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Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 7:27 am

Accident with injuries reported on Lake Street Road, Le Roy

post by Howard Owens in accident, Le Roy

An accident with injuries has been reported in the area of 8607 Lake St. Road, Le Roy.

Le Roy Fire Department and ambulance responding.

The victim is out of the car and walking. There's only one vehicle involved. It's off the road.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Batavia school budget passes; newcomer top vote getter for board seat

post by Howard Owens in batavia, batavia city schools

A total of 1,179 people turned out to vote in the Batavia City Schools election today, approving a $40 million budget with nearly 61 percent of the vote and electing one new school board member.

Gretchen DiFante, one of two candidates not currently on the board, was the top vote getter in the election with 736 votes. Incumbent Gail Stevens garnered 623 votes and Phil Ricci, an appointee running for school board for the first time, got 616 votes.

Incumbent Gary Stich lost with 490 votes and newcomer Dennis Warner came up short with 472 votes.

The budget passed 690 votes to 446. 

Creation of a student ex-officio board member passed 852 to 214 votes and changing transportation mileage for students passed 808 to 240.

These are unofficial results.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Former Batavia resident picked up in Ohio on alleged welfare fraud charges

post by Howard Owens in batavia, crime

The husband of a woman previously charged in a welfare fraud cause has been arrested on similar charges and is accused of stealing more than $17,000 in unwarranted public assistance.

Taken into custody following a DSS investigation is Michael Schramm, 36, formerly of Hutchins Place, Batavia.

Schramm is married to Deborah Schramm, who was previously charged.

Michael Schramm is charged with felony counts of grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing.

He is accused of filing falisified documents from February through August last year in order to receive medical assistance and food stamps.

The total aid allegedly provided to the Schramm's above what  they were entitled to was $17,026.39.

The suspect was located in Butler County, Ohio, by Warrant Officer Eric Olsen and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The warrant also covered a failure to appear in Batavia Town Court on April 25 on an unrelated case.

Olsen and Deputy John Baicco retrieved Schramm from Ohio.

Following arraignment, Schramm was jailed without bail.

In July, both Deborah and Michael Schramm were accused of shoplifting from Walmart.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Hawley calls for aid to farmers hit hard by strange spring weather

post by Howard Owens in agricutlure, steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) recently joined a number of his Assembly colleagues, requesting that the governor petition the federal government to make a federal disaster declaration for much of New York’s farming community. Due to the unanticipated early thaw in March and April that was followed by an extended frost period, many fruit crops in Western New York have been irreparably damaged. Statewide data collected by the Federal Farm Agency indicates that losses already meet the threshold for disaster assistance in many areas.

“Fruit crops in Western New York, and throughout the state, have been decimated by this year’s bizarre and destructive weather,” Hawley said. “Farmers who rely on the sale of grapes, apples, sour cherries, peaches, apricots and strawberries now have their livelihood hanging in the balance. Helping our farmers in this time of need is precisely what federal disaster funding was created for, and I sincerely hope the governor will petition the federal government to do right by New York’s agricultural industry.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Local USDA staff celebrates 150th Anniversary of agency

post by Howard Owens in batavia, agriculture, business, USDA

During some of the darkest days of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln wondered why agriculture, such a vital industry to the well being of the nation, was represented in the federal government by only a clerk.

At his prompting, Congress created the U.S. Department of Agriculture and 150 years ago today, the USDA was born.

The USDA now handles a wide variety of rural issues and is the primary conduit for a rural voice in the federal government. The USDA has a significant presence in Genesee County through its office on Liberty Street.

Local USDA staff celebrated the anniversary -- as USDA offices all over the nation did -- with cake, cookies and punch.

Photo submitted by David M. Klafehn.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Regulators taking a look at 'gypsy' auto dealer that set up shop at BJ's last week

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business

An out-of-town auto dealer, or possibly BJ's Wholesale Club, where a "blowout event" was held in Batavia last week, is under investigation by the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, according to a spokeswoman for the DMV.

Jackie McGinnis said she can't discuss the details of an "active case."

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office said there are certainly laws governing how such sales are conducted, but referred further inquiries to the DMV, saying she couldn't comment on an active case.

More than a week ago, some 50,000 mail pieces were sent to homes in the GLOW region advertising a "Blowout Event at BJ's Wholesale Club."

The mailer potentially violated NYS law on dealership advertising, since the name of the dealer is not apparently printed on the mailer.

The dealer conducting the sale was reportedly Ideal Nissan out of Rochester.

Ideal has not responded to a request for an interview and a spokeswoman for BJ's referred questions to Ideal.

The eight-page mailer is covered on every page with BJ's logo and mentions BJ's directly or indirectly more than 30 times, but there's no mention we could find of Ideal Nissan or any other dealer.

The DMV would not confirm BJ's dealership status, if any.

Without further information from the DMV, the exact nature of the investigation is unclear, but state law clearly states that dealers must include their dealership name or identification number on advertising pieces.

The promotional piece promises customers the chance to win numerous prizes, including BJ's gift cards. The promoted grand prize was two vehicles or $100,000 cash. The odds of winning the prize are listed at 1 in 5 million.

