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Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Smoke spewing from mobile home in West Main Street trailer park, Batavia

post by Billie Owens in batavia, fire

Smoke is reportedly coming from a mobile home in the West End Trailer Park at 4016 W. Main Street Road. Town of Batavia Fire Department is responding.

UPDATE 2:04 p.m.: A chief on scene says someone is burning leaves, although it could appear to the caller that the smoke was coming from the mobile home itself.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

Batavia can't overcome rash of red zone turnovers in Class B regional championship game

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

Six times during Saturday afternoon's regional championship match at Buffalo's All High Stadium the Blue Devils were on the brink of putting six on the scoreboard, and six times Batavia let the opportunity slip away.

The blown opportunities alone represent more points than Cheektowaga managed on their own in the Class B matchup.

"You can't win football games when you do that," Head Coach Brennan Briggs said after the 35-16 loss.

In five of the six times the Blue Devils reached the red zone but failed to score, Cheektowaga got the ball back on turnovers.

"It's disappointing turning the ball over so many times, but that's the game of football, Briggs said.

The other time Batavia came up short -- literally came up short -- was in the closing seconds of the half when Batavia had the ball inside the five with 1st and goal to go.

When fourth down rolled around and less than 10 seconds on the clock, the ball was two inches from the goal line. A Cheektowaga off sides put the ball on the one-inch line.

Batavia couldn't punch it in.

A score there would have made it 21-21 at the half.

Batavia's game plan called for the offensive to use the ground game, grind up precious minutes off the clock and keep Cheetowaga's quick-strike offense off the field as much as possible.

The fewer times the Warriors' Marshawn Gibson touches the ball, the better for any opponent.

Even though Gibson still carried the ball 12 times for 146 yards, plus an 81-yard reception, for four touchdowns, that part of the game plan worked.

On the first drive, Batavia learned that what film study revealed was true: Give the ball to Dominick Mogavero and let him chew up yards and the clock.

Time of possession tilted heavily in Batavia's favor, 33 minutes to 15 minutes, and Mogavero carried the ball 32 times for 160 yards.

"I feel a little bad for Anthony Gallo because he's such a good back, but our style of what we were doing, grinding it out, we saw how well that can work on that first drive, so we stuck with Dom because he's got a little bit more to him," Briggs said. "He just did a great job offensively and defensively."

Batavia made it look easy on the first drive of the game, scoring on a six-yard pass from Greg Mruczek to Gallo, but Cheektowaga struck quickly on its own first drive, as Gibson streaked 74 yards for a touchdown.

With the score 14-7, Briggs once again made a gutsy fourth-down play call. This time, a lateral to Trevor Sherwood who threw the ball cross field to a wide open Ryan Hogan for a 32-yard TD.

Then the wheels started to come off. A fumble, an interception, the failed goal line opportunity, and more fumbles and another interception in the second half just put Batavia in too deep of a hole.

Still, 2014 was an amazing season for the Batavia Devils, going 6-1 in the regular season and winning the program's first Section V title since 1991. The loss doesn't diminish a turnaround season.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Briggs said after the game. "We're very disappointed in the loss. We were hoping to keep moving on, but a Class B section V title is something for Batavia to be proud of and I think we can build off of this and do a lot of great things after this."

Mruczek, Gallo, Mogavero, along with Trevor Sherwood, Malachi Chenault, Noah Dobbertin and Danny Williams will all be back next year.

That's the core of any potential winning team right there, plus there are players in the pipeline, either from JV or varsity, ready to contribute.

"This (season) helped the underclassmen of Batavia football realize how important it is to be there in the off season," Briggs said. "Maybe we will get a little bit more commitment this off season from a kid who doesn't want to be there. We have a very good nucleus of kids coming back and I can't wait to get them going."

Top Photo: Gallo with the first score of the game.

Cheektowaga's Hakiem Black with a TD reception in the third quarter.

Dom Mogavero

Mruczek hands off to Mogavero.

Mogavero looks for a hole with Cheektowaga's Dylan Romanczak in pursuit.

Gunner Rapone wraps up Gibson in the backfield in the fourth quarter for one of the star back's rare loss of yardage runs.

