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Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Photo: The Wiss's sagging third floor

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel

On my way out of Le Roy, I stopped by the Wiss again and got there just before Tim Hens did.

I know from previous conversations, Tim was pretty interested in how a third floor was added to a wood-frame building.

It looks like the third floor was just built right on top of the roof of the original structure. What we're seeing is the back of the original structure and a portion of the added on third floor, which was built across the original structure and a later extension to the back of the building.

The other key thing -- and this picture doesn't really capture it as obviously as it is visible in person -- is how much the third floor and second floor ceiling is sagging.

Hens and Bob Lathan talked about the condition of the building a bit. As you know from our previous tour of the building, there was a sheet of ice on a large portion of the third floor.

Lathan said since then we've have a few thaws and refreezes.

Hens said ice weighs as much as concrete.

Lathan said the string he had stretched through the second floor to measure settling of the building had dropped 3/4 of an inch in the last month.

Though Hens said it's just his opinion and not scientific, based on what he observed today, he doesn't think the building would have lasted through another winter.

Hens said it probably still would have taken a developer gutting the building to accurately access the soundness of the structure.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm

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Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Photo: Wiss demolition,

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel

Just a photo to show the progress of the Wiss Hotel demolition.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Tax Incentives for a Retail Shopping Center?

* NOTE: I edited this so as to be correct in that The Daily News in fact has published this response. Thank You to the Daily News

Another news service in Batavia published an editorial supporting tax incentives for a retail plaza.


I sent them this letter. I want to thank them and I want to share it here as well.

Thank You Howard & Billie Owens for this open, public forum.

Regarding your April 16, 2013 Editorial: The Arguments for Tax Incentives, I as a founding member of the Genesee County Libertarian Committee, respond.

Sorry, editor, but the basis of your argument for tax incentives is flawed right from the onset. The only reason the former Lowe's location is empty now is because it probably never should have been built in the first place. Certainly the developer should never have received incentives to help them do it. Not to mention the ludicrously laughable notion of calling a shopping plaza a tourist destination. The Batavia Towne Center is a classic example of over-development. Communities all across New York State desperate to improve their economies continue to waggle tax incentives at large retail chain stores in the mistaken belief that there will be future sales tax income and jobs. The reality, unfortunately, is usually a bit different. The jobs are typically entry-level, non skilled and part time with low pay and high turnover. The actual sales don't result in a net bottom line increase for a community - they're sales that would have been captured by another retailer, but now at a lower price thereby actually generating less sales tax revenue for the community while the business profits leave town. Lowe's leaving shows that Batavia is already over-developed, and you admit in your editorial that it never lived up to it's expectations. Neither will Dick's in my opinion. It's fine if Dick's and whoever else will be sharing the space want to take the risk, then I'll wish them good luck. It's the American way: if you take the risk, you should reap the rewards. I do not, however feel the taxpayers should be sharing in this risk. That to me is precisely what COR Development is asking us to do, they took the risk (albeit with our help) and it didn't work out, predictably. Now they want the taxpayers to mitigate their loss. Sorry, you can't have it both ways guys.

Your argument that the local companies, such as Adam Miller and Genesee Lumber have survived in the face of big box retailers may have some merit. Yes, Dick's will never match the service of a homegrown Batavia sporting goods store, and maybe they will all survive, but at what cost? Just because they did not immediately close doesn't mean they have been doing well all this time. How do we know that if demand had increased, one of those companies could not have expanded, or a new local start-up would have come along? The answer is we don't know and we never will as long as incentives are continued to be offered to large chain retailers. It's true that the land where The Batavia Towne Center sits was under utilized and producing much less revenue before the plaza was built, but it's also true that we will never know what might have been there instead. What we can predict is Lowe's will not be the last empty store in that plaza. COR themselves have admitted in your paper that they ask for these types of incentives routinely. Will we have to ante up again in a few years?

