color run at the Notre Dame High School football field.

August 8, 2020 - 2:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Interpretive Center, Genesee County Park, news, video, education, nature.
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"Rudy" is an artiste. She has her own expressive way of coloring a canvas and today, area children got to help her make individual pieces of art for them to take home.

The art event was held outside the Interpretive Center at Genesee County Park & Forest.

The children also learned about 14-year-old Rudy and her fellow red-eared slider turtles, which hail from the Southern United States.

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August 7, 2020 - 9:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, elba, video.
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Previously: Fully involved barn fire reported on Lockport Road in Oakfield

August 4, 2020 - 3:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in UMMC, Rochester Regional Health, honey bees, video, batavia.
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Last year, Unity Hospital in Rochester became the first hospital in Upstate New York to launch a rooftop honeybee program. This summer that program expanded with honeybee hives now on the roofs of Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, Rochester General Hospital and Batavia's United Memorial Medical Center, as well.

This program supports Rochester Regional Health’s sustainability mission to strengthen and support our local environment. The bees produce honey and is bottled and available to employees, patients, and visitors for purchase. There are about two million bees total between all video hospital roofs.

Video supplied by Rochester Regional Health; edited by The Batavian.

August 2, 2020 - 4:04pm
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We stopped in for a quick chat with Ricky Palermo at Terry Hills on Saturday during his annual golf tournament to benefit spinal injury research.

August 2, 2020 - 3:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in electronic recycling, batavia, video, steve hawley.
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Sunnking Electronics Recycling and Assemblyman Steve Hawley hosted an electronics recycling event in Batavia on Saturday, the first one Sunnking has held since the onset of the pandemic. With the use of preregistration, Sunnking was able to keep traffic flowing smoothly. 

August 1, 2020 - 12:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Charles Schumer, news, video, STAMP, Alabama.
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In the video, Sen. Charles Schumer talks about the semiconductor plan, baseball, baseball trivia, his relationship with newly elected Rep. Chris Jacobs, the safety of reopening schools, and the future of the Muckdogs.

Press release:

Standing with local officials at Genesee’s STAMP* Campus, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled his three-pronged push to jolt the U.S. semiconductor industry and the Upstate New York economy into high gear.

First, Schumer called for swift passage by Congress of the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), in which the senator successfully included an amendment that will continue U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and revitalize innovation in the global microelectronics sector.

Second, the Senator announced his push for a $1M Northern Border Regional Commission grant that STAMP needs to construct a new sewer line to complete STAMP’s wastewater system infrastructure. The sewer is the final piece of infrastructure that will make the 1,250-acre STAMP campus shovel-ready for manufacturing facility construction.

Third, Schumer will urge the Department of Defense (DoD) to consider the STAMP campus as the agency looks to partner with industry to develop new domestic semiconductor fabs. Combined, the Senator’s efforts will provide unprecedented support for the U.S. semiconductor industry and create opportunities to bring hundreds of jobs to Genesee County and Upstate New York.

“The economic and national security risks posed by relying too heavily on foreign semiconductor suppliers cannot be ignored, and Upstate New York, especially the STAMP Campus here in Genesee, is the perfect place to grow this industry by leaps and bounds,” Senator Schumer said.

“We must continue to invest in our domestic semiconductor industry in order to keep good-paying, high-tech American manufacturing jobs here in Upstate New York. We need to ensure our domestic microelectronics industry can safely and securely supply our military, intelligence agencies, and other government needs. This is essential to American jobs, our national security, and to U.S. leadership in this critical industry."

Schumer noted that even though the United States revolutionized the microelectronic industry and invented nearly all of the key technology used to this day, competitors in Asia, especially China, have made huge investments into their microelectronics industries in recent years to challenge and undercut U.S. leadership.

In fact, Schumer pointed out, the United States has gone from producing 24 percent of the world’s semiconductors in 2000, to just 12 percent more recently. In contrast, China has gone from producing zero chips to 16 percent of the world’s supply in the same time frame. The senator warned that by 2030, Asia is projected to control 83 percent of the global semiconductor manufacturing supply while domestic production could be less than 10 percent, threatening U.S. reliance on foreign-made microelectronics, which could pose huge risks to U.S. national and economic security.

Therefore, Schumer argued, his three-pronged plan to revitalize the semiconductor industry and incentivize it to build new research and manufacturing facilities in the United States at sites like STAMP is vital to cement global U.S. leadership in the microelectronics industry and will ease U.S. reliance on foreign-made semiconductors, alleviating economic and national security risks.

“Senator Schumer’s leadership in the Senate’s passage of the American Foundries Act as a part of the National Defense Administrative Act will help put STAMP over the finish line as it will make available necessary funding to develop and construct the final pieces of infrastructure to stand up multiple semiconductor manufacturing fabs and along with it the creation of thousands of good-paying, family-sustaining jobs to Genesee County and the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde. Attracting semiconductor and similar industries at STAMP will result in as much as $10 billion to $15 billion of private sector investment all of which will be enabled by this game-changing legislation.”

Secondly today, Schumer announced his push to secure the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) grant to construct the last missing sewer line needed for STAMP to achieve shovel-ready status. Specifically, this funding is needed to complete STAMP’s sewer and wastewater system by constructing a 14,500-square-foot force main sewer line to support new businesses that locate at STAMP. The force main is the final piece needed to make STAMP shovel-ready with the capabilities to meet any industry’s needs to construct new manufacturing operations at STAMP and create new high-quality jobs. 

