Skip to main content

Genes County

Severe thunderstorm warning issued for Genesee County until 1:30 p.m.

By Billie Owens

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for Genesee County and several others in Western New York until 1:30 p.m.

At 12:34 p.m., severe thunderstorms were located along a line extending from near Batavia to near Varysburg, moving northeast at 55 mph. Hazardous 60-mph wind gusts are expected.

Also, expect wind damage to trees and power lines.

Specifically cited for hazardous driving conditions are Interstate 390 between exits 7 and 12. Interstate 90 between exits 48 and 44.

For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building.

Muckdogs Dominate In Home Opener

By James Burns

At 5:55 pm the line to get into Dwyer Stadium was out to the street and down the block. The gates to the park opened at 6 pm for the Muckdogs season opener. The fans were excited for the game and festivities to begin. I am sure they were not disappointed. 

The Auburn Doubledays scored first with a single run in the third. The Muckdogs answered that run with 4 of their own in the bottom of the 3rd and were in control for the rest for the game. It was an action packed game with some good hits, a squeeze play and some impressive field work from this young team. The final score was Auburn 2 Batavia 8

John Kennedy Intermediate School 3rd and 4th graders sung the national anthem before the game with the Viet Nam War Veterans Color Guard presenting the Flag.

Western NY Skydiving put on a show by dropping in with the game ball. 

GC assistant manager graduates from statewide county government institute

By Billie Owens

Genesee County Assistant Manager Matthew Landers was honored last month by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) for graduating from the NYSAC County Government Institute. The ceremony was held at the NYSAC Legislative Conference in Albany.

The NYSAC County Government Institute is an educational program established in conjunction with Cornell University. The Institute provides an educational program for county elected and appointed officials, to enhance the knowledge, skills and abilities of county officials. For more information, visit

Landers graduated from SUNY Brockport and is currently working on a master’s in Public Administration. He has been with the county since April 2004, and has served in the roles of Deputy County Treasurer, Real Property Tax Services Director, and for the last two and a half years as Assistant County Manager. Matthew and his wife Melissa reside in Batavia with their children Kaitlyn (10) and Benjamin (6).

“The Institute’s vigorous curriculum prepares county leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the increasing demands of local government leadership in now and in the future,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.

William E. Cherry, NYSAC president and Schoharie County treasurer, agrees.

“The County Government Institute equips county officials with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to address the challenges and opportunities of leadership, and to engage in civil dialogue with constituents as well as fellow leaders,” Cherry said.

The County Government Institute's comprehensive curriculum includes extensive course work on government ethics, building consensus in a political environment, principles of county budget and finance, and public sector labor/management relations. The courses are supplemented with electives, training sessions, and continuing education courses designed to support county leaders in serving their constituents.

“The course offerings through the County Government Institute have helped me become a better public administrator by educating me on emerging issues and expanding my knowledge base on important topics,” Landers said of the program.

Big changes looming for indigent defense Public Service Committee told

By Billie Owens

The system that helps poor New Yorkers with their legal troubles is in flux. Genesee County, like the majority of others statewide, is awaiting new caseload/workload standards for indigent defense to be brought forward and there is uncertainty about how the state will fund, or even IF it will fund, any resulting cost increases.

Randy Zickl, the attorney who handles the county's assigned attorney program, made a presentation Monday at the Public Service Committee meeting, which was held in the new terminal at the County Airport. After 12 years on the job, Zickl is retiring and a new administrator is being sought.

GC Public Defender Jerry Ader provided a review of his office. 

While the Public Defender’s Office normally provides legal services to the indigent, occasions arise in which two or more such people are accused of involvement in the same crime. This can result in a conflict of interest for the Public Defender’s Office. To avoid that, courts assign private counsel who receive compensation as set by the state and that is the program that Zickl oversees.

For the past four or five years, the county has contracted with Buffalo Legal Aid for indigent defense, and it was roundly praised, but it will not be the contract provider in the near term because of a bidding issue.

The number of court cases handled by the Public Defenders Office in Genesee County has remained relatively flat from year to year, in the annual range of 500 to 550. Annual assigned attorney expenses are down, however: $20,000 in Family Court; $10,000 in Criminal Court.

