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Friday, August 15, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Photos: Prepping for Summer in the City

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, downtown, Summer in the City

Preperations are under way for tomorrows Summer in the City in Downtown Batavia.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and includes live music, food, vendors and classic cars.

Come on out, have some fun, and wear your T-shirt from The Batavian.

Photographer Amanda Earl captured some shots late this afternoon of the BID's Don Burkel, Laurie Oltramari and Jeff Gillard as they marked off vendor booth space on Main Street.

Friday, August 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Photos: Printing T-shirts for the Don Carroll 5K

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, 5K, Don Carroll, T-Shirts Etc.

Photographer Amanda Earl hung out with Brian Kemp at T-Shirts Etc. today for a bit while he made T-shirts for tomorrow's Don Carroll 5K run and walk.

Friday, August 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Photos: City fire training for rope rescues

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Fire

City firefighters were on the hill of South Jackson Street, near the railroad tracks, this morning for training with rope rescue techniques.

Friday, August 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Person falls out of car, suffers head injury, at DeWitt park

post by Billie Owens in batavia, accident

A person fell from a vehicle and suffered a head injury at DeWitt Recreation Area on Cedar Street. Mercy medics are responding.

Friday, August 15, 2014 at 10:21 am

Law and Order: Traffic stop in Corfu yields drug-related arrest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, Darien, Stafford

John E. Sackett, 48, of 81 Falmouth St, Rochester, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, 2nd, unlawful possession of marijuana, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th. Sackett was stopped for allegedly speeding in the Village of Corfu by Officer Mike Petritz. Sackett was allegedly going 48 in a 35-mph zone and found to have 16 suspensions on his license. He was allegedly found with a small quantity of marijuana and a small baggie containing cocaine residue. Sackett was jailed on $1,000 bail or $1,000 bond.

Thomas James Rose, 18, of Ford Road, Elba, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs and unlawful possession of marijuana. Rose was arrested following an investigation into a personal injury accident off a driveway on Valle Drive, Batavia, at 6:45 p.m. Aug. 3. The accident was investigated by Deputy James Diehl.

William Leslie Casinett II, 32, of Frontier Avenue, Niagara Falls, is charged with assault, 3rd. Casinett allegedly punched another person in the face causing physical injury at 9:30 p.m. July 29 while at the Darien Lakes Performing Arts Center.

Kirk Andrew Frye, 25, of South Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Frye is accused of shoplifting at Walmart.

Kevin Albert Roberts, 23, of Riverstone Parkway, Canton, Ga., was arrested on warrants alleging criminal mischief, 3rd, petit larceny and unlawful possession of marijuana. Roberts was arrested in Georgia as a fugitive from justice and returned to Genesee County. He was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court and jailed without bail.

Stephen K. Mullen, 25, of Silver Springs, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Mullen was stopped by State Police at 2 a.m. Aug. 5 on Route 5, Stafford. No further details released.

Jacob R. Reinhardt, 51, of Corfu, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Reinhardt was stopped by State Police on Colby Road, Darien, at 10:36 a.m. Wednesday.

Steven P. Tubinis, 42, of Niagara Falls, is charged with felony DWI and felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Tubinis was stopped at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday on Colby Road, Darien, by State Police.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Simmons found guilty of the Park Avenue burglary

post by Julia Ferrini in batavia, crime

Though staunch in his defense of Akeem Simmons, Defense Attorney Thomas Burns failed to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the 12 jurors tasked with hearing the case. Simmons was found guilty today on all three counts for which he was being tried.

The 23-year-old Batavia resident was found guilty of burglary in the first degree, a class B violent felony; criminal use of a firearm in the first degree; and conspiracy in the fourth degree. While Burns made a valiant attempt to poke holes in the prosecution's witness testimonies, the jury was not swayed in his client's favor.

"There is an irony that stands out," Burns said during closing arguments, "when you count the number of law enforcement that (18-year-old Nathaniel) Davis met, even before the trial, that he lied to about the events of that day (January 14, 2014).

"He came in, laid his hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth and he lied," Burns continued.

Davis is also accused of first-degree burglary, and fourth-degree conspiracy. The Davis case is still pending.