Sherwood alone on the bench with his thoughts in the closing minute of Batavia's 35-16 loss to Cheektowaga.

Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Blue Devils drop regional game

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, football, high school spprts, sports

Batavia fell to Cheektowaga in the Class B regional championship game at All High Stadium in Buffalo on Saturday 35-18.  

Five red zone turn overs and an inability to punch the ball in from less than a yard out in the closing seconds of the first half doomed the Blue Devils. 

more coverage later. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 9:57 am

Law and Order: Alabama woman accused of threatening neighbor with a rake

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Alabama, crime, Le Roy, Oakfield

Lee Ann Mullen, 54, of Alabama, is charged with menacing, 2nd, and trespassing. Mullen was arrested earlier this week by State Police for allegedly threatening a neighbor with a metal rake while the neighbor was walking her dog on her own property. Mullen was jailed on $5,000 bail.

Ronnie J. Sumeriski II, 32, Batavia, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, and uninspected motor vehicle. Sumeriski was stopped at 1:35 a.m. Friday on Main Street, Attica, by an Attica police officer after the officer observed an alleged expired inspection sticker.

A 16-year-old resident of Batavia is charged with menacing, 2nd, and criminal possession of a weapon. The youth was allegedly involved in a disturbance at 5:57 p.m. Monday on Central Avenue where he had a knife and was waving it around, threatening individuals. Batavia PD withheld the name of the youth from the arrest report.

A 17-year-old resident of Batavia is charged with assault, 3rd, criminal mischief, and harassment, 2nd. The youth was allegedly involved in a disturbance at 5:57 p.m. Monday on Central Avenue. He allegedly struck another person and broke a necklace around the neck of the victim. He allegedly threatened to beat up another person. Batavia PD withheld the name of the youth from the arrest report.

Todd M. Holly, 49, of Lincoln Avenue, Le Roy, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st. Holly was allegedly involved in an incident on Soccio Street, Batavia, and in the process violated an order of protection.

Marcos A. Torres, 32, of Sunrise Parkway, Oakfield, is accused of violating an order of protection at 11:45 p.m. on Nov. 9. He was jailed on $15,000 cash bail or $30,000 bond.

Joseph P. Pratt, 20, of Church Street, Le Roy, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Pratt allegedly allowed an unlicensed youth to drive his car. Pratt was jailed on $500 bail.

Andrea M. Gray, 36, of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with conspiracy, 6th, falsely reporting an incident to law enforcement and offering a false instrument for filing. Gray was arrested following a reported incident on Mill Street at 1:47 a.m. on Nov. 9. No further details released.

Robert Vincent Campbell, 32, of Adams Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Campbell is accused of pushing another person several times in an attempt to engage that person in a fight. The alleged incident was reported at 6:45 p.m. Friday on Prestige Crossing, Batavia.

Lawrence Alan Fuchs, 65, unlisted address, is charged with violating sex offender registry law. Fuchs turned himself in on a warrant.

Thomas John Serra, 39, of Savage Road, Holland, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st, and harassment, 2nd. Serra allegedly struck a person protected by court order with an oil dipstick, causing injury. Serra was jailed on $5,000 cash bail.

Jamie Elizabeth DiLaura, 21, of Lincoln Avenue, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. DiLaura is accused of shoplifting at Target.

Friday, November 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm

As the Blue Devils advance in the post season, captains help lead the way

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

Coaches preach it all the time: Do your 1/11th.

There are 11 men on the field and to execute any play correctly, each player must do his part -- plant his feet right, push in the right direction, make the right cut, run the right route, make the right read, find his man.

Winning football is a matter of dedication, detail and focus.

But on any team, there are guys who do a little more than their 1/11th. They are the captains.

"As a coach, you want to have people in the locker room whom you can use as other coaches," said Brennan Briggs, head coach of the Batavia Blue Devils. "They let you know what's going on. You want that kind of relationship. They need to be those guys who have a sense of leadership and want to make the team theirs so they can self regulate what's going on on the field, in the locker room and in practices to help keep guys on task."

