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Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Naysayers aside, BDC gave city a return on its investment in 2014, coordinator tells council

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bdc, downtown, economic development

The City of Batavia has realized a 500-percent return on its $360,000 investment in community development, Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator, told the City Council on Monday night.

The Council has authorized $90,000 a year over four years to the Batavia Development Corporation- that's $360,000. In return, the BDC has generated more than $2.1 million in public-private investment in Downtown.

Several of the projects managed by BDC were building owners constructing renovated apartments, all of which rented immediately.

But perhaps the biggest win is the renovation of the old Carr's Warehouse in Jackson Square.

The property sat vacant and deteriorating for three years. The city marketed the building as a revitalization project and eventually found a developer.

With the help of a $115,000 state grant, Paul Thompson and his partners invested more than $500,000 in constructing four apartments and a first-floor office area.

The vacancies were filled as soon as construction was completed.

The property was assessed at $30,000, but since it was a city-foreclosed property, it was generating zero tax revenue. Now it's assessed at more than $200,000 and on the tax roles. (The developer has the option to apply for a tax abatement by March under a municipal program that works like a PILOT, offering tax relief on the increase in assessed value).

The nine new residential units, using current economic models, are worth about $5,000 each in extra consumer buying power Downtown, Pacatte said.

Pacatte's job has been funded in the past through the use of revenue generated by Batavia Downs and transferred by the state to the city on an annual basis.

Since this is not general fund revenue, it doesn't have any impact on local property taxes. Even so, there is some question as to whether the current council is willing to once again use city money to fund the development coordinator's position.

Pacatte's Monday presentation could be seen as a pitch to save her job, but that didn't stop her from getting a little feisty. She was full of energy during her presentation, and when she spoke about negative attitudes, Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian challenged the remark and Pacatte shot right back with her own view.

The topic of the exchange was the mall, which Pacatte had already called a travesty and an embarrassment and one of the factors weighing down economic development in the city.

"I think maybe people have a negative attitude because they have heard the same old thing year after year," Christian said. "How many years have we heard we're going to do something with the mall. I've sat on this board for 24 years and I've heard year after year we're going to do something with the mall."

Pacatte responded that she didn't say the BDC was going to do something with the mall, just that the issue needed to be resolved.

The negative attitude discussion harkens back to a consultant report from three years ago, which Pacatte referenced, that said one of the things hurting Batavia is a persistent, nagging culture of antagonism to new proposals.

From the report (pdf; page 29):

... many residents and business leaders alike are quick to say what is right about the place, but only after they or others have said how it is not the community it used to be. This habit goes to the core of the challenge for Batavia. Regardless of how effective the city government is, or how successful the schools are, or how homeowners keep up beautiful homes, there is always the perception that things used to be better. This sets up an impossible goal: Batavia needs to be as good as its finest past features, but without any of its previous problems, and certainly without any of yesterday’s resources. It allows critics to say, “see, I told you so.” It lives on phrases like “that can’t be done,” and “we tried that,” and “here’s why that won’t work.” Until the community addresses this problem, Batavia won’t achieve its full and substantial potential.

Pacatte has succeeded in helping to bring new development to Downtown Batavia despite the naysayers. Each new apartment development was met by a wave of criticism and endless predictions that nobody would rent such high-priced units.

Yet, there are no vacancies. Landlords rent the apartments as quickly as they become available.

The Carr's project was roundly criticized, yet it's successful.

The negative attitudes are just something to try and work though as a professional, Pacatte said after the meeting.

"I think it's important to listen to what the community is saying, but we also have access and in our profession we understand that these projects do happen and happen a lot in other communities and there's no reason it shouldn't happen in Batavia," Pacatte said. "We bring the folks to the table who can make it happen.

"It's important to hear some of the negativity at the time to maybe rethink how we approach a project," Pacatte added, "but it's important to be a professional and understand that it is possible and persevere to that end. I was hired to impact the economic community in Batavia and I believe that's what I'm doing when I push those projects forward."

In 2015, the BDC will look to advance the Batavia Opportunity Areas, such as the Della Penna property on Ellicott Street, and right next to it, the Santy Tires property.

The mall fits in there somewhere, as well, though that is a much stickier problem with all of the competing interests and ancient animosities. Pacatte believes there might be an opportunity to apply for funding in 2015 through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council to pursue some sort of long-term solution.

She also sees as her job in 2015 an effort to foster a greater entrepreneurial spirit in Batavia, to coordinate and implement a new micro-enterprise grant program, and support an industry-specific incubator.

The BDC will also apply for more redevelopment grant money from the state.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Vibrant Batavia supporters point to successes, make pitch for third year of funding

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Vibrant Batavia

Between the public comments section at the top of the agenda and a presentation by folks with Vibrant Batavia, the City Council heard more than an hour of reasons to keep the city-created community promotion group.

