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Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Six years in and The Batavian is going strong

post by Howard B. Owens in advertisement, business, Sponsored Post, thebatavian

Six years ago, there were critics who gave us six months.

I heard it in Batavia and read it from pundits online.

When Billie and I assumed ownership of The Batavian, the site had three sponsors and hadn't yet cracked 2,400 visitors in a day. There were naysayers who thought we were foolish to sell our home in Pittsford and rent a tiny duplex on Maple Street and pretend we could be local online news publishers in Batavia.

That was March 1, 2009.

Today, thanks to the support of our readers, we have more than 140 sponsors and employ three people (including our editor for the Wyoming County Free Press).

Last week, we had 12,000 visitors to The Batavian every day. That's normal now, and on big news days we're well over 15,000 visitors and sometimes as high as 20,000.

In a county with a population of only 57,000 people, we get 120,000 visitors to the site per month, who visit the site 550,000 times per month. (Source for these numbers is our Google Analytics account, which tells us nearly 60 percent of that traffic comes from within Genesee County, with the bulk of the rest coming from the rest of Western New York (likely local residents checking us out while at work.)

Those might seem like staggering numbers, or perhaps not. There are sites online where those traffic numbers would be considered abysmal, so some context is needed.

We get context by comparing our traffic with the local news organization we consider our competitor, the Batavia Daily News.

The chart above comes from a site called Quantcast, which measures the traffic of both TheBatavian.com and TheDailyNewsOnline.com.

The top line is The Batavian, which covers only one county, and the bottom line is the Batavia Daily News, which counts as its market area three counties (Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans).

Billie and I are really proud of how people in Genesee County have embraced The Batavian as the go-to local news source. The spikes in the chart above especially illustrated how important we are to local readers when there is breaking news.

Quantcast says in the past 30 days, The Batavian has had 127,000 unique visitors (kind of like counting individual computers that visit the site) compared to 99,000 for the Batavia Daily News. We've had 663,081 visits (counts people visiting multiple times) compared to 422,000 for the Batavia Daily News.

Marketers use a term called Defined Market Area to measure audience for media companies, and Genesee County is divided between Buffalo and Rochester. Our traffic in the Buffalo DMA was 64,566 people and for Rochester, 23,785. For the Batavia Daily News, the numbers are 37,694 and 18,702.

While it's gratifying to compare ourselves to our competition and see we're on top, that's not the real point here. As I go around town, I get asked all the time, "How's The Batavian doing?" This is how we're doing.

More than our raw traffic numbers, those comparisons speak volumes about how The Batavian has been accepted and embraced by Genesee County residents.

It also puts our success in context on a larger stage. There are, at best, only a handful of online-only news sites in the United States that have achieved our level of success in readership and local business support. I don't even know of a newspaper in a comparable market that matches The Batavian's online success with its Web site.

Publications that cover media are full of pundits who pontificate on the failure of local news media and are self-assured that the Internet destroys the audience for local news. The numbers for The Batavian demonstrate, I think, how wrong those proclamations are. People do want local news, and if they get it in a style and format they like, they will flock to it.

Billie and I are grateful for your support. We're transplants from Southern California who have come to love Western New York and enjoy our life in Batavia. We're excited about our community's future and prospects for growth and intend to do all we can to be a supporter of an ever more vibrant and successful community.

Of course, we wouldn't be in business without the support of our sponsors, but there again, we need to thank our readers. You all have been most generous in supporting our sponsors. We continually get rave reviews from sponsors who are pleased with the results they get from their ads on The Batavian. Please continue to support the local and regional businesses who so graciously support The Batavian.

On the sponsorship front, we've promoted Lucie Ann Griffis to an expanded sales territory to include Genesee County, so if you have a local business and are ready to experience a great way to market your business, call Lucie at our office, (585) 250-4118.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Chimney sweep in Pembroke's 'Mary Poppins' meets challenge of deafness straight-ahead and chin up

post by laurie napoleone in Elisha Muir, Mary Poppins, musical, pembroke high school

Elisha Muir will be playing the key role of chimney sweep Bert in the classic musical "Mary Poppins" later this week at Pembroke School. Though Elisha is no stranger to the stage -- he has been in a number of Pembroke productions as well as Batavia Players -- this will be sort of a new experience for him.