For the Blue Devils, selecting captains is a multilevel process. Team members vote who among their peers should be captain. The assistant coaches give Briggs their input, and then the final decision rests with Briggs.

The captains for the Blue Devils this year  -- the three guys who helped lead Batavia to its first sectional title in 23 years and will suit up in those roles again tomorrow in a game to qualify for state playoff rounds -- are Gunner Rapone (lower left in the photo), James Cryer and Devon Koepp.

Gunner Rapone
Senior, Offensive and Defensive Line
6'4", 260 pounds

Rapone is a staple of the program, Briggs said. He's come up through the ranks and grown and matured as a player each step along the way. 

"He's passionate about the game of football and the kids like him," Briggs said. "He's done a good job of stepping up in the leadership role."

Rapone was born and raised in Batavia. He said his father got him started in youth football and was pretty persistent in seeing he stuck with it.

He's grown to love the game.

Leading this team (Cryer and Koepp said much the same thing) hasn't been difficult. Everybody gets along pretty well and there is a focus and confidence that hasn't existed before.

"There is a family mentality with all the guys," Rapone said. "In the past, we haven't really had a tight-knit group of guys to work with, developing as a team. This year, everyone hangs out with everyone and everyone knows each other. It's like a home away from home."

Rapone said he's enjoyed being a captain.

"I really like being one of those people that others can look up to and look to for guidance," Rapone said. "I like to help others. Being a captain is amazing. It's a fun experience. It's an interesting time."

As for his future, there are some decisions to make. He's interested in criminal justice and law and he's set his sights on the University at Buffalo. He would love to play for the Bulls, but realizes Division I football is a high level to reach. While he's looking at other schools, he said he's not daunted by the task of trying to make the team.

"I don't want my career playing this amazing game to end," Rapone said. "Regardless, I'm willing to put in the time and the effort in all the things I need to do to be able to play."

James Cryer
Senior, Wide Receiver, Defensive End
5' 11", 160 pounds

Cryer is not necessarily the most athletic player on the field, and among the captains, he's not even the most vocal, but what he is is invaluable to a winning team.

Cryer leads by example and contributes by coming up with the big players, whether it's the game-opening touchdown catch or the drive-stopping interception.

"James is very, very coachable," Briggs said. "He does an awesome job. He's not the most talented, but he makes up for that with hard work and a willingness to learn. He's generally on the field both offensively and defensively. He's that guy who kids look up to because he gets the job done."

For his part, Cryer said that, yes, he's not vocal. There are different kinds of leadership he said, and he realized early on that he was named a captain because he could lead by example.

"At first, I was surprised (to be named a captain)," Cryer said. "Then I realized, as I thought about it more, he saw that leadership potential in me and that came more into play when I was named captain."

He said he enjoys the role.

"It means a lot to me that the guys trust me," Cryer said.

Born in Buffalo, Cryer also leans toward UB. He's also looking at Alfred State. He wants to learn computer programming and Web development. He also wants to keep playing football and hockey.

Devon Koepp
Senior, Offensive and Defensive Line
6'3" 265 pounds.

Koepp makes no bones about it. He loves football because he loves being the big man on the gridiron.

"I like hitting," Koepp said. "I love it. I've always loved hitting kids. It's a great feeling when you lay somebody out."

Reading that in print might leave the impression that Koepp is a Dick Butkus in the making, but even as he says that it is a great feeling to "lay somebody out," his demeanor is that of a well-mannered teen. 

He'll knock you down, extend a hand and help you up, and on the next snap, lay you out again, just because that's what linemen do.

"He uses his size and strength to his advantage," Briggs said.

Koepp started playing football at a young age, but soon became too big to play in the youth programs. He had to wait until seventh grade to play modified football.

This is his fourth varsity season.

"He brings that experience," Briggs said. "He knows what it's like to be a varsity player. He's a big strong kid and he can be intimidating. We have our goofballs on the team and he knows how to get them quiet, and gets them focused."

As a four-year varsity player, being part of the Blue Devils team that brought home the first sectional title since 1991 is certainly something special, Koepp said.

"It feels amazing," Koepp said. "It really is awesome. All the work all season paid off. We finally showed something, Batavia, our hometown, we finally showed that we can play and win."