The contest rules do reference a "dealer or event coordinator," saying the companies are not responsible for any "lost, late, copied or misdirected prize piece" but doesn't say who the dealer or event coordinator is.

Interestingly, the companies behind the promotion have an easy out for awarding any prizes with the rule, "Typos void all prizes," without defining where those typos might or might not appear.

Local dealers said they found the mailer deceptive and noted customers don't usually save any money going through these "gypsy" dealerships.

Temporary dealers have tremendous overhead, local dealers noted, from spending a dollar or more for each of the mailers sent out -- meaning, Ideal Nissan, or its agent, may have spent more than $50,000 promoting its sale -- plus the cost of bringing in commissioned sales reps from all over the country to conduct the sale.

Those kinds of expenses means the gypsy dealer needs to sell a lot of cars or have very high margins on each vehicle sold just to break even.

 "I don't think local dealers are selling vehicles for any more, and probably for less, than what's being sold on a transient or gypsy basis," said Ken Barrett, owner of Barrett Chevrolet and Cadillac. "We want to take care of our customers and our neighbors. It's our responsibility to provide the best price and best value."

Dealers we spoke with were uniformly bothered by the gypsy lot popping up in the Town of Batavia, with some questioning how Ideal Nissan could have received approval for the temporary dealership and all expressing concern that local customers will be buying cars without local sales and service standing behind the products.

"These are traveling sales reps," said Guy Pellegrino of Pellegrino Auto Sales. "They hit you hard to make the deal and say, 'see you later.' You'll never see these guys again."

Greg Strauss, co-owner of Castilone Chrystler Dodge and Jeep said some customers coming into his store, including ones who made a purchase at BJ's, were confused after talking with sales reps at the sale. He said some customers walked away with the impression that Castilone and other local dealers were involved in the sale.

"The sales reps aren't even from New York in most cases," Strauss said. "What concerns me is that people are getting taken advantage of and then they're gone."

Steve Castilone said that while local dealers all believe in free enterprise and don't begrudge fair competition, they are naturally concerned about losing business to gypsy dealers who not only don't provide the same level of service as a local dealer, but also aren't paying local property taxes or otherwise supporting the local community.

"Local dealers benefit the community," Castilone said. "They donate to baseball, to football, to hockey and community events. (The gypsy dealers) don't do anything for the community."

Every dealer we spoke with expressed concern for how customers are treated after the sale from a gypsy dealer.

While a manager at the BJ's lot on Thursday said customers are provided an 800 number to call if they're are problems, and that Ideal has service centers in Buffalo and Rochester, the local dealers questioned whether that's really providing ideal customer service.

"Normally, when a vehicle breaks down, it's never in a situation where a customer says, 'I've got an extra couple of hours to take in the vehicle to have it fixed, if it's drivable at all," Barrett said.

"There's a reason," he added, "there are local dealers -- not so much for the sales aspect of it, but to stand behind the customer and the sale. That's the real value for the customer and the consumer."

Several dealers wondered how the Town of Batavia could have approved the dealership at BJs, but Town Supervisor Greg Post said the hands of the town are pretty much tied in such situations.

Post acknowledged that there was a breakdown in communication in the approval process that led to a temporary use permit not being reviewed by the town planning board, but even if the review had taken place, the permit probably would have been issued.

"I don't have any authority, any way or means not to allow it to happen," Post said.

Post noted that the town's master plan is up for review in six weeks and how to deal with such temporary use permits in the future will be a subject for discussion. He invited any local business owners who want to provide input on such regulations to get involved in the planning process.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

Two-car accident at Transit and Bridge roads, Elba

post by Billie Owens in accident, elba

A two-car accident, believed to be with injuries, is reported at Transit and Bridge roads. Elba Fire Department and Mercy medics are responding.

UPDATE 11:30 a.m.: A responder on scene reports injuries are minor.

UPDATE 11:36 a.m.: A second ambulance is requested to the scene, non-emergency mode.

UPDATE 11:51 a.m.: A third ambulance is called in, also in non-emergency mode.

UPDATE 11:54 a.m.: The address is determined be "right at the intersection" -- 6050 Transit Road.

UPDATE 12:07 p.m.: All Elba units are back in service. The northbound lane will reopen after a tow and third ambulance leave the scene. So far, two patients are being transported to UMMC.

UPDATE 12:12 p.m.: The roadway is reopened. One patient is a 16-year-old female driver who was ambulatory at the scene and is being taken to the hospital for evaluation. The driver of the other car is a 38-year-old woman, who, along with a 4-year-old boy passenger, are being taken to the hospital with minor aches and pains.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

Large grass fire reported off East Main Road, Le Roy

post by Howard Owens in fire, Le Roy

A large grass fire is reported in the area of 7921 E. Main Road, Le Roy, behind the old Le Roy Machine location.

Le Roy Fire Department and ambulance responding.

UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: It's a rubbish fire on the west side of the building. A chief notes the no open burn regulation is in effect for one more day.