Last summer he went suddenly and profoundly deaf, possibly due to a virus. He's since been on a remarkable journey -- diagnosis, surgery, learning, re-learning and preparing for his role.

He will be hearing with new ears, so to speak, made possible with surgical implants. The result is sure to delight the listening audience, starting Thursday night.

In early August last year, Elisha was working when he felt “off balance” and was diagnosed with vertigo. This dizziness progressed and with it he started to experience hearing loss -- first in the right ear, then in the left. In a few short weeks, just prior to the start of his senior year, Elisha was deaf.

He had been to a number of physicians and they are theorizing that a virus found its way into the cochlea, which led to a condition known as vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis.

“They think this is what happened but the doctors really don’t know," he said.

The start of the school year posed a challenge and Elisha had to change his course schedule and missed some class time due to numerous appointments and surgery. Elisha could have opted to be home tutored while going through this, but chose to continue in school making changes as necessary. Jody Benatovich, Elisha’s mother, credited Pembroke School in promptly assisting Elisha with necessary accommodations.

In October, only a month after the start of school and a day before his 18th birthday, Elisha underwent surgery and received bilateral cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that helps to create sound and makes it possible for the wearer to hear again. A microphone, worn behind the ear picks up the sound and sends a message to a speech processor, which is worn on the body. This then changes the sound into information that gets transmitted via the implant to the brain.

At first, Elisha said “that all sound came in at once…I had and continue to practice listening in different environments."

In November, Elisha auditioned for "Mary Poppins" despite his inability to hear himself sing.

“Singing without hearing, is like driving without your eyes," he said.

With the help of his music director, Dan Reisdorf, Elisha has been preparing to play the role of the loveable character Bert in the upcoming play. Residorf used special music education techniques (i.e. solfege, audiation) to assist Elisha when he had lost his hearing.  

The most amazing thing about Elisha is his attitude about this significant and swift change in his life.

“It is something that 'is', not something that has to be overcome," Elisha said, matter-of-factly. "It’s a different fork in the road.”

He continues to make progress and is making plans to study anthropology after graduation. He's looking at University of  Buffalo or Rochester Institute of Technology (National Institute for the Deaf). His mom said he has maintained a good attitude throughout this ordeal, which has been inspirational for both her and Elisha’s sister.

“Elisha’s ability to maintain his sense of humor and strong work ethic throughout his senior year has been impressive and admirable," Reisdorf said.

As Elisha takes the stage for the first time fitted with his cochlear implants, listening and feeling rhythmically for his cues, he will be joined by a talented cast.

The leading lady is Harmony Bordinaro, who has the title role of Mary Poppins. Harmony participated in the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) for Musical Theatre and was an alto in the NYSSMA All-State Chorus this past December. Her plan is to major in Musical Theater in Florida.

Matthew Kowalski, who plays Mr. George Banks, appeared in last year's production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" as Jimmy Smith. Matthew plans to attend college for music composition.

Emilee Houseknecht, who impressed the audience last year as the lead character Millie Dillmount, returns as the wonderful Mrs. Winnifred Banks.

Jane and Michael Banks are being played by seventh-graders Brianna Warrant and Michael Pfenninger, newcomers who have stepped into their roles beautifully. Juniors Alison Reiner (Mrs. Brill) Greg Pelkey (Robertson Ay) and Quinn Audsley (Miss Andrew) bring new characters to life from the original book by P.L. Travers.

"Mary Poppins" runs March 5th, 6th and 7th at 7:30 p.m. with an added matinee at 2 p.m. on March 7. Tickets are $8 for students and senior citizens, and $10 for adults and can be purchased at www.pembrokemusicals.com.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Mother pouring herself into caring for her son who suffered serious injuries in Bethany accident

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Bethany, pembroke

There's no certainty for Brandon Danser and his family, except that doctors say he's past the point where he's likely to die from injuries he sustained Feb. 21 when the car he was riding in was hit by a semi-truck on Route 20 in Bethany.