Koepp is drawing the interest of universities in the region for both football and track and field, including St. John Fisher, Hobart and Utica, among others.

"It's really awesome to see all that stuff coming in the mail," Koepp said. "It is a great experience. I'm not sure where I'll go yet, but I'll figure it out."

Batavia (9-1) takes on Cheektowaga (9-1) at 3 p.m., tomorrow, at All High Stadium in Buffalo.

Le Roy (10-0), now the #1 ranked Class C team in the state, takes on Maple Grove (10-0) at noon at the same location.

The winners of each game advance to the state semi-finals.

Both games can be heard on WBTA, on WBTAi.com and on WBTA's smartphone apps.

The Batavian will also cover both games.

Friday, November 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

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Friday, November 14, 2014 at 11:20 am

Senior housing developer sues GCEDC over project rejection

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Calamar, GCEDC, housing, senior housing

A developer seeking to build a senior housing complex in Batavia has filed a lawsuit against the Genesee County Economic Development Center over the board's decision in July to block the project from receiving tax breaks.

The suit alleges that the GCEDC board's decision was "arbitrary and capricious, irrational, an abuse of discretion and affected by an error of law."

The suit calls for a court-ordered reversal of the decision to deny Calamar a public hearing on the project and the proposed tax abatement. 

It doesn't ask the court to actually grant the tax breaks. Typically, the GCEDC board votes on whether to grant tax exemptions after a public hearing. Calamar is seeking to present its project to the public and give the public a chance to weigh in on whether it should receive more than $1.4 million in tax breaks for the project.

Calamar has a contract to purchase 33.4 acres at 3989 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. The development plans call for 110 middle-income apartment units rented exclusively to people 55 and older.

The developer, with offices in New York, Canada, Massachusetts and Nebraska, says it plans to invest more than $11 million in the project.

GCEDC's position is that the lawsuit is without merit. 

Here is a statement provided by Rachael J. Tabelski, marketing and communications director for GCEDC:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center is in receipt of a notice of a file of claim against our organization by Calamar Enterprises as a result of a recent vote by the GCEDC board.

We believe the allegations in the claim are without merit and will be determined by the courts as such.

As this is a legal matter, the GCEDC will have no further comment.

The suit implies that Calamar was misled about GCEDC's willingness to support the project and that the board's decision went both against GCEDC's own policy and prior approvals for similar projects.

The project was first presented to the board by Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC, in February.  Masse said during the meeting, according to a quote in Calamar's petition, that he was looking for feedback from the board. 

Calamar said that GCEDC's attorney told the board that although the project wasn't manufacturing, "This project is authorized and allowable under IDA law."

At a March 6 meeting, CEO Steve Hyde reportedly informed the board that GCEDC had participated in housing projects previously, such as the Manor House and the Jerome Center.

The petition claims that Masse continued to work closely with Calamar officials on project plans and proposed tax incentives in the following months.

At a staff meeting in June, the petition states, Masse gave every indication the project would get a green light.

"At no time during this meeting did Mr. Masse state that the Agency had concerns about the Project or was unwilling to support the Project," the document states. "To the contrary, all statements made and actions taken by Mr. Masse indicated that the Project had the support of the GCEDC, justifying the significant investment of time and resources by Calamar."

The project was put before the board July 10 for approval of a public hearing.

The board voted to deny Calamar a public hearing on the project and Calamar is accusing two board members of a conflict of interest on the project.

Pete Zeliff (mistakenly named "Paul" in the petition,) and Ray Cianfrini both spoke against tax breaks for the project and voted against setting a public hearing.

The conflict arises, according to Calamar, because Zeliff is building a single-family residential project on East Main Road, Batavia, and Cianfrini, also chair of the Genesee County Legislature, sometimes provides legal counsel to Zeliff.

"The agency's mission is to further the development of industries and create jobs and that housing should stand on its own," Calamar quotes Zeliff as saying.

Calamar claims to have been unaware of Zeliff's development interests at the time of the meeting.

To further emphasize the alleged conflict, Calamar quotes from a story published in The Batavian where Zeliff denies there is a conflict.