Some on council sounded a skeptical tone about continued funding.

Vibrant Batavia is seeking $50,000 for 2015. City Manager Jason Molino is recommending $45,000, which is in line with the commitment the council made to Vibrant Batavia two years ago.

"I would be very disappointed and embarrassed if you were pulling back on your financial commitment to Vibrant Batavia, putting your reputations on the line," said Mary Valle, a local business owner and active member of the Vibrant Batavia Board.

The community's business owners donated their money for Batavia's centennial, committed to our community. How could things continue without a leader for Vibrant Batavia? If you do pull back, our business leaders, I believe, every one of them, would be very hesitant to donate and support projects in the future."

Councilman John Deleo said he's having a hard time justifying to himself and his constituents the expenditure of $45,000 or $50,000 on Vibrant Batavia when the city is talking about a tax increase.

"I did run as a fiscal conservative," Deleo said. "In fact, I may be downright stingy with taxpayer money and this is what I'm obliged to."

Last year, Vibrant Batavia was funded to the tune of $45,000 through unspent contingency funds from the previous budget year. Whether it's funded -- if it's funded -- through the same process this year, or from reserves, or through the general fund, or perhaps with video lottery money from Batavia Downs, is something for the City Council to discuss.

Funding or no, Vibrant Batavia won't necessarily have any impact on the tax rate.

Vibrant Batavia Director Leanna DiRisio (pictured) provided the council with an overview of what Vibrant Batavia has accomplished in its first two years.

  • Hosted coffee talks
  • Conducted neighborhood surveys
  • Hosted a fall frolic
  • Hosted home tours
  • Published the Vibrant Times
  • Organized neighborhood meetings
  • Sponsored beautification projects
  • Set up a community art project
  • Organized the city's ongoing centennial celebration.

One of the big accomplishments for Vibrant Batavia in 2014 was raising $124,000 to fund this year's Batavia centennial celebrations -- an ongoing series of events that started with New Year's Eve fireworks and parties in City Hall and on Evans Street.

Valle noted that Vibrant Batavia, by raising so much money, exceeded council expectations, and that Deleo in particular expressed skepticism that the group could meet its fundraising goals

Those funds can only be used for the centennial and can't be used for Vibrant Batavia operations. 

In year three, Vibrant Batavia, if funded, will focus on neighborhoods, particularly along the lines of forming three block clubs, DiRisio said. One on the Southside, one on the East End and one in the Central Park District.

Vibrant Batavia would also look pursue leadership development for community leaders and deliver programs that engage residents and build pride in the community.

All Vibrant Batavia is trying accomplish comes right out of a plan developed for the city three years ago by consultants with czb.

The consultants found that with greater civic engagement, Batavia could improve itself both economical and socially, spurring revenue growth and decreasing crime.

It all begins, the report said, in fostering a greater sense of community pride and more community engagement.

Those who spoke during public comments, such as Lisa Barrett and Paula Miller, said Vibrant Batavia has certainly hit that target.

After one neighborhood event, children who live near Barrett were asking her when they could have another block party. Next week, maybe? Not that soon, said Barrett, but soon.

"I think when youth see adults caring about their neighborhood, then as adults they will care about their neighborhood," said Barrett, not in person but on a video screened for the council, as was a video from City Church Pastor Marty McDonald, who is very active in Vibrant Batavia.

Miller said before their neighborhood gathering, she and some of her neighbors were concerned about one house on their block that seemed to be a source of ongoing issues with the tenants.

The opportunity to come together as neighbors with city officials, including police and code enforcement, helped lead to an eventual resolution of that issue, she said.

"We felt it was a unique opportunity to bring our concerns to them and through that developed a request with City PD and city administration to come around and hear our complaints," Miller said. "It wouldn't have happened if we each felt we were the only ones hanging out there. We came together as a united effort to resolve our issue."

Deleo said there has been a lot of good work by Vibrant Batavia that he supports, but his constituents aren't seeing the value, not when faced with a 1.7-percent property tax increase.

"If we had a flat tax rate, I think it would be great," Deleo said. "Voters are pounding on me. They understand the water rates, but they can't understand the 1.7."

Councilman Eugene Jankowski, who used a post on Facebook yesterday to generate feedback from local residents, said everybody seems to believe Vibrant Batavia does good work. Where opinions diverge is on whether it should receive city funding.