If the county wants to help spur retail activity, then they can instead spread the million dollars that would otherwise be designated for COR evenly among all retail businesses in Genesee County, including the ones at Batavia Towne Center, to use as the owners see fit. One of the base libertarian principles is that people know best what to do with the fruits of their labor, not government and certainly not an unelected, semi-private-sort-of-public entity which appears to lead the County Legislature around by the nose. However, I would be against that as well, even though it would be better, because we will never get property taxes and government reined in if we continue to allow the GCEDC to choose who gets to pay less and who should keep on shouldering the rest of the load. Government costs keep rising, the population keeps shrinking and there is no magic powder. We can make Genesee County prosperous again, but we have to think differently, we can't keep trying the same tired old failed practices of the past. According to Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the author of “Big-Box Swindle”: “…between 1990 and 2005, the amount of retail space per capita in the U.S. doubled, from 19 to 38 square feet. In contrast ............. since the early 1990s, per capita retail spending, adjusted for inflation, has increased by only about 14 percent.” (Site www.ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/files/msnarticle.pdf ) It appears to me that Batavia is a microcosm of this oversupply that has occurred around the state, and actually we are running about 8 years behind.

Let's take the lead instead, let's continue to find ways we can reduce government through privatization where feasible. It has worked with the ambulance service, it will work for the city's trash collection and it can work in other areas as well. Let's find functions that can be consolidated or eliminated completely. Ultimately, the goal should be a lower and lower tax burden on everyone in Genesee County. We can't control the state and federal taxes, but we can whittle away at our property and sales tax. If Genesee County has the lowest property tax rate and the lowest sales tax rate of our surrounding counties, what might that do for Economic Development, organically? We wouldn't need an EDC, and we wouldn't have to endure the chairperson of our county legislature making us a joke by declaring a shopping plaza a tourist destination.

Malign Libertarians if you must editor, but we are the ones who truly have a vision for the future of ALL Genesee County residents, and we are the ones who are advocating for freedom.

David Olsen, Vice Chairperson, Genesee County Libertarian Committee


Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

Worker for Waste Management delivers 4,500 door hangers to all the homes in Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection

Meet Dave. Dave is an employee of Waste Management, tasked with walking every residential street in Batavia to hang door hangers promoting the company's garbage collection service.

Starting June 1, city residents will be responsible for contracting with their own refuse and recycling company.

Besides Genesee ARC, local companies such as Gardner Disposal and PSI (and a third one that will announce its new business soon), are competing for customers.

Asked if WM will offer totes, Dave said only if enough customers sign up for WM's service.

Dave's worked nearly the entire city since Saturday by himself, with just some help on Saturday and Monday. He had only two more blocks to visit when we spoke.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:47 am

Insurance company refusing to pay for damage to former Pontillo's in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy

The best estimate John Pontillo has received so far for repair of the former Pontillo's Pizza location in Le Roy is $33,000.

The building was damaged Aug. 6 when it was struck by a car owned by Marie Costa.

Costa's insurance company is apparently denying a claim for damage to the building under something known as the "emergency doctrine."

In New York and other states, a person is not liable for injury or damage in an accident if a person is "faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance, not of their own making, that leaves them with little or no time for reflection."

What exactly happened that caused Costa's vehicle to careen over a curb and ram into the Pontillo's building seems to still be a matter of medical dispute, but from John Pontillo's interpretation of what he's been told by Costa's insurance company, she died prior to the accident so the company isn't responsible for any claims.

Costa was insuranced by Adirondack Insurance.

The way Pontillo sees it, Costa was driving the vehicle before any sort of medical condition arose -- if one did -- and therefore Adirondack should pay up.

"Like others have said, she is the one who put the car in motion and there was damage done before the car finally came to a rest," Pontillo said.

When Costa's car hit the building, it dislodged a large limestone brick from the archway by the front door. The repair will require extensive safety measures to keep other stones from cracking or falling.

Meanwhile, Pontillo has foreclosed on the property, claiming substantial debts to himself from the Elizabeth Pontillo estate. The property will go up for auction, but Pontillo fears with the damage it won't even sell.

The more the building sells for, the more of the estate's debts (which Pontillo said are substantial to himself and others) can be paid.

If the building doesn't sell, John Pontillo is stuck with a heavily damaged building that he can't use without repairs.

He's thought in the past of opening another pizzeria at the location, but with the damaged building, that isn't possible.

The condition of the building is also a major concern to the village, according to Mayor Greg Rogers.

Pontillo said Adirondack has refused to pay Le Roy for damage to a planter and signs. Rogers said he isn't even thinking about that claim.

"I would much rather worry about getting that building back in shape," Rogers said.

The village is working with its insurance company, Tompkins, to try and resolve the dispute.

One option for Pontillo would be to sue the estate of Costa. He doesn't really want to do that to her family, but such a suit might force Costa's family to sue Adirondack. He's hoping the family will put pressure on Adirondack to settle with Pontillo. He suspects -- though can't prove -- that Adirondack paid the family for a claim on Costa's car.