Danser suffered traumatic injuries in the accident and remains in the intensive care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital.

He will need months, perhaps years, of neurological care. Perhaps, he will never fully recover.

Brandon's mother, Karin Meyer, has been living in Seattle with her husband, Dan Meyer, and their foster children.

Dan Meyer said this afternoon that his wife is holding up as well as can be expected, that she's pouring everything she has into caring for her son, and holds out hope for his recovery.

"It's an emotional roller coaster," Meyer said. "We have to deal with what might happen, and then this that happened and each new piece of news and each improvement is a step in the right direction. We're getting past the point where his life is in danger and that was the first relief after that initial shock. After that, each improvement is really a positive thing."

Brandon is showing improvement. He can answer short questions, though there are times he can't remember people. He spends more time out of bed and sitting in a recliner.

"He has shown good success picking up and tossing a Nerf ball, which is another major improvement," Meyer said. "He is not able to stand on his own but when supported on each side he has been able to take tentative steps and move across the room. He has good hand and arm motion and has been generous squeezing hands and giving out hugs."

The emotional roller coaster hasn't stopped since Karin received that early morning phone call Feb. 21 with the horrible news of the accident.

She got on the first flight East she could book and when she arrived at Strong and walked into Brandon's room, he was still completely unresponsive, Dan said.

"When she's away from Brandon, she gets a chance to release those emotions," Meyer said. "She gets time to recharge and even think about eating and sleeping for herself."

Meyer joined his wife in Rochester yesterday after making arrangements for their foster children in Seattle. He's here to provide the care for her she needs as she cares for her son, Meyer said.

It's a completely open question as to how long Karin will need to be in Rochester.

Doctors don't yet know when Brandon might be released from ICU. The most likely next step for Brandon is in-patient care at Unity Hospital's Restorative Neurology and Rehabilitation Center in Rochester. When he's able to be flown to another location, he could be taken to the Mayo Clinic, or he could return with Karin and Dan to Seattle.

Any scenario will be difficult for the family.

Out of concern for her sister's well-being and the financial stress of her family, Marianne Bowen has set up a GoFundMe.com page, Help Brandon Heal, with an initial goal of raising $10,000, though Bowen thinks the family's financial needs will far exceed $10,000.

"My sister believes, she hopes he will be back but there is a lot of work ahead of him," Bowen said.

The accident is such a tragedy, Bowen said. It's still unclear what happened. The driver, Hannah Dibble, was the designated driver and wasn't drinking, according to information given to Bowen. Brandon was wearing a seat belt, but still ejected from the vehicle when it was struck.

The Sheriff's Office investigation is being supervised by Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster (Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble is the great uncle of Hannah Dibble, so he recused himself from the investigation), and Brewster said late this week there are still no conclusions to share. There have been no charges filed or citations issued.

In all, six people were in the little brown 1997 Geo Prism driven by Dibble when it crossed Route 20 on a dark, bitterly cold morning from northbound Molasses Hill Road.

Of the six, Brandon was seriously injured and 18-year-old Alyson D. Krzanak died of injuries sustained in the accident. Jamie Scherer, 21, of Pembroke, was seriously injured, but is now listed in satisfactory condition at Strong. Felicia Fazzio, 20, of Darien, was also hospitalized, but her condition is not available. Dibble was treated and released at ECMC and Gabrielle Uzarowski, 21, of Pembroke, was treated at the scene and released.

Last night, members of the Pembroke community held a vigil for Krzanak. Visit The Batavian's news partner, 13WHAM, for a report.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Photos: 2014 Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce held a gala at the Clarion Hotel last evening to honor its 2014 award winners.

(Pictured above L to R) 2nd row -- "Business of the Year" Applied Business Systems, Lisa Ormsbee, Connie DiSalvo, Jason DiSalvo, Steve Samis;  "Geneseean of the Year" Margaret "Peggy" Lamb; "Industry of the Year" Muller Quaker Dairy, Karen Banker, Kevin Williams. "Geneseean of the Year" William "Bill" Schutt.