"If we fund it completely, then we're not listening to half the people who don't want it funded by the city," Jankowski said. "If we don't fund it, then we're not listening to the other half. I don't know if we could fund it to a different degree to please both sides."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 4:44 pm

NEW TODAY! - The Little Ridge, plus Bourbon & Burger Co., T.F. Brown's, El Burrito Loco, and more!

post by Billie Owens in Deal of the Day

NEW TODAY!  Delavan's -- The Little Ridge, 107 Evans St., Batavia NY, 14020: The Little Ridge continues the long-standing history of fantastic food from Batavia's local favorite, Delavan's. Fine dining and family fare combine to offer the best of both. We offer Friday night Fish Fry, prime rib dinner on Saturdays, steaks, burgers, salads, and classic Italian dishes. Open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Phone 815-5118. Take-outs available. Kids' menu. Weekly and daily lunch and dinner specials. On Saturday, breakfast is served from 9 to 11 a.m. Good food, good friends, good times! We have a $25 gift certificate for $15.

Viking Valhalla Restaurant & Rose Garden Bowl21 Buffalo Road, Bergen, NY: Open for lunch Monday through Sunday, and dinner Friday and Saturday evenings. Dinner favorites are our succulent prime rib and Friday fish fries! We are always happy to help plan your special occasion -- wedding, shower, rehearsal dinner, stag party, graduation, company function, banquet, family or class reunion. We have a $20 gift certificate for $8.

Fortune's Restaurant inside Batavia Downs, 8315 Park Road, Batavia, NY: Italian-style menu, drinks in one of the region's most popular entertainment venues. We have a $25 gift certificate for $15. (Must be new or current Players Club member to redeem.)

The Rack Shack, 4974 Ellicott Street Road, Batavia, NY: Genesee County's newest BBQ restaurant offers a varied menu that ranges from tender, tasty slow-cooked BBQ ribs and smoky beef brisket to Cajun catfish, ribeye steaks, burgers and wraps. Family owned and operated, the atmosphere is warm and comfortable, and the meats are smoked on-site. The homemade BBQ sauce is “sweet with a spicy kick.” Sides include authentic Southern-style collard greens, 5-bean chuck wagon beans with bacon and ground meat, mac ‘n’ cheese, tater tots and more. Catering available. Dine in, take out, phone in (585-201-7077). Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 9 to 7, closed Monday. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12.

Batavia's Original, 500 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: First established in 1947, this Batavia landmark pizzeria reopened as Batavia's Original in 2010, serving up delicious Neopolitan tomato pies that have had satisfied generations. We offer regular and New York-style thin crust pizza, plus Chicago deep dish and gluten-free. We have "tray," white, sweet, or white ricotta sauce. Choose from two dozen toppings, including pulled pork, carmelized onions, steak and spinach! Enjoy specialty pizzas, too, like Sienna, Steak-in-the-Grass or bacon/chicken/ranch. Our menu also includes calzones, appetizers (like deep-fried pickles, garlic knots, Hodge Podge), wings, salads, wraps and cannolis. All subs are toasted. Weekday Express Lunch combo meals (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). A $9.99 Sunday lunch buffet is offered from 11 to 3. Patio dining, catering, delivery. Hours are: Sunday & Monday 11 to 9; Tuesday & Thursday 11 to 10; and Friday & Saturday 11 to 11. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12.

The Mane Attraction Salon and Spa99 Main St., Batavia, NY: offers "Affordable Luxury" in downtown Batavia. We pride ourselves in the great customer service we give to the entirefamily. Men, women and children are all welcome either by appointment or walk-in. We offer all hair care services including cuts, color, highlights, lowlights, perms, styling/updos, facials, leg and back waxing, Shellac Polish System, manicures and pedicures. We are the only salon in Batavia that has an airplane chair for kids' cuts! Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. We have a $20 gift certificate for $7.

Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew, 9 Main St., Le Roy, NY. The kind of downhome, laid-back and comfortable place that just feels right. Open daily for lunch, dinner and drinks, this eatery and bar features a variety of eats and drinks that are outstanding. Specializing in smoked meats -- each meat is dry rubbed with a proprietary mix of seasonings, then smoked slowly in their on-site smoker for maximum flavor and tenderness. With a variety of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, combo platters and entrées, there's always plenty of choice for even picky eaters. Great food, frosty brews and some of the best folk around call the Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew their favorite -- make it your favorite today! Don't forget to ask about our catering! We have a $20 gift card for $12.

Oliver's Candies, 211 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Oliver's, a Batavia landmark, offers the finest chocolate and confections in the area. We have a $20 gift card for $12.

Mooney's Sports Bar & Grill, 65 Lake St., Le Roy, NY: "Not Your Average Sports Bar!" This place is Home of the Mac N' Cheese, an All-American favorite with nine kinds to choose from. Plus, monster 1/2-lb. burgers, huge tacos, pizza, wings, fingers, wraps, soups, salads, appetizers (including deep-fried pickles), a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, seafood, and plenty more. Mooney's has a fun, welcoming atmosphere where you can enjoy watching your favorite teams. Endless soda pop, great selection of ice-cold beer. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Catering available. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12.