Burns also noted that, according to Davis, there are lies, and then there are justifiable lies. 

Reasonable doubt and the lack of quality evidence were the key points in the defense attorney's closing argument. According to the defense, Davis himself admitted to breaking into the home on Park Avenue. Additionally, when Davis was nabbed by police, he was found carrying a loaded gun. Furthermore, Burns painted the investigation by police as somewhat lackadaisical.

"Did you (jury) hear any testimony about the house being searched for evidence?" Burns queried. "It was January in New York; where are the footprints? Was anything observed in the house?"

Burns also pointed out that there was no evidence that linked his client to the gun or the screwdriver used in the crime.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman countered with a recap of witness testimony. He stated that Simmons was seen with what looked like the grip of a gun, prior to the crime. 

The focus of the evidence has been on the flight from the area -- the path that ran along the back of the Park Avenue house to St. Paul's Church, Burns argued. He also stated that police K-9 Pharoah detected a strong scent that led the animal and handler, Deputy Brian Thompson, to the porch where Simmons was hiding.

Burns contended Simmons ran because of his knowledge of a warrant issued against him for a parole violation. Friedman continued reminding the jury that the trial was not about a parole violation, it was about placing Simmons at the scene of the crime and committing burglary. 

Conversely, when a search warrant was issued for Davis's phone, investigators found Simmons' number in Davis's list of contacts.

"There were no text messages or calls between Simmons and Davis," Burns said. "There was no communication between them on the phone at all. Not knowing about the phone records is a quality-of-evidence issue."

In the defense's pursuit to rebuke Friedman's witness testimony, Burns questioned a witness account of the events on the day of the burglary. He noted that her initial testimony indicated that only one person entered the Park Avenue home, and she was "pretty sure" they were black and about 5'7" or 5'8". The prosecution recalled the witness after the lunch break, whereupon she recanted her earlier testimony, and stated she saw two men enter and exit the house which is what she said in the call to 9-1-1 on Jan. 14.

Returning to Davis's testimony, Burns stated that even when Davis tried to put Simmons in the house, he still couldn't get his story straight. He contended that Davis said he lied because he was intimidated by Simmons; that he was afraid of what Simmons would do -- thus stated after notes were found where Simmons is said to have written that he "had a man killed in Elmira." The prosecution also made reference to said notes, but stated that Simmons' threat is indicative of consciousness of guilt.

Burns asked the jurors to consider Davis's demeanor on the stand, his lifestyle, his conflicting explanations, and how he justifies his lies; this goes to show a person's moral fiber. Drumming the idea into jurors' heads that Simmons only ran because of the parole warrant and Davis is a "scary pathological liar," he finalized his argument reminding jurors to follow the law as instructed by the court.

"If you have any doubt about Davis," Burns said. "Then you have reasonable doubt about Simmons' guilt.

"You're not being asked if he (Simmons) is a good or bad person or that he violated parole," Burns continued. "You are asked to determine if the district attorney proved beyond a reasonable doubt to my client's innocence."

"Judge (Robert) Noonan will tell you that the verdict is based on evidence, not speculation," Friedman said. "The evidence presented proves this beyond a reasonable doubt."

Speaking of the decision to use Davis's testimony, Friedman enlightened the jurors that a case can not be built solely on an accomplice's testimony -- corroborating evidence is also needed.

"You got that many times over in this case," Friedman said. "Don't get hung up solely on Davis's testimony. Look at all the evidence."

Friedman also refuted the idea that Davis received a deal for his willingness to testify. According to the D.A., they didn't need his testimony to prove the guilt of Simmons.

"Davis lied because he knew Simmons was a gang member," Friedman said. "That's why Davis wasn't willing at first to finger Simmons. 

"What does Davis have to gain by testifying against Simmons?" Friedman retorted.

Friedman inferred that if it wasn't enough that Simmons was a gang member and carries a gun, it was also intimidating when threatening notes were passed to Davis in the Genesee County Jail. Conversely, Simmons was said to have given Davis the idea that breaking into the house on Park Avenue was a way to get money because the homeowner was a drug dealer.

"Upon investigation, it was obvious that the homeowner was not selling drugs out of his home as Simmons indicated to Davis," the D.A. said.