(Pictured above L to R) 1st row -- "Innovative Community Contribution of the Year" Merrill Lynch, Steve Tufts, Joshua Dent, John Riter; "Agricultural Business of the Year" Corcoran Custom Services, Stacy Corcoran, Bill Corcoran. "Special Service Recognition of the Year" Genesee Cancer Assistance, Inc., Dr. Kevin Mudd.

To purchase and view pictures contact: https://www.facebook.com/SteveOgnibenePhotography

Steve Samis - Applied Busniess Systems

Kevin Williams - Muller Quaker Dairy

Bill & Stacy Corcoran - Corcoran Custom Services

Steve Tufts, John Riter, Joshua Dent - Merrill Lynch

Joe Gerace, Carol Grasso, Toni Funke, Paul Figlow, Dr. Kevin Mudd, Ellen Bachorski together pictured for Genesee Cancer Assistance

Jay Gsell with Margaret "Peggy" Lamb - Geneseean of the Year

William "Bill" Schutt - Geneseean of the Year

More pictures on Steve Ognibene Photography's Facebook page.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 12:28 am

Batavia dominates Wayne to advance in sectional playoffs

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, Batavia HS, high school sports, sports

The Batavia Blue Devils had no difficulty tonight knocking off Wayne in a second-round Section V Class A2 playoff game at BHS tonight. The 75-45 win sets Batavia (17-2) up for a semi-final match Wednesday evening at Blue Cross Arena againt College Prep (15-4).

Tonight, Jeff Redband scored 28 points, Malachi Chenault, 17, and Jarrett Laskett, 11.

Notre Dame also won tonight, beating Lyndonville 77-55 in the Class D1 playoff game. Notre Dame (13-7) faces Mt. Morris (12-8) on Wednesday at a location to be determined.

To purchase prints, click here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Byron-Bergen tops Notre Dame in hard fought girls hoops playoff game

It was a nifty little move under the basket, a no-look reverse layup from Byron-Bergen's Abbie Kelley. The kind of play good players make.

In this case, it couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Head Coach Rick Krzewinski said it was perhaps the difference maker in the game.

The Lady Bees got to that point by allowing Notre Dame to go on an 11-0 run at the start of the third quarter to erase a 10-point lead for Byron-Bergen in the Section V Class C1 playoff game.

The reverse of fortunes had a familiar ring to the Bees, who lost a home game earlier this season to the Fighting Irish after blowing a first-half lead.

Krzewinski told his players in the locker room at the half, "looks familiar doesn't it?"

One of his girls said, "don't even talk about it."

"Oh, we're going to talk about it," Krzewinski told his team, "because we're not going to let happen what happened last time."

The Bees apparently got the message, and Kelley's nifty basket provided the spark they needed to beat back Notre Dame's momentum.

"Players make plays and that was the perfect time for it," Krzewinski said. "We got our composure back, I thought, and started hitting some shots."

That basket and a three possession change of defense to a 2-3 zone, seemed to break the rhythm of the Irish girls.

Kelley, who has 393 points on the year, did more to carry her team than drop that one score. She was the game's leading scorer with 23. Nobody else on her team was in double digits.

"Today was Bergen's day," said Irish Head Coach Dave Pero. "In the fourth quarter, Abbie Kelley took the game over. We missed way too many free throws. We probably missed 14 free throws (10, actually) and in sectional play, in any game, you can't miss 14 free throws and think you're going to struggle to win. Sometimes you'll get lucky, but the luck of the Irish wasn't with us today."

B-B's diamond defense held Notre Dame's top two scorers to totals a shave below their season PPG averages. Becca Krenzer had 12 points and Shea Norton, 11.

Emma Francis didn't hit a single three and was held to seven points for the game.

"We had the shots we wanted," Pero said. "You have days when they're not going to go in and today was one of those days. But we fought to get back in third quarter and I don't know if we ran out of gas a little bit, we might have, but I've got to take my hat off to Bergen. They played a great basketball game. They played for 32 minutes and that's why they're moving on and we're not."