Alli's Cones & Dogs, 7063 Lewiston Road, Oakfield, NY: Full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu; all-you-can-eat salad bar; ice cream served year-round; eat-in or take-out. We have a $20 gift certificate for $8.

Ficarella's Pizzeria, 21 Liberty St., Batavia, NY: Dine-in, drive-thru or delivery. Featuring fresh, hearth-baked pizza since 1985, plus wings, pasta and more. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12. (Good only at the Batavia location.)

Sweet Pea’s Cupcakery Café, 23 Jackson St., Batavia, NY. We are a full-service Cupcake Bakery and Café. Treat yourself to a variety of baked goods, mainly varieties of specialty and traditional scratch-made cupcakes, as well as other bakery items like cookies and brownies. Handmade, artisan pizza offered at lunchtime. We also serve a variety of hot and cold beverages. Check out our location, or place an order for parties, gatherings or any other reasons you can think of to enjoy some cupcakes. We have a $10 gift card for $4.

Bourbon & Burger Co., 9 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: Batavia's newest burger joint offers more than two dozen different types of tasty hamburgers. Our menu also includes a variety of sandwiches, appetizers and an extensive beer list, plus a full bar. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12.

El Burrito Loco, 4125 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Located in Valu Plaza, this new eatery offers tasty, authentic Mexican fare. Tell us what you want on your burrito! We make it fresh just for you. Choose from steak, seasoned ground beef, chicken, pork, and/or beans -- black, refried or pinto. Other ingredients to choose from include lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, guacamole, Spanish or white rice, cilantro, salsa, and jalapeno peppers. The menu also offers tacos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, loaded nachos, Mexican soda pop, lemonade, and more! Relax and eat in, or take out. Call in your order if you like -- 219-4620. We have a $10 gift certificate for $6.

John & Mary's Restaurant, 3711 W. Main Street Road, Batavia, NY: This popular restaurant offers a varied menu that people love. From subs, hoagies, hand-tossed pizza, and wings, to fish & chips, salads, Mexican food, gyros and other Greek fare, it's all here. Only the finest and freshest ingredients are used. Bread, using homemade dough, baked fresh daily. Amazing specialty pizzas and appetizers! "We never waver on quality!" Delivery available all day, every day. We offer catering. Hours 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. We have a $10 gift certificate for $6.

Rancho Viejo, 12 Ellicott St., Batavia, NY: Traditional Mexican cuisine, from tacos and burritos to pollo norteno, Rancho Viejo brings a bit of "South of the Border" to Batavia's restaurant scene. We have a $10 gift card for $6.

Larry's Steakhouse for lunch, 60 Main St., Batavia, NY: The name says it all -- Larry's is a great place for steak. Larry's has a fine dining atmosphere with a great menu and outstanding service. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12. Valid only for lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, 8 Center St., Batavia, NY: Feel like a kid in a toy store again, or treat your kids to the greatest toy store they will ever see. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Settler's, 353 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Settler's has a 25-year history of serving great, affordable breakfasts, lunches and dinners to Batavians. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12.

T.F. Brown's, 214 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. "If it happens in sports, it happens at Brown's."  Stop in and check out our Jumbo Chicken Wings, Roast Beef on Weck and Friday night fish fry. The original family spaghetti sauce still adorns all of our Italian specialties. The other popular selections from our menu range from Super Salads, butcher cut Strip Loin and South of the Border items. We offer daily lunch and dinner specials as well as a full adult and children’s menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $12.

Bohn's Restaurant, 5256 Clinton St., Batavia, NY: Fine dining in an atmosphere of casual elegance. Lunch and dinner, steak, prime rib and seafood. Ask about Bohn's catering services and banquet facility. We have a $25 gift certificate for $15.

[Last updated June 6, 2014. Subject to change without notice.]

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Rules: The gift certificate must be used by within 30 days of purchase, unless it states otherwise. It is not valid with other offers, has no cash value, and does not include gratuities. Only one gift certificate per-merchant, per-household every SIX months. Gift certificates cannot be combined with other offers without prior approval of the merchant. Gift certificates bought separately cannot be combined for a single purchase. Individuals buying gift certificates must use their own personal PayPal account for the purchase. For hair salons, good for services only, not products.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Sponsored Post: Dan's Tire - Unbeatable Tire Sale!

DUE TO AN OVERHELMING RESPONSE, WE'RE EXTENDING THE TIRE SALE! PLAIN AND SIMPLE TIRE SALE!

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  • No Charge to Mount
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Dan’s Tire & Auto Service Center, 48 Batavia City Centre, Batavia, NY 14020 • (585) 343-7210Saturday hours are available by appointment only.