In that story, Zeliff noted that the two projects are completely different and do not overlap intended housing markets. Calamar is building apartments for seniors. Zeliff is building houses for families.

The petition states, "Zeliff also acknowledged that competition was an issue influencing his vote," and goes on to say that Zeliff voted against the project to protect his own Oakwood Estates development. 

The characterization of what Zeliff told The Batavian is misleading. Zeliff drew the distinction between his own project and said he didn't see Calamar's project as competitive with it, but noted that another senior housing project, Clinton Crossing, has proceeded without government aid and has a waiting list of residents trying to move in. He said the Calamar project, if it received assistance, would have an unfair, subsidized advantage over Clinton Crossing.

Zeliff does not have a financial interest in Clinton Crossing.

The suit also criticizes Zeliff and Cianfrini for misstating how many jobs the project would create. 

Rather than just two jobs, Calamar claims the project would add 4.5 full-time equivalent non-employee jobs (contractors) as well as dozens of construction jobs during the project development.

The rejection, the petition states, was taken "without any findings or reasoning," which Calamar claims is required if the board is going against either past practices or policy.

Calamar is also critical of GCEDC for having a vague Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (UTEP), and notes that the state's comptroller's office had the same criticism of GCEDC earlier this year.

"The Comptroller found that this failure to have formalized evaluation criteria resulted in an inconsistent approach by the Board and a lack of objective evaluation of proposed projects," the petition states.

Calamar claims to have received tax incentives for similar projects in Niagara County, Erie County, Stueben County and Auburn.

There is a great need in Genesee County for such a project, Calamar tells the court. According to the 2010 Census, 28.5 percent of the local population is 55 or older and 23.7 percent is 40 to 55.

The Genesee County Housing Focus Group's strategic plan states, according to Calamar, "senior apartment shortages have been noted as a major concern."

Calamar's project would be marketed to people 55 and older with an annual income of $35,000 to $45,000, and residents would only be those not receiving government housing assistance.

The 117,000-square-foot facility would offer one and two bedroom apartments with rents from $805 to $1,050 per month. There would be a full-time director on site, with events, educational seminars, meals, exercise instruction, home helpers, cleaning services, health system services and transportation offered.

The 33 acres of the proposed project is currently assessed at $166,400. The anticipated increase in assessed value is not stated, but the total value of the PILOT would be $854,580, with Calamar paying 20 percent of the taxes on the increase in assessed value in the first year. Calamar would pay an increasing share of taxes up to 100 percent by year 11.

Other proposed tax abatements are $454,744 on sales tax for materials and an exemption of the $120,000 mortgage tax on the purchase of the property.

The suit claims both Masse and GCEDC attorney Russ Gaenzle were shocked by the board's vote and exhibits include copies of their e-mails.

No hearing date has been set yet for the suit.

Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Driver of car involved in a pair of collisions arrested

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accidents, crime

A 23-year-old Elba man was taken into custody this afternoon following a pair of traffic collisions and a bit of a police pursuit from Bank Street to Main Street in front of Tim Horton's.

Joseph J. Zambito has been charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, according to Sgt. Dan Coffey, Batavia PD.

Sometime around 2:30 p.m. police received a report of a vehicle striking a car on Bank Street just within city limits. The vehicle was spotted on Bank Street, Coffey said, and officers attempted to make a traffic stop, but the car continued, turning right onto Main Street.

The vehicle struck another car west of Jefferson Avenue, Coffey said, and then patrol vehicles were able to box in the silver sedan and stop it in front of Tim Horton's.

Following a short investigation, the driver was taken into custody.

Zambito is also being charged with several traffic violations, Coffey said.

Reader submitted photos.

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Several car accidents reported on Lewiston Road on bridge over the Thruway

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accidents

Law enforcement is on scene at the Lewiston Road overpass over the Thruway for "numerous motor-vehicle accidents."

Town of Batavia Fire Police requested to the scene for traffic control.

No injuries reported.

UPDATE 5:55 p.m.: Southbound traffic is completely blocked.

UPDATE 6:07 p.m.: Town of Batavia Fire Police now requested to the Route 98 overpass to assist law enforcement.

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