The Bees had 13 days off before the game and Krzewinski said the team used that time to work on the diamond defense thinking it would be effective against Notre Dame.

"We were hoping maybe we could force some turnovers, worst case maybe slow them down," Krzewinski said. "I thought the girls worked it well and the message was, it will work if you move and they moved. We got out of it what I wanted."

It's been 2008 since Byron-Bergen beat Notre Dame in a girls basketball game, and the Irish seem to be a chief rival for just about every team they play.  The win certainly made Bees fans happy, who whooped it up in the closing seconds of the game.

"Yeah, everybody wants to beat Notre Dame, obviously,"  Krzewinski said. "Year in and year out they're a team that everybody wants to beat and to be able to do this in a sectional game just makes it really sweet. I'm so proud of the way they (his team) played and hung in there and did this. I don't even know what to say."

Next up for Byron-Bergen, the #3 seed in the tournament, is #2 seed Gananda (16-3) at 6 p.m., Tuesday, at a location to be determined.

Pembroke, also a C1 team, lost today to East Rochester.

Oakfield-Alabama and Alexander also lost playoff games today, leaving Byron-Bergen, Batavia and Elba as the three Genesee County girls basketball teams still alive in the postseason. All three have games scheduled for Tuesday.

To purchase prints, click here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Kitchen fire reported at College Village

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, College Village, fire

A kitchen fire is reported at College Village.

Batavia fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

The call was first dispatched as an automatic alarm of fire. A minute later the dispatcher came on with "updated information" and said there is a confirmed kitchen fire, confirmed via the alarm company.

UPDATE 10:36 p.m.: Alexander's Fast Team dispatched to College Village.

UPDATE 10:38 p.m.: Security reports the fire may be out, but responding units asked to continue.

UPDATE 10:40 p.m.: Alexander can stand down.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Structure fire reported on Brick House Corners Drive, Pembroke

post by Billie Owens in fire, pembroke

A structure fire is reported at 8705 Brick House Corners Drive, Pembroke. Pembroke and Indian Falls fire crews are responding, along with Mercy medics. A Sheriff's deputy on scene reports light smoke showing.

UPDATE 7:37 p.m.: Command has entered the building and it's "no longer smoking, investigating at this point."

UPDATE 7:55 p.m.: City Engine #12 also responded and is now returning to its station. The City's Fast Team, initially called into action, is told by Pembroke command to go back in service.

UPDATE 7:59 p.m.: The Pembroke assignment is back in service.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Peggy Lamb selected as Geneseean of the Year after nearly a half century of local volunteerism

This is the seventh and last profile of the 2014 Chamber of Commerce Award winners. The awards will be presented at a dinner at the Clarion Hotel tonight.

Thousands of senior citizens in Genesee County have gratefully enjoyed nutritious food prepared and delivered to their door because Margaret "Peggy" Lamb was key in launching Meals on Wheels here in 1974. Showcasing local farms beginning in 1989 with the annual Decision Makers' Agricultural Tour, underscoring the sector's economic impact, was her brainchild.

Although these two accomplishments are among her proudest achievements, she has helped out on many fronts.

Named one of two Geneseeans of the Year for 2014 by the Chamber of Commerce, she is all about serving the community. (The other Geneseean of the Year 2014 is William "Bill" Schutt.)

Her record of volunteerism spans 46 years, and the beneficiaries include: the United Memorial Medical Center Foundation; the YWCA Board of Directors; Oakfield Methodist Church, where she is trustee and has served in several leadership roles over the years; CASA for Children (Court Appointed Special Advocates); the Genesee Symphony Orchestra Board; the Muriel H. Marshall Fund Planning and Advisory Team; the Chamber of Commerce; Oakfield Betterment Committee; and the recently formed Richmond Memorial Library Foundation.

As the saying goes, "If want something done, ask a busy person." She stays active and gets things done.

And those who know her well, like Elba resident Lucine Kauffman, who nominated her, not only vouch for that, they also appreciate her honesty, wit, generosity, intellectual curiosity and just plain hard work.