We requested a statement from Adirondack on the case but have yet to hear back from the company.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:45 am

BID announces annual luncheon and Spirit of Downtown awards

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, business, downtown

Press release:

The Batavia Business Improvement District will hold its annual meeting and awards luncheon on Friday, April 26, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (registration is at 11:45 a.m.) at the City Church Generation Center, 15 Center St. in Downtown Batavia.

The agenda will include a review of the B.I.D.’s accomplishments and the announcement of the newly elected members to the Board of Directors.

The “Downtown Spirit” Business Awards are to be presented to: Michael DelPlato & Peter Casey of DelPlato & Casey Law Office, Howard Owens of The Batavian, and Harry Wortzman of Wortzman Furniture.

The “Downtown Spirit” Volunteer Awards are to be presented to: James Isaac (Crossroads Abstract), serving as B.I.D. vice-president and on the Organization Committee and Michael Marsh (Edward Jones Financial), serving on the BID Promotion / Taste of the Holidays committees. 

Guest Speaker: Patrick Finan, Founder & Principal of Block Club (Buffalo-based branding and marketing agency). His topic will be:  Downtowns and the Importance of Building Strong, Local, Living Economies.”  Patrick business was named "The Third Fastest Growing Company In WNY" and he's the youngest recipient of Business First 40 Under 40 Aaward. 

All B.I.D. members and area business are invited. A special buffet will be served at T.F. Brown’s. Price is $15 per person. RSVP and payment by Monday, April 22. To make reservations contact Don Burkel, B.I.D. Director, at 344-0900 or e-mail at  [email protected].

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

Grants and bond will pay for $10.8 million upgrade to emergency communications system

post by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office

The county's 22-year-old emergency communication system is antiquated and flawed, according to Sheriff Gary Maha, which is why the county receiving more than $7 million in grants to help pay for a new system is a welcome turn of events.

The county has wanted to upgrade the system for a few years, but the project is expensive.

In all, between the grants and a $4.2 million county bond, more than $10.8 million will be spent on the new system.

"The low-band paging system is antiquated," Maha said. "I don't know if you ever listen to some of these monitors that the firemen are carrying, but you can hardly hear them at times, especially on the outskirts of the county. We've been working on it for years and finally we got a revenue source through the state and NextTel to put toward this project."

The state grant of more than $5 million is coming through the Department of Homeland Security and the FCC is requiring NexTel to help pay for rebanding of 800 MHz systems where their communication system conflicts with emergency communication systems.

Still, the county will need to borrow $4.2 million to pay for the entire system.

"We've been working with a system for the last 22 years where we have limited coverage," said Steve Sharpe, director of emergency communications. "What we're trying to do is capitalize on the reconfiguration and the grant, combining all these funding resources together to build out a system that meets our public safety needs for our responders in the field.

"That's the end goal because this isn't just about the 800 MHz; it's also about VHF high band paging. We're trying to build a more reliable paging network for our responders, especially our fire and EMS folks. At the end of the day it's about life safety."

On Wednesday, the Ways and Means Committee passed a series of resolutions that authorize the county to proceed with the upgrades, from accepting the grants, to issuing the bands and approving a contract with Harris Corporation, out of Rochester, to build the new system.

A key factor behind the availability of Homeland Security funds for the project is the push to build a nationwide 800 Mhz channel that all responders can share regardless of jurisdiction or agency in an emergency.

Use of the inter-operable channel in Western New York is being held up, at least in part, by Genesee County, because the county is using the 800 MHz band specified for the channel.

This project will move that portion of the county's emergency communication off that band to another band.

Part of the upgrade project is to build three new radio antenna towers in the county.

There are three now: Cedar Street (pictured), Pavilion and Pembroke. 

The Sheriff's Office is looking at potential new locations in Darien, Bergen and Alabama.

All of these changes of course, will effect the hundreds of county residents who regularly monitor scanner channels.

Residents with analog scanners will need to buy new scanners and have them programmed to the correct channels. 

Public use of scanners is a benefit to local law enforcement, Maha said, and the new system's ability to encrypt transmissions will be used only when necessary.

"We will have encryption available, but it's not our intent to be on encryption all the time," Maha said. "There may be times when we need to go on encryption, but people out there who have scanners will be able to continue listening to the day-to-day activities."