Visit us online at: www.danstire.com or e-mail: [email protected]

Must mention posting on the The Batavian at time of service. Offer applies to four new tire purchase. For aspect ratios below 50 and rim diameters 19” and higher additional mounting and balancing charges apply. Alignment includes toe-in adjustments only. Most vehicles. Cannot be combined with any other promotional offers, discounts or coupons.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Hawley pushes for term limits in wake of Silver arrest

post by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley

Press release:

With the recent arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on alleged federal corruption charges, the culture of deceit, lies and bribery in Albany has been brought further into the public spotlight. It is unfortunate that a few members of the legislature refuse to follow the rules and fall victim to money and power. Scandals such as these bring a pejorative perception to the already tainted Albany culture and make it difficult for the rest of us who truly want to do what is best for all New Yorkers.

If the recent news regarding Speaker Silver has demonstrated anything, it is that we need ethics reforms in Albany now more than ever. It goes against the very function of our government to have a single person hold as much power as Sheldon Silver. Silver has omnipotent control over which bills come before the Assembly for a vote and how taxpayer funds are used. The length of time Silver has been in office, more than 20 years, has allowed him to accumulate significant wealth and power. Now we have discovered that much of his wealth and power allegedly was either illegally obtained or used to promote his own private interests.  

If we are to truly reform Albany’s culture of corruption, we need to pass the Public Officers Accountability Act. I sponsored this legislation last legislative term, along with almost all of my Assembly Minority colleagues, because I know that abuses of power such as these should be handled proactively. This legislation: limits the time a member of the legislature can serve as a committee chair or legislative leader to eight years; bans elected officials from future employment for certain felony convictions; and requires the return of campaign funds to donors or charities upon certain felony convictions. Furthermore, I sponsored Assembly Bill 4935 of 2014 that proposes stripping pension and retirement benefits from public officials convicted of certain felonies.  

Until these bills are taken up for a vote, we are leaving the door open for further abuses of power and theft from the public coffers. The last thing we need is career politicians who have lost interest in benefiting their constituencies in exchange for padding their own pockets and ensuring their own reelection. The only way to handle serious ethics violations is with a serious ethics reform bill, and the Public Officers Accountability Act provides a plethora of reforms that will prevent these abuses before they happen again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Assistant city manager reports on issues with new emergency radio system, and fixes

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, communications, Emergency Dispatch, Le Roy

They call it "the Lt. Whitcomb incident," Assistant City Manager Gretchen DiFante told the City Council Monday night.

Jeff Whitcomb, a city fire officer, was leading a group of firefighters into a burning building at Ellicott and Swan streets Sept. 18 when he tried to radio critical information to his scene commander, Chief Jim Maxwell.

Whitcomb couldn't get a "grant tone."

That radio message comes from the dispatch center and signals the radio channel is clear and the responder in the field can transmit. Without it, the radio in the responder's hand is not much more than a brick.

After the meeting, Maxwell confirmed there was an issue with Whitcomb's attempt to transmit that day.

"What happened there was the lieutenant was inside and he was trying to radio out and he couldn't, so we thought it was a system failure because he couldn't get the grant tone," Maxwell said. "After we submitted the problem report we got a response back from Harris that the system worked the way it was supposed (to). We were operating at the fire ground on the same channel they dispatch on and dispatch has priority."

The inability for a firefighter in a burning building to transmit, even if only delayed by seconds, can mean the difference between life and death.

"This was a major turning point for us," DiFante said. "That's when I went to my boss and said, 'oh, boy, Mr. Molino, we've got to do something about this.' "

DiFante recognized immediately that not only were lives at stake, but as a matter of her fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers, the city faced a potentially monstrous liability issue if police officers and firefighters were saddled with a communication system that made them vulnerable in moments of crisis.

A year ago, the county switched communication systems for police and fire to a $10 million digital system designed and built by Rochester-based Harris RF.

The need for the new system was largely driven by the FCC and Homeland Security, with a goal of freeing up the frequencies used by the old system and improving interoperability between local departments on a nationwide basis.

The grant money available for the new system came with a hard deadline for launching the Harris system.

Typically, a new communications system can be tested and refined over an 18-month period, which is what Ontario County did, DiFante said.

Genesee County got no time to test its new system before the old system was shut down.

When DiFante researched the issue, she found other jurisdictions facing similar issues with the Harris system. Miami-Dade County had to buy a new system. Las Vegas is tied up in a lawsuit with Harris. Oakland PD has had trouble, including 35 minutes of downtime when President Obama was in town.

The issue, however, she said, isn't with Harris. It's the nature of digital technology. Anybody with cable TV, she said, understands that digital technology is subject to disruption.

"Digital technology is great when it works, but when it doesn't, it causes things to happen," DiFante said.

So DiFante asked her contact at Harris which agency was doing the best with the new system, and she was told, without a doubt, Ontario County.

In her first contact with a communications director in Ontario County, he had a reaction she found common during her research -- those poor people in Genesee County.