Peggy and her husband, Gordon, live in Oakfield and have three grown sons, Craig, a veterinarian, and Jonathan and Matthew, who work in the family business -- Lamb Farms. It operates in three locations, mostly as a dairy farm, but they grow some vegetables, too. They have more than 100 employees.

She knew nothing about farming when she married in 1968, two years after earning a degree in Christian education at Keuka College. She grew up in Hamburg and her dad worked for a state utility company -- 8 to 5 -- and was "always home on weekends."

Not so with farming. The long hours were "a shock" she says, requiring a great adjustment. She, obviously, managed to balance things -- her duties on the farm, including being the bookkeeper, raising the boys, and giving her time and talent to worthy causes.

She keeps on giving.

As a court advocate for children with CASA, for example, she's had to learn the intricacies of the legal system and the mix of resources that are available or required to handle the caseload and assist families.

"It was a real eye-opener," Peggy said. "It's not for the weak of heart. I don't think the average person in Genesee County realizes all what happens. There's a whole group of people with needs -- that we had no idea there were so many of them or how extensive their needs were."

But helping them has been rewarding, she said.

"I'm working very one-on-one with the children and learning all about their backgrounds so I can give my best advice to the judge on what I think should happen to these children."

With age has come the realization that she can't volunteer to the degree that she once did.

"I feel I'm glad to help when I can," she said. "I'm glad to be doing what I'm doing now."

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 3:00 pm

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Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Joe Scanlan plans to retire from Notre Dame at end of the school year

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, education, Le Roy, Notre Dame, schools

Dr. Joe Scanlan, a man with the steady, gentle temperament of a parish priest, is stepping away from a job he loves in a few months.

Appropriately enough, for the past 11 years, Scanlan has been principal of Notre Dame High School, the private Catholic school on Union Street in Batavia.

"It takes a lot of energy to do this job," Scanlan said. "I pretty much do everything here except business. And you wouldn't want me to be the business manager. Tommy Rapone does a nice job. In addition to being principal, you're talking admissions, recruitment, pubic relations, newsletter and all the rest of the stuff. It's time to give somebody else a chance."

Scanlan's tenure at Notre Dame caps a 47-year career in education, which includes 15 at Byron-Bergen as a history teacher, assistant principal and principal, and 11 years as principal at York Central School.

Scanlan has found it particularly rewarding to shepherd area teens through their preparatory education at his own alma mater.

"I love it here, especially the kids," Scanlan said. "It's a great group of kids here. There's great kids in every school, so it's not just Notre Dame, but the students here are special group. They're pretty gritty. They're competitive, but they're respectful."

There are 170 students in grades 9-12 at Notre Dame. When the seniors graduate this spring, it will be Scanlan's final graduation with the school, it will also be the 50th anniversary year of his own class's graduation.

It's tradition for classes to be invited back for the graduation ceremony on their 50th anniversary, so Scanlan is hoping he'll see a lot of his former classmates.

Scanlan said the school board already has a number of qualified candidates who have expressed interest in the job.

There is also a $5 million capital campaign under way at the school, so the next principal will have plenty to do from the first day on the job.

As for Scanlan's own plans he says, "right now the plan is to have no plan."

He has a son and granddaughter living in Cleveland and more time to travel will mean more time with his family.

He plans to continue living in Le Roy.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 9:00 am

Volunteer firefighter and community stalwart - Bill Schutt is Geneseean of the Year

post by Billie Owens in bill schutt, Geneseean of the Year

This is the sixth in our series of profiles of the 2014 Chamber of Commerce Award winners. The awards will be presented at a dinner at the Clarion Hotel tonight.

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2013, William ("Bill") Schutt wound up with lots of other emergency personnel at an icy Alabama swamp trying desperately to rescue a lone deer hunter who became stranded. Sometime after 2:30 that afternoon and into the cold of night, Alabama's assistant fire chief fretted and planned and coordinated as dozens of volunteers risked their lives, tempted frostbite, and went through plans A, B and C to haul Vermont visitor Colin Phillips to safety.