The question was raised about whether it would be worthwhile to establish a Conflict Defender Office, like the one in Monroe County, to help reduce further costs. Private attorneys represent clients in all felony matters and in the local criminal courts where the Public Defenders Office has a conflict of interest and cannot represent the client. (In Monroe County, CD attorneys also represent clients in Rochester City Court misdemeanor cases, Monroe County Family Court cases and appellate cases in all courts where the Monroe County Public Defender's Office has a conflict of interest and cannot represent the client.)

"The longer you have it, the Conflict Office will (eventually) be conflicted out," said Committee Member and Legislature Chairman Ray Cianfrini. "It can really create a problem in a small town."

Why? Because inevitably Party A knows Party B, who is related to Party C, who is married to Party D, who operates a business with Party E. 

And initial cost-savings, expenses actually increase over time, said County Manager Jay Gsell.

New regulations could change everything anyway, noted Public Service Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg.

But Ader said the state will undoubtedly want more than assigned counsel in some cases, along with new standards, more training and a change in allowable caseload numbers, but it's not sure what those benchmarks will be.

"They are very good at creating standards and then saying 'handle them,' " Clattenburg said, "...and 'pay for them.' "

Among the changes proposed are more streamlined arraignments with fewer justices in fewer towns and villages, but that will require legislation to enact.

Another proposed change is in the standard for mimimum face-to-face client/attorney contact, Ader said. There must be at least one visit by the assigned attorney to the place where a felony defendant is in custody. Attorneys who handle such cases will "voucher" the expenses for that. Unlike a defendant's physician, who can teleconference/videoconference a meeting and have it meet legal protocols, the attorney cannot do so.

"I have a client in Westchester and I go down and visit her and the equipment is all set up for a teleconference with her doctor, but I can't do that," Ader said.

Several agreed that "It absolutely makes no sense."

The impetus for a slow and systematic overhaul of New York's indigent defense was prompted by NY Civil Liberties Union litigation in 2010 on behalf of indigent criminal defendants against five counties -- Ontario, Onondaga, Washington, Schuyler and Suffolk. (Hurrell-Harring et al v State of New York, 15 NY 3d 8 (May 6, 2010) It alleged New York’s indigent defense system was inadequate in ensuring the constitutional right to counsel.

Subsequently, the NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services was created and its representatives began analyzing and monitoring the standards, practices, caseloads and shortcomings of the system with a goal of increasing efficiency, eliminating deficiencies, and better meeting the obligation of counsel to those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves. Excessive caseloads, lack of adequate support services and training, an inability to hire full-time defenders, and too-minimal client contact were among the biggest concerns brought to light.

Ader noted that a female in the Public Defenders Office gave notice on Monday and that will mean an increase in cases for others in the office until a replacement is hired.

Batavia NY a warm winter destination

By James Burns

You  may not consider Batavia a warm winter retreat, but chances are you are not a snowy owl.

So far this season we have one wintering snowy owl at the Genesee County airport. With the Great Lakes getting colder and starting to freeze over, we could have more spending time here with us. As the lakes freeze, more snowy owls could push inland looking for food and that could mean better bird watching for us in Batavia.

If you have not had a chance to drive by and see it you should make and effort and try. She likes the west end of the airport on most days.

If you cannot make it out this winter you may not have another chance to see one here for awhile. About four years ago there was a very large lemming baby boom due to the arctic being unusually warm. This led to a boom in the snowy owl population. Since the arctic has remained warmer than normal the lemming population has burned out. The young owls are forced to fly as far as 7,000 miles away from home in the winter to find easily found food. As the owls mature, and become better hunters, they will be able to stay in the artic all winter. In the past, this cycle of snowy owls coming this far south for the winter has lasted about three years. This is the third year for them in Batavia. They may not be back again for awhile. Since there is only one snowy owl in town, instead of three to five like the last few years, it may point to the cycle ending. 

A hot summer: Home sales kept pace with regional boom

By Raymond Coniglio

Home sales surged this summer in Genesee County, reflecting an overall regional trend.

In Genesee County, closed deals for the four months ended Sept. 30, increased by nearly 26 percent to 186, up from 148 last year, according to data provided by the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

The median sale price rose by 5 percent, to $105,500. The average sale price rose by 1.8 percent, to $114,427.

“This was probably one of the busier summers in the last five or 10 years,” said Robert Gerace, a broker for Realty USA in Batavia. “Once September hit, things quieted down again.”