"You know what he said -- everybody says the same thing when you tell them you're from Genesee County, 'you know what Gretchen, those poor people over in Genesee County and what they had to do,' " DiFante said.

From Ontario County, she was given the name of a consultant whom Harris is now paying to help the county resolve some of the issues facing the system.

This research, she said, led to the City Fire Department changing its communication protocol.

The volunteer departments in the county are going to the same procedure.

It won't be until March, DiFante said, before all the radios are reprogrammed.

The new system will require scene commanders to carry two radios. One will be used for communicating with dispatch. The other will be tuned to an analog tactical channel, which will be the channel used by firefighters use to communicate with each other while at a fire scene.

There will no longer be an issue with dispatch communications taking priority on the same channel with firefighter-to-firefighter communication.

There remain issues with the system DiFante said, though things have improved dramatically for both the police department and fire department over the past several months.

"We're very close to resolution," DiFante said. "What's happened since October is exciting. I can sleep better at night. This is the only thing that has kept me awake at night since I started my job."

Chief Shawn Heubusch agreed that when the new radio system was first introduced, he was troubled by the communications issues and concerned about the safety of his officers.

"There are some issues, as with any new product that is out there," Heubusch said. "It's constantly being tweaked. As she mentioned, it takes 18 months to vet these things. We didn't have that kind of time, so to put one consultant's words out there, 'we watched sausage being made.' Nobody wants to see sausage being made."

While DiFante held up folders full of trouble reports filed by the city with the county about the radio system, Heubusch said most of those trouble reports were filed months ago.

"They've made great strides in correcting the issues," Heubusch said.

Sheriff Gary Maha confirmed this morning that the county has not received a trouble report from the city since November.

Every radio system has its own issues, Heubusch said. The old system had dead spots in the city, and going back even further, when dispatch was handled by City PD, officers knew there were certain buildings -- such as the Harvester complex -- where they would be out of radio contact while inside.

"There are certain inherent dangers to public safety work that we kind of just take for granted, that we understand are out there," Heubusch said. "Digital technology has come a long way since it was implemented and again we are working on the issues that are in play with this system now and they've made great strides in making our officers and fire officers much safer."

There are issues, DiFante said, with gain control and voice fluctuations.

She also said there are still significant issues with coverage areas in Le Roy, but declined during her presentation to go into detail.

We spoke with Chief Chris Hayward, Le Roy PD, this morning and he confirmed there are ongoing issues that the county and Harris are working diligently to try and resolve.

There's one section of the village and some sections of the Town of Le Roy where the radios don't work well.

With the old system, the county had three antenna towers. The new system has six. One is on Cedar Street in Batavia, three are on the west end of the county, and there is one in Bergen and another in Pavilion.

There isn't a tower in the middle of the east side of the county.

A solution to Le Roy's dead-spot issue might be constructing a tower on Asbury Road.

Putting in a repeater at that location was the solution in the 1990s when Le Roy PD and Fire had reception issues with the old system.

Harris is running tests this week to try and identify any technology in the area that might be creating interference. At one time, there was concern that the LED lights on police cars were causing interference, but that has been ruled out, Hayward said.

As for using a tac channel for firefighters, he said the Le Roy Fire Department came upon that solution to its communication issues soon after the new radios were operational.

Hayward said he understands the county was put in this situation through no fault of its own and believes all involved are working to make things right.

"Hindsight is 20/20 and you can always ask, 'Why didn't think of this or why didn't think of that?' but I think they did a pretty good job of thinking ahead," Hayward said.

Heubusch also expressed confidence that everything possible is being done to ensure the county has a safe and reliable communications system for its emergency responders.

"It's the number-one priority with the county," Heubusch said. "It's the number-one priority with the city. It's the number-one priority with Harris -- keep everybody out there safe."

DiFante's presentation was only a portion of her 40-minute talk in front of City Council, which was really about all of the work she's done since becoming assistant city manager.

Her overall responsibilities include overseeing administrative services, including finance, the clerk-treasure, personnel, information technology, the youth bureau and assessment; as well as programs such as the community rating system and insurance, with additional projects such as how to handle a burgeoning population of feral cats, the Redfield gateway and strategic planning.

Monday, January 26, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Senior Home Visitors Program offers companionship

post by Daniel Crofts in Catholic Charities, senior citizens, volunteer

Many older adults live alone, can't get out of the house, and have no family nearby. This can cause frustration, anxiety and just plain loneliness.

And that's where the “Volunteer Home Visitors Program” comes in.

Run by Catholic Charities of Western New York, this outreach program has been in place for several years in Genesee County and, according to coordinator Jim Morasco, is now getting started in Orleans County after three years of existing in the form of the “Friendly Phones Program” (which has volunteers check in on seniors by phone rather than by visitation).