At 6:59 p.m., this was relayed over the scanner, "Alabama command -- all the men and equipment are accounted for. We're out." A grateful Phillips, Schutt and the other exhausted emergency responders could look forward to the holiday and leave what could easily have been a tragedy behind them.

As Schutt would later say, "This is what we do."

He has been handling emergency situations with quiet aplomb for more than two decades and is one of two people chosen as Geneseean of the Year for 2014 by the Chamber of Commerce. (The other is Margaret "Peggy" Lamb.)

"Howard (publisher of The Batavian) kind of summed it up when he said it's nice to see a volunteer firefighter is getting the award," Schutt said. "I'm not getting out of bed at 3 in the morning because I might win an award some day. I feel like this award is for all the volunteer firefighters and emergency responders."

The 52-year-old native of West Seneca has lived in the Town of Alabama for about 25 years. He's married and has a son, a daughter and a baby granddaughter ("She's got me in training," he said of the little one.)

He serves as the West Battalion coordinator for the Genesee County Emergency Management Office and is employed full-time as general manager of Mercy EMS, where he manages a staff of more than 60 and its fleet of vehicles.

What kind of person donates more than 25 years to a volunteer fire department -- chairing committees, recruiting members, serving as chief, assistant chief (his current rank), captain and lieutenant? What type of guy spends countless hours on training and offers to do both menial and heroic tasks for free, and does them with equanimity?

Not your average citizen, that's for sure.

"Bill manages to help people everywhere directly and indirectly, from rescuing them from a fire, to transporting them safely and quickly to a hospital," wrote nominator Wendy Allen-Thompson in a letter to the chamber. "Bill is a true hero every day."

Lynn O'Donnell, Mercy's local outreach coordinator, agrees wholeheartedly.

"When everyone else is running out of a burning building, you're running in," O'Donnell says of firefighting volunteers, which includes herself. "Nights of planned dinners, family functions, quiet evenings ruined by the sound of a fire pager telling you of some soul's plight. ... We have to be on our best game when those who call us are having their worst day."

Like Colin Phillips had a couple of years ago in that swamp.

After the incident, Phillips said of his rescuers -- volunteers from fire departments in four counties, "I owe them my life. If they didn't come out and get me, I'd be dead tonight. I appreciate every second of it. They're great people."

Asked by a reporter, what can you say to that? Schutt said the most you can say, really, is "Thank you."

He continued "These guys are out here in the cold for hours, but it's something you do for your community. When you're part of a volunteer fire department, somebody calls for help, it's not something you complain about. None of these guys are going to complain about being out here in the cold and away from home for hours."

Least of all, Bill Schutt. Thank you.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 8:52 am

Lady Blue Devils keep shooting on way to 46-37 playoff win over Geneva

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, Batavia HS, high school sports, sports

The law of averages was bound to catch up with the Lady Panthers in their Friday night Section V playoff match with the Lady Blue Devils in Batavia.

Yes, Maddie McCulley, Sam Cecere and Tiara Filbert were held to only nine points combined in the first half, but they were getting open looks. If they kept shooting, shots would fall.

That's just what happens when good shooters keep shooting.

McCulley finished the night with 17 points, including a trio of threes in the fourth quarter, and Filbert notched 13 points and Cecere added seven as Batavia pulled away for a 46-37 to advance to the Class A2 semifinals at 8 p.m., Tuesday, in Mendon.

"Tiara had a bad first half, Maddy had a bad first half, Sam had a bad first half, yet were were behind by only three," said Head Coach Marty Hein. "There was never a time with these girls where we thought we would be only at 15 at half time. We told them, 'just keep shooting.' "

There was a time midway through the third quarter when the game had that feel of one that was slipping away.

Batavia trailed by 11, 26-15.

Successive baskets from McCulley, Filbert and Abby Allien, tightened the score.

A switch to a 3/4 quarter pressure defense got Geneva off balance and created some turnovers.

Suddenly with 18 seconds left in the quarter it was a different game.

Taylor Stefaniak, who finished with five points, sunk a crucial free throw (top photo) to tie the score and the Lady Panthers would never be out in front again.