The prosecution also questioned Simmons' honesty when he denied knowing Davis, yet Davis had his phone number in the contacts of his cell phone. Furthermore, when Simmons was questioned, he said a "kid" was involved in the burglary, however, police never stated the age of the subject. 

Simmons also admitted to wearing the clothes that witnesses said the men leaving the house were wearing, yet when he was found, Deputy Thompson witnessed Simmons pushing similar clothing away from him.

Additionally, Simmons puts himself on the path, going in the direction of the church, on the date and time the crime was committed. He even went so far as telling officers that he "saw two dudes in black running on the path."

"Think of the evidence the police had prior to Davis's testimony," Friedman said. "Using common sense, you (jury) will find that Simmons' innocence was proven wrong, therefore you must return a verdict of guilty."

Simmons is held without bail at the Genesee County Jail. He is scheduled for sentencing Sept.15 at 9:30 a.m..

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm

New owners, employees, community leaders celebrate the saving of a Batavia institution

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p.w. minor

The employees are happy. Local officials are happy. Pete and Andy are happy. Everybody's happy.

Even the costume designers for the hit HBO series Empire Boardwalk are happy (at least we assume so -- they'll still be able to order p.w. minor shoes for the show).

A Batavia institution, along with 70 local jobs were saved by two local businessmen. Today, speaker after speaker praised Pete Zeliff and Andrew Young for stepping forward just a month ago when they heard the 150-year-old shoe company was closing to buy it and keep it going.

Zeliff and Young plan to do more than just keep the doors open. They vow to expand the business and create more jobs in Batavia.

"The struggles of this company are over," Young said. "We're going to make it work, OK. Once again, we'll make this company the epitome of 'Made in America.' "

They've gotten some help from Empire State Development to help make the purchase possible.

Regional Director Vincent Esposito announced ESD is making available $450,000 from the agency's Excelsior Jobs Program. To qualify, Zeliff and Young had to pledge to create jobs and make a significant capital investment in the company.

Young and Zeliff were also planning to apply for $269,000 in tax abatements from the Geness County Economic Development Center, but that application was tabled Monday on the advice of the agency's attorney.

The attorney is researching the matter further, according to Ray Cianfrini, chair of the Legislature as well as a GCEDC board member. But it appears that so long as Zeliff is a member of GCEDC board, p.w. minor can't receive assistance from GCEDC.

Zeliff has a big decision to make -- resign from the board and apply for the tax relief, or stay on the board and move p.w. minor forward without any further tax breaks.

Zeliff said he's made no decision yet and offered little insight into his thought process on the matter. He did note that serving on the GCEDC board is a volunteer position. Directors are not paid.

Former GCEDC Board Chairman Charlie Cook, CEO of Liberty Pumps, resigned from the board when it came time for his company to expand and Liberty applied for assistance from GCEDC.

Today, Cianfrini spoke at the press conference -- really a celebration -- at p.w. minor's facility on Treadeasy Way.

"Today is not only a great day for p.w. minor and all of its employees," Cianfrini said. "It's a great day for all of Genesee County. We need to recognize how fortunate we are to have people like Pete Zeliff and Andy Young, who are dedicated to economic development, here in Genesee County, who are willing to get personally involved in economic development."

City Councilman John Canale recalled touring the p.w. minor factory on State Street when he was a child, and talked about how he grew up with the company being an ever-present part of the community his entire life.

"p.w. minor is an icon," Canale said. "It's a Batavia institution. When I found out that institution would no longer be in business, I felt like I had just read the obituary of someone that I knew and loved in this community. Today makes it a very happy day, in that two guys with a bit of ambition and a whole lot of entrepreneurial spirit decided this institution needs to continue in this community."

After the speeches, attendees were invited on guided tours of the plant to see how shoes are made in Batavia.

A few lucky people even got to see the shoe sent to the costume designers of Boardwalk Empire.

With media around, a couple of employees demurred at being interviewed, and at one point, as a worker was surrounded by photographers, Young asked her, "are you mad at me (for bringing the media over)?" Another employee nearby spoke up, "How could we ever be mad at you? You saved us."

The average p