People with scanners, Maha said, help solve crimes.

"We're few and far between out there," Maha said. "We need all the eyes we can possibly have. If we have a bank robbery, we put that information out over the air so some citizen down the road may see the vehicle we want and can call 9-1-1. It's a benefit to us to have the people out there watching. They're our eyes and ears out there."

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 8:29 am

Rich Funke to be honored tonight by St. John Fisher

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, media, pembroke, wbta

Pembroke native Rich Funke, who started his broadcast career at WBTA, will receive a lifetime achievement award from St. John Fisher College.

The award is named after Jack Palvino, a member of the university's first graduating class who became well known in Rochester media.

The award ceremony is this evening.

Funke's broadcast career in Rochester and Batavia spans 40 years.

His first big assignment in broadcast news was covering the Attica prison riot for WBTA.

(via WHEC)

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 7:54 am

Study finds that GCC has about a $169 million economic impact on local economy

post by Howard B. Owens in business, economy, GCC

A recent study released yesterday by Genesee Community College finds that the college has about a $169.1 million impact on the local economy.

Kjell Christophersen, Ph.D., president and founder of EMSI, discussed the study yesterday at GCC and said regional spending by former students, the college and out-of-the-area students adds positive growth to Genesee County's economy.

“Things are good. Things are very good," Christophersen said. "The impacts have actually grown since the last time we worked here (about 2 ½ years ago) and it's attributable to a more efficient allocation of resources."

Christophersen said that in his experience about 60 to 70 percent of students at community colleges stay in the region.

“If you move up the education ladder from one level to another level," he said, "you earn a lot more, and therefore, pay a lot more in taxes. It behooves the citizens of a particular county to continue to support the college because of the fact that they are getting a more educated workforce coming back to reside in the region and pay more in taxes.”

(via WBTA)

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 7:37 am

Corfu threatened with lawsuit over work scheduling for part-time police officers

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu

Village of Corfu officials have been notified that five part-time police officers are considering a lawsuit against the village over an alleged violation of civil service law.

Some of the village's part-time officers have been upset that Police Administrator Jim Meiers is not scheduling them for work shifts while scheduling other part-time officers for more than 19.5 hours of work a week.

The officers who have retained legal representation are in what is known as "competitive" positions, meaning they took exams and went through the civil service hiring process. The officers reportedly receiving more work hours were hired on a "non-competitive" basis.

A letter to Mayor Ralph Peterson and village board from attorney Andrew P. Fleming of the Hamburg-based law firm Chiacchia and Fleming, states the village is on notice of a possible suit and should explore whether it is interested in pursuing a settlement.

"We believe that you and the Village Board are familiar with the factual basis for the complaints that our clients have made," the letter states. "In essence, your so-called police administrator, James Meier, has been running roughshod over the rights of our clients in retaliation for their having raised a number of concerns and for their stated intentions of forming a union."

Represented by Fleming are Gene Nati, Richard Retzlaff, Peter Scanio, Michael Okal and Simon Biegasiewicz.

The letter also alleged that one of the clients was threatened because of his political activity.

Fleming also claims that back pay is owed to his clients, without specifying the amount of back pay being sought.

"We urge you and the Board to take a proactive approach to trying to resolve the problems that have arisen in your Police Department," Fleming writes. "It is my opinion that things are out of control, but that sound leadership can restore some semblance of balance in the future."

The board is holding a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the village's proposed budget.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 6:41 am

High wind watch issued for Friday

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

A high wind watch has been issued for Friday afternoon through Friday evening with gusts up to 60 mph expected.

The forecast is for thunderstorms, with temperatures hitting 70 by 10 a.m. and then dropping to 45 degrees throughout the day.

Sustained winds are expected to blow southwest at 25 to 35 mph during the watch period.

The National Weather Service warns of scattered power outages and some downed trees with minor property damage possible.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 7:44 pm

The story of a stolen thermometer and the police officer who made a gift of it

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy

Michael J. Penvose set out to Dollar General in Le Roy on Saturday with a simple mission: buy a thermometer that might give him an accurate reading of his infant daughter's temperature.

She had received a vaccination shot and the doctor told Penvose her temperature might creep up. It might even hit 100, but if it hit 100.1 he should call for help or bring her into the hospital.