The program is run through the Office for the Aging in both counties; it is funded by the Muriel Marshall Fund in Genesee County and by a private funder in Orleans County. Available to adults 60 and older, it matches each senior participant with a volunteer who will come into his or her home to provide company and to socialize.

"It's generally for an hour," Morasco said. "When people sign up, they give us times that are convenient for them. We try to match them up with volunteers who have that time frame open."

Coordinators attempt to look not only for time frames convenient for both volunteers and seniors, but also for hobbies and interests that they might share.

Morasco stressed that the program does not entail hospice work -- bathing, driving to appointments, or similar responsibilities – although referrals can be provided for such things.

“(We work in conjunction with) just about anybody that works with people -- anyone with a connection to the elderly,” Morasco said. “So for example, say we go into someone’s home and they need something fixed. We can call Community Action or the Office for the Aging, both of whom have a handyman program. Not long ago, we helped a woman whose furnace stopped working at the beginning of winter get a new one through the Veterans Association.”

The main purpose of the “Volunteer Home Visitors Program” is to foster friendships.

"It's to break up the monotony of being alone," Morasco said. "I always say to people, 'Think about how busy you are when you're younger. You always have something to do, and you probably have a family. And then when you get older, sometimes they move away. People pass away. And all of a sudden you're frail, you can't go out, you can't drive, and nobody's around anymore.' That's where a lot of folks find themselves."

He described these home visitations as "socialization, and also wellness."

"You get to know people, and sometimes they start to look like maybe they need some help. I went into the home of a person I was visiting once and found her lying on the floor. Who knows how long she would have been there if she hadn't had that visit?"

In Genesee County, 52 seniors are signed up for the program at this time. There are 41 volunteers, and six people are on a waiting list. Orleans County currently has around 20 volunteers, about evenly matched with senior participants.

Morasco said he sees both seniors and volunteers benefitting from the home visits.

"A lot of (senior participants) say they look forward to their visitor or their caller," he said. "And the volunteers tell me that they get just as much out of this, if not more, than the seniors. When you give, you receive."

For more information, call Catholic Charities at 343-0614, ext 23.

Photo courtesy of Danette Weaver.

Monday, January 26, 2015 at 6:14 pm

When the weather warms up, Bill Cultrara will be cooking again, with Duke's Smokin' Bone

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bill cultrara, business, dining, food

Bill Cultrara and Larry Reisdorf are eager for the snow to clear from the smoker so they can get busy again with some serious BBQ.

Reisdorf has owned and operated Duke's Smokin' Bone, a catering service, for about a decade, and with business growing, he thought Cultrara's experience and expertise could help kick things up a notch.

Cultrara is a chef and former owner of Delavan's.

"With his experience, I thought it would be great if we could team up and work together," Reisdorf said.

Fans of Delavan's will be glad to see Cultrara cooking again, and happy to know Duke's will start offering his secret-recipe Italian sausage.

"I saw this as a different opportunity, nothing I've ever done before, and I like to learn," Cultrura said.

The new menu will include spatchcocked chicken and beer can chicken along with beef brisket and ziti and sausage (smoked or grilled). Duke's longtime favorites, quarter chicken, pulled pork and ribs, along with a several other meats, will also be available.

Duke's is available for private parties, corporate events and graduations.

For more information, visit Duke's Web site.

Monday, January 26, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Knights bid retiring coaches a farewell at annual dinner

post by Howard B. Owens in football, high school sports, Le Roy, sports

Jim Bonacquisti roasted retiring Le Roy football coaches Andrew Paladino and Brian Moran at the team's annual post-season dinner Sunday at the Stafford Fire Hall.

Paladino spent 30 years as the Oatkan Knights' defensive coordinator. Moran was the head coach for 26 seasons and retired with 203 wins, a state championship and 14 sectional titles.

The other coaches presented Paladino and Moran with rocking chairs.

JV Assistant Coach Jeff Condidorio was presented with a signed football by Moran. Condidorio is retiring after nearly 40 years with the football program.

Moran called each player to the podium and spoke briefly about their season and their career with the team. The seniors each received a miniature, mounted football helmet with their numbers on it. Here he's with QB Mike McMullen.

A slide show of more pictures will be posted later.

Monday, January 26, 2015 at 11:22 am

Moreland Commission reviewed Hawley's records and found no issues

post by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley

The now-defunct Moreland Commission took three months to review Assemblyman Steve Hawley's financial and business records and found nothing amiss, Hawley told a luncheon in Orleans County on Friday.

“There’s an old adage: ‘If you have nothing to hide, comply,’ ” Hawley said.

Orleans Hub reports that Hawley turned over a list of clients, employees, family members, advertisements, political materials, income taxes and property taxes. It was an exhaustive collection of documents.