Total closed sales from June through September in the Buffalo-Niagara region rose 9.2 percent to 4,728, up from 4,329 last year, according to the BNAR.

For the year-to-date, closed sales rose 7.7 percent to 8,187, up from 7,604 in 2014.

“We’ve had a record year,” said Joe Rivellino, the BNAR president and owner of Rivellino Realty in Warsaw.

The BNAR credits an improved job market, falling unemployment and rising earnings for driving home sales. 

“We’ve had a strong market for quite some time,” Rivellino said. “We also still have very aggressive interest rates.”

Rivellino reminded that “real estate is local.”

“The Erie County market is stronger, and that’s where you tend to (see) more multiple offerings and sales above list price,” Rivellino said.

Beyond Erie, the situation varies by county and municipality.

“Wyoming County might have a few pockets where there are slower numbers,” he said. “Property taxes being higher here than they are in some other areas is somewhat of a deterrent.”

Indeed, closed sales from June through September in Wyoming county fell 12 percent from last year, from 128 to 113, the BNAR said.

Both the median and average sale prices were up in Wyoming, however. The median sale price rose 4.3 percent, to $98,500, while the average price rose 3.8 percent, to $114,837.

Homes in both counties were however spending more days on the market before sale — 80 days on average, compared to 74 days in 2014.

Still, summer saw a seller’s market overall.

Gerace recalled taking one couple on visits to 30 listings this summer.

“There were multiple offers,” he said. “Everything was full price — and more.”

Which prompts an observation: To the quickest go the spoils.

“If you want it, you’d better jump on it,” Gerace said.

Rivellino, who has owned his agency for 12 years, is optimistic the trend will continue for at least a little while.

“I believe the interest rate is going to stay aggressive for a little bit longer,” Rivellino said. “There’s no doubt they’re going to go up, but I just don’t know how quickly.”

Genesee County unemployment rate falls

By Raymond Coniglio

Genesee County workers have something to be thankful for this season.

The unemployment rate — and the number of county residents without jobs — are both down, thanks in part, perhaps, to robust job creation in the Buffalo and Rochester regions.

Genesee County’s unemployment rate fell from 4.6 percent to 4.2 percent from October 2014 to October 2015, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

The Labor Department said there were 29,000 people with jobs in Genesee County, an increase of .2 percent from the 28,800 reported in 2014.

A total of 1,300 county residents are without jobs. That represents a decrease of .1 percent, or 100 people, between October 2014 and this year, the Labor Department said.

Jobless numbers were reported down in every county statewide. Unemployment in the Buffalo-Niagara region was 4.8 percent (down from 5.4 percent in October 2014), while the five-county Rochester region rate was 4.5 percent (down from 5.1 percent).

Unemployment rate figures are not seasonally adjusted, the Labor Department cautioned, meaning they do not reflect hiring related to holidays or the weather. Year-to-year comparisons are considered valid.

Between September and October 2015, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 5.1 percent to 4.8 percent, its lowest level since 2007.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department on Tuesday said the state’s private sector job count increased by 168,600 from October 2014 to October 2015. The number of private sector jobs in New York state was a record 7,859,000.

The Buffalo-Niagara Falls and Rochester metro areas were among the top five in the state for private sector job growth.

Rochester added 8,400 private sector jobs between October 2015 and October 2014, an increase of 1.9 percent. Buffalo-Niagara falls added 8,700, an increase of 1.8 percent.

At the same time, Genesee County lost 200 private sector and government jobs, according to the Labor Department. That represents a decrease of .9 percent.

New York’s strengthening economy reflects the national outlook. U.S. economic growth during the third quarter was revised up to 2.1 percent, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Commerce Department had previously reported a rate of 1.5 percent, the Times said.

The news pleased economists:

For all of 2015, the rate of economic growth is expected to be about 2.5 percent, not much different from the 2.4 percent rate in 2014.

The tepid pace prompted Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, to call this the “tortoise recovery” in a recent note to clients. But that sobriquet does not mean the economy has been uniformly lackluster.

“While this expansion may go uncelebrated, growth in fact has been good enough to achieve a great deal of cumulative progress in the labor market,” he added. “We now expect that the U.S. economy will reach full employment within the next 12 months — the ‘tortoise recovery’ looks to be approaching the finishing line.”

Authentically Local