"We were taking her temp with a thermometer we got from the hospital," Penvose said. "It was saying 99.6, 99.8. I've got it all written down in the house. Then I put it in my mouth and checked my temperature and it said 97.9 and my girlfriend's was different. I panicked. I'd been up all night with her and we're short on money. I went down to Dollar General and I was a few dollars short. I kind of panicked."

What Penvose, 33, did next landed him in The Batavian's "Law and Order" column for Monday. He was charged with petit larceny. It also led to a phone call to The Batavian from Penvose's landlord with "the rest of the story."

Yes, Penvose stole a thermometer, but he also received a bit of charity from an unexpected source: A Le Roy police officer.

Officer Emily Clark purchased that thermometer and gave it to Penvose as he was released from custody and told him to go home and take care of his daughter.

"I told him when I gave it to him that it wasn't that I condoned the fact that he stole it, certainly," Clark said. "And it wasn't condoning that he wasn't very cooperative with Officer Robb, it's just that I can appreciate having a sick child at home and just the situation he's in. How do you not have sympathy for somebody who can't afford something for a child that's a necessity?"

Penvose is originally from Angola and he and his fiance have lived in Le Roy for two months. He said he's had his "fair share" of brushes with the law over the years, but he feels like in the past six months things have been turning around for him, even as he struggles to find a job locally.

There's a sign on the couple's door instructing visitors to remove their shoes before entering and their infant daughter was cute as a bug and dressed a snug jumpsuit when a reporter dropped by unexpectedly.

The big issue with finding a job, said Penvose (he said he can "do anything" -- construction, including roofing and siding, and even build cars) is that he doesn't have a car. Every contractor he's applied with for a job -- 33 in all, he said -- has demanded he have a car. 

That issue may be settled by now. The couple was planning on trying to buy a car today using a a tax refund check his finance received.

The thermometer Penvose tried to purchase was more than $7 and Penvose only had $4.50 in cash on him at the time.

"I panicked," he said. "She was burning up and I just felt something was wrong and I didn't want to take a chance."

After he left the store, Officer Daryl Robb found Penvose walking east of the Yellow Goose.

Penvose admits he wasn't entirely honest with Robb when they first spoke.

"I gave them a little line of a story because I was panicking," he said. "I just wanted to get home. I'd been taking her temperature every three hours."

Robb took Penvose back to the station and at that point Penvose opened up and told the full story.

"I just thought I should tell him exactly what the situation was," Penvose said. "Everybody in the room, it looked like, they all had tears in their eyes."

Clark left, went to the store, and paid for the thermometer, and Robb finished processing Penvose on the petit larceny charge.

"I guess if I was that situation I would want somebody to do that for me," Clark said. "We're not just cops. We're people, too. It's not part of the job, but I guess I like being able to do that as part of the job."

Making a bit of charity part of her job is something Clark has done a few times before said Chief Chris Hayward. For example, when homeless people have passed through the village, she's bought them food.

"That's the type of officer you want," Hayward said.

Clark was surprised when a reporter showed up at headquarters today asking about the incident. It's not something she expected anybody to find out about. When we first asked Hayward about it, he didn't even know Clark had helped Penvose.

Penvose is worried what the misdemeanor charge might mean for him, but he's still in disbelief that a police officer, or anybody, would help him in that situation.

"Not a lot of people out there do stuff for me and I do a lot for a lot of people," Penvose said. "I'm always a helping hand. My past has not been very good, but I'm always helping somebody. It doesn't matter what it is. If somebody needs their yard raked or (has a) flat tire, it don't matter what it is, a rainstorm, I'll pull over. When she did that for me, it was shocking. I was like wow, there are people out there who ... well, I guess it was the situation. It wasn't for me anyways. It was for my daughter."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Sponsored Post: The BID presents: branding, customer service, marketing: it's all in the way you present yourself!

Branding, customer service, marketing: it's all in the way you present yourself! Presented by: Patrick Finan, founder and principal of Block Club, a Buffalo-based branding and marketing agency.

Workshop Topics:

  • Customer Service Training    
  • Team Building Activities
  • Branding & Visual Merchandising 

$10 for BID Members, $15 Chamber/Non BID members. RSVP and payment by Friday, April 19th.

Light refreshments will be available.

Please make checks payable to: Batavia Improvement District (BID)
B.I.D. 200 E. Main St., Suite 12, Batavia, NY 14020 
(585) 344‐0900 (585) 815‐0233 fax 

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