Besides sitting in the Assembly, Hawley owns an insurance business based in Batavia.

The three-month review to see if Hawley was making money in kickbacks or abusing his public office for financial gain found Hawley was not misusing his office. Everything was clear.

Hawley's remarks came shortly after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on federal charges for allegedly taking kickbacks. Silver has temporarily stepped down from his leadership position.

The Moreland Commission was disbanded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo before its work was seemingly complete, a decision that was controversial at the time and has been reexamined in light of the charges against Silver.

For more on the story, visit Orleans Hub.

Monday, January 26, 2015 at 11:06 am

Law and Order: Brother and sister charged in alleged choking incident

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, byron, corfu, crime, elba, Oakfield, Pavilion

Julian Munoz, 63, of Transit Road, Elba, and Carmelina Chavez, 47, of Drake Street, Oakfield, are charged with criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and harassment, 2nd. Munoz and Chavez, brother and sister, allegedly choked and pushed a victim down a flight of stairs. 

Heather Jaye Interlicchia, 55, of Ramona Street, Rochester, is charged with possession of more than 400 untaxed cigarettes. Interlicchia was stopped for an alleged traffic violation at 12:08 p.m. Sunday on Route 77, Pembroke, by Deputy Patrick Reeves.

Windfield L. Marshall, 44, of Lake Street, Le Roy, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to pay fine on a parking violation. Marshall turned himself in and posted $25 bail.

Khadijah Azizza Davis, 23, of Arnett Boulevard, Rochester, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, aggravated unlicensed operation, 2nd, unlicensed driver and speeding in zone. Davis was stopped at 11:49 p.m. Wednesday on Clinton Street, Batavia, by Officer Jason Davis, for allegedly driving 47 in a 30 mph zone. Davis was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Kasean L. Shannon, 22, of Hutchins Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Shannon was allegedly found in possession of marijuana during police contact with Officer Marc Lawrence while on Washington Avenue at 1:37 p.m. Wednesday.

Chana J. Mitchell, 22, of Prospect Avenue, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on a aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, charge. Mitchell turned himself in and jailed on $200 bail.

Joseph Michael Marceill, 47, of Pringle Avenue, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on a driving while registration suspended or revoked charge. Marceill turned himself in, was arraigned and released on his own recognizance. 

Cynthia C. Richardson, 35, of Maple Street, Batavia, is charged with a curfew violation. Richardson was arrested after police responded to a report of a fight at 1:29 a.m. Saturday on Court Street. Richardson's 14-year-old son was allegedly located on Evans Street near Ellicott Street at 1:34 a.m.

Donna A. Cocoran, 41, of St. Mary's Street, Pavilion, is charged with DWI, aggravated DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, and suspended registration. Cocoran was stopped at 12:49 p.m. on Elm Street, Batavia, by Officer Eric Foels.

Samuel J. Barber, 20, of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of alcohol under age 21. Barber was arrested following a complaint of a party at 12:32 a.m. Sunday on Bank Street, Batavia. Barber was allegedly hosting the party along with two other individuals. Also charged were Abdullah B. Diallo, 19, of Bank Street, Batavia, and Seanmichael G. Kidder, 19, of Bank Street, Batavia.

Robert Jean Jackson, 38, of Albert Street, Oakfield, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, speeding in zone and failure to change address on license. Jackson was stopped at 1:17 a.m., Saturday, on Main Street, Oakfield, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Justin L. Sanders, 23, of Byron, is charged with grand larceny, 3rd. Sanders was arrested by State Police and jailed on an unspecified bail. No further information released.

Allison A. Sobczak, 23, of Batavia, is charged with DWI and aggravated DWI. Sobczak was stopped at 11:02 a.m. Friday in the Town of Batavia by State Police.

UPDATE: Later today, State Police put out a press release on Sobczak's arrest.  Here's a portion of it:

Sobczak arrived to the Batavia barracks to file a complaint when Troopers smelled an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from her. After her verbal admission that she drove to the barracks, she was detained for a DWI investigation. After Sobczak failed the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, she was placed under arrest for DWI. 

Sobczak was arrested and escorted back to the patrol room where she registered a BAC of .24%. She was issued citations returnable to the Town of Batavia Court on January 29, 2015.

Katrina M. Jones, 46, of Buffalo, is charged with conspiracy, 5th, and grand larceny, 4th. Jones was arrested by State Police and held on an unspecified bail. No further information released.

Christopher F. Bragg, 29, of Corfu, is charged with grand larceny, 3rd, and scheme to defraud, 2nd. Bragg was arrested by State Police. No further information released.

Sunday, January 25, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Photos: Corfu-Pembroke Winterfest 2015

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu, Corfu-Pembroke Community Winterfest, pembroke

A look at yesterday's Corfu-Pembroke Community Winterfest.

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