UPDATE 11:26 a.m.: The fire is not near a field nor a building. The owner is tending to it and the burn is on a concrete surface. Le Roy fIre is back in service.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

Photos: birds at the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant

It was a beautiful morning and on the spur of the moment, I decided to drop in on the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant and take some pictures of birds at the facility. Here are six shots from this morning.

Previously: Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant, one of city's hidden treasures

Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Driver involved in accident on Indian Falls Road accused of drinking and driving

post by Howard Owens in Basom, accident, corfu, crime, pembroke

A 24-year-old Corfu resident was charged with drunken driving following an accident on Indian Falls Road, Pembroke, this afternoon that sent both himself and the other driver to the hospital.

Timothy D. Largey, of Phelps Road, Corfu, was reportedly on Cleveland Road when he stopped his 2000 Dodge SUV at the intersection of Cleveland and Indian Falls roads.

Largey then allegedly proceeded into the intersection and his car was struck by a 2002 pickup driven by Jeffrey C. McGiveron, 49, of Phelps Road, Basom.

Both drivers were transported to UMMC by Mercy EMS.

Largey was also cited for alleged failure to yield.

The accident was investigated by Sgt. Greg Walker. Deputy Howard Carlson made the DWI arrest.

(Intial report)

Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

City council to take up the issue of overnight parking downtown

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, downtown

The Batavia City Council will take up the issue of downtown parking, especially overnight parking, at its next conference meeting, probably May 29.

Downtown business owner Jerry Condello spoke Monday night during the public comments section of the council meeting and spoke out against overnight parking enforcement.

That prompted Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian to ask for the issue to be brought to the council for a full discussion.

Condello brought up issues about employees parking after the closing of businesses at 2 a.m. or before they open at 6 a.m., and the issue of responsible drivers electing not to drive after drinking and hence leaving their cars in a city parking lot.

City Manager Jason Molino said the Batavia PD isn't simply writing a ticket for every car found in a city lot between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., but they're using discretion, looking for repeat offenders who haven't gotten an overnight parking pass.

He said keeping the parking lots clear wasn't just about snow removal, or even keeping RV and truck traffic out -- which can easily go to Walmart -- but also parking lot cleanup by sweepers overnight.

He said if somebody who has been drinking at a downtown bar and decides not to drive home but still gets a ticket has ample opportunity to appeal the ticket.

Condello said he hopes there's a big turn out at the May 29 council meeting in order to bring more pressure on the council to change the rules.

Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:23 pm

C-41 flight will open Batavia's Memorial Day Parade

post by Howard Owens in batavia, Memorial Day Parade

A C-41 aircraft will fly directly over Main Street, Batavia, on Memorial Day, May 28, Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian told the city council on Monday night.

The flight to kickoff the Memorial Day parade was arranged by former council member Bob Bialkowski, Christian said.

The grand marshall for the parade, she said will be former NYS Assembly member, and father of Batavia's current Assembly representative, Stephen Hawley.

The parade will start at 10 a.m. in the Eastown Plaza.

Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Cost of criminal appeals shifted from one county office to another

post by Howard Owens in genesee county

When county legislators went looking for ways to cut expenses in 2012, they asked several department heads to target certain percentages of cost reductions.

Gary Horton, public defender, needed to trim 10 percent from his budget.

That meant ending one of the services his office provides, he said. He couldn't cut criminal defense, and he couldn't reduce family court expenditures.

That left, he told the Public Service Committee today, his office's appeals division.

The division was staffed by a single attorney, and that attorney is now in private practice, receiving assignments from Randy Zickl, the attorney who handles the county's assigned attorney program.

Zickl told the committee that while the assigned counsel program is slightly under budget, it won't end the year that way because the office will be picking up so much of the appeals work for indigent defendants.

It wasn't an expense anticipated in the county's budget for the assigned counsel office.

"It hasn't been too bad, but it's building up," Zickl said.

Committee Chairman Ray Cianfrini guesstimated the eventual cost overrun could be $100,000. Zickl didn't argue the estimate and Horton told Cianfrini if the original appeals attorney was still on his staff, the cost would be significantly less.

An appeal can cost the county from $2,400 (sometimes, but rarely, less) up to the thousands of dollars, Zickl said.

And since defendants have a constitutional right to adequate defense, the county has no choice but to foot the bill one way or the other.

"There's much more work to do on the defense side of an appeal," Horton said.

The defense attorney must read every page of every transcript from every appearance a defendant makes in court, identify points to appeal, formulate an argument, find the proper citations and write a 50-page or longer brief.

The prosecution, he said, need only respond to the points raised by the defense and such responses tend to be about only five pages long, Horton said.

That's why, he said, appeals can get so expensive.

Years ago, he said, his office didn't handle appeals. They were always handled by assigned counsel, and that's another reason he said that if cuts to his office were mandated, cutting appeals made the most sense.

Horton also explained that Genesee County is joining with several other counties in the region to apply for a grant that would create a regionwide appeals office that would assist defendents with appeals throughout the region.

If the program doesn't come together, Horton still hopes Genesee County will get the grant -- it was the first county to apply for the funds from the state. The money can be applied to funding a local appeals division.

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