To win, Batavia had to overcome a Geneva team led by senior Mia Morrison, 313 points on the year, 161 rebounds, 36 assists, 21 steals and 13 blocked shots and the athletic ability to dominate a game.

The job of slowing her down went to Filbert.

"She's definitely their star," Hein said. "We just wanted her to work from one end of the floor to the other. The first half we played a lot of man and put Tiara on her. We were joking around with Buddy Brasky (Batavia's boys head coach) the other day, about whether Tiara could even handle playing at the boys' level. When she guards you, it's intense."

The assignment helped get Filbert in foul trouble in the third quarter, so Hein switched the defense to give Filbert some help, but left his own star in the game.

"Tiara can play smart with four fouls," Hein said. "She knows, fine, let the girl score a layup, she's more valuable on the floor than on the bench."

It was an unorthodox approach that Hein stuck with when Cecere was whistled for a fourth time with about four minutes left in the game.

He didn't lift his junior center, either.

"Most of the time you sit somebody, they're in foul trouble and you sit them for almost a whole quarter and then they never get a foul the rest of the game, so it's like, go ahead and let them play, if it happens it happens," Hein said.  "It's such a close game. It's a live and die game. We lose and we're done. We win, we move on to the next step, so we'll go out swinging, I guess."

Pittsford-Mendon in the semis is going to be another tough matchup.

Like Batavia, the Lady Vikings are 15-4, but Mendon also held Batavia to 33 points in the second game of the season, in the Blue Devils' most lopsided loss of the year, 54-33.

The Vikings feature three players in triple figures in scoring (Alley Phillips, 232, Darby Kreienberg, 159, Emily Sullivan, 139).

Even so, Hein likes his team, which he believes has really come together well over the course of the season.

"Mendon really took it to us in the second game of the season," Hein said. "We were good and played with them in the first half, but we got shelled in the second half. Our team has a whole different identity from the beginning of the year to where we're at now. Todd Julien is a great coach. Mendon has some great basketball players, but I like mine, too. We'll give them heck on Tuesday."

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Friday, February 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm

James Tripp honored as state's top emergency dispatcher

post by Howard B. Owens in Emergency Dispatch

Press release:

Genesee County Senior Emergency Services Dispatcher James E. Tripp has been selected by the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute to receive its 2014 “Emergency Communicators Award.” The award was presented to Senior Dispatcher Tripp at the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Conference held in Albany this week.

Senior Dispatcher Tripp was nominated by Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha because he has exhibited an exceptional degree of dedication and commitment to the professional fulfillment of his duties during his 21 years of service. Senior Emergency Services Dispatcher Tripp started his career with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office as a part-time dispatcher on July 12, 1993. On January 6, 1996, Jim was appointed a full-time, permanent dispatcher and pursuant to a change in Civil Service Rules and Regulations, his title was changed to Emergency Services Dispatcher on June 7, 1999. On May 23, 2008, Jim was appointed a Senior Emergency Services Dispatcher.

As a Senior Emergency Services Dispatcher, Jim is in charge of a shift at the Genesee County Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), under the supervision and administration of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. He is also a certified Communications Training Officer (CTO) and has trained several new dispatchers during his tenure with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Jim has also taken on additional duties over the years including: Terminal Access Coordinator for NYSPIN and the Integrated Justice Portal; PSAP Accreditation; and he serves as a Telecommunications Emergency Response Team Leader. Jim is the recipient of two Commendation Awards, one Meritorious Service Award and was twice awarded the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Distinguished Service Award (2001 & 2011). 

He is respected by his peers and colleagues and is a leader in the field of emergency dispatching. Jim and his wife, Terry, have three children and three grandchildren. Two of his children are also emergency service dispatchers with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Friday, February 27, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Too cold for too long

post by Howard B. Owens in Emergency Dispatch, weather

Every evening the on-duty fire dispatcher comes on-air at 1800 hours with a time check, temperature and any fire service announcements.

Tonight the dispatcher informed us "current temperature is 91 degrees," but as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she corrected herself.

"Nine degrees."

Wishful thinking, maybe?

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