Lastly, Schumer called on the Department of Defense (DoD) to consider STAMP as a location for next-generation semiconductor research and manufacturing facilities now that the DoD is in discussions with semiconductor manufactures to build new domestic chip manufacturing facilities to ensure U.S. leadership in the global microelectronics supply chain.

Last month Schumer wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper to draw his attention to the opportunities for new Semiconductor development at STAMP. As a result, DoD officials participated in a meeting Schumer convened with STAMP officials to help position STAMP to capitalize on new opportunities through the DoD to attract semiconductor research and manufacturing facilities to STAMP.

Following Schumer’s unveiling of his bipartisan American Foundries Act and major push to bolster U.S. leadership in the microelectronics sector, he successfully advanced his proposal as an amendment included in the Senate-passed Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The amendment:

  • Directs the Secretary of Commerce to create a grant program for constructing, expanding, or modernizing commercial semiconductor fabrication, assembly, testing, packaging, and advanced R&D facilities in the United States.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to create a partnership program with the private sector to encourage the development of advanced, measurably secure microelectronics for use by the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, critical infrastructure, and other national-security applications.
  • Requires the Secretary of Commerce to commence a review within 120 days assessing the state of the U.S. semiconductor industrial base.
  • Establishes a Multilateral Microelectronics Security Fund, with which the United States, its allies, and partners will work to reach agreements promoting consistency in their policies related to microelectronics, greater transparency including supply chains, and greater alignment in export control and foreign direct investment policies.
  • Directs the President to establish a subcommittee on semiconductor technology and innovation within the National Science and Technology Council; directs the Secretary of Commerce to establish a national semiconductor technology center to conduct research, fund semiconductor startups and a Manufacturing USA Institute, create a National Advance Packaging Manufacturing Program; and encourages the Secretary of Labor to work with the private sector on workforce training and apprenticeships in semiconductor manufacturing.

This amendment, which is also cosponsored by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, is based on the Senator’s bipartisan American Foundries Act, which has been broadly supported by key players in New York’s semiconductor industry, including GlobalFoundries, IBM, ON Semiconductor, Cree Inc., the Genesee County Economic Development Center, Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation, Mohawk Valley EDGE, Cornell University, Binghamton University, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

 STAMP is specifically designed for development of large-scale semiconductor manufacturing. The 1250-acre mega site is divided into an 850-acre North Campus that can accommodate clean tech advanced manufacturers including up to three semiconductor chip fabs and a 400-acre South Campus ideal to attract new food, beverage, and warehouse/distribution development.

In 2012, Schumer successfully advocated on behalf of STAMP by calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide necessary wetlands permit assurances so that STAMP's developers could proceed with developing the site. In 2017 Schumer helped secure Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval of Empire Pipeline Inc.’s revised and extended PILOT agreement with Genesee County, the proceeds of which were needed to finance new water infrastructure at STAMP.

*STAMP -- Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park

July 30, 2020 - 6:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, batavia, video, covid-19, coronavirus.
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Press release:

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The 2020 racing season got underway at Batavia downs on Wednesday (July 29) with owners only on hand to watch the action. But absent a crowd and the usual fanfare, the horses showed up and took full advantage of a lightning-fast track.

A pair of $10,000 Open events headlined the card and the winner of each took a new seasonal mark for their efforts.

In the Open I trot, Il Mago (Jim Morrill Jr.) proved he was the best on the grounds this week after making every step from gate to wire a winning one.

Morrill shot Il Mago off the gate and to the front and the race could have been called at that point. Trotting like a loose horse on the point, Il Mago went quarters of :28.1, :57.1 and 1:26 flat, while extending his lead at each station. With only Chuckabuck (Drew Monti) remotely close, Il Mago was up by 3-1/2 at the top of the stretch and rolled home in front by 4-1/4 in 1:56.3.

It was the third win in the last four starts at three different tracks for the classy Il Mago ($2.80) who now has 49 career wins and $869,373 in earnings. The son of Kadabra-Northern Style is owned by Mike Torcello and trained by Gerry Sarama.

The fillies and mare Open I was also contested Wednesday and Julio’s Girl (Dave McNeight III) upset the apple cart for the second straight week.

HP Sissy ( Jim Morrill Jr.) left best and Lady London (Ray Fisher Jr.) followed while the rest of the field followed in post position order. After HP Sissy got to the half in :56.3, McNeight pulled Julio’s Girl first over entering the third turn and started the outside grind toward the leader. After a quarter-mile in the breeze, Julio’s Girl got even with HP Sissy at the top of the stretch and then paced clear down the lane to win by a length in 1:54.2, holding off a late rush from Protect Blue Chip (Billy Davis Jr.) and Gia’s Surreal (John Cummings Jr.) in the process.

After returning $33.60 in victory last week, Julio’s Girl blew up the tote board again in her seventh win of the year and rewarded her backers with $35.20 this week at Batavia. Julio’s Girl is owned by William Emmons and is trained by Jim Clouser Jr.

Jim Morrill Jr. had the hot hand in the bike on opening night, scoring a grand slam during the evening. Besides the already mentioned Il Mago, Morrill also won with Lyra (1:55.2, $4.90), Leaderofthepack (1:59.4, $4) and Edom Up Blue Boy (1:58.4, $2.30).

Dave McNeight III and Billy Davis Jr. also had productive nights, getting three wins each on the card.

Trainers Gerry Sarama and Jim Clouser Jr. led all conditioners with two wins apiece.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (July 31) with post time at 5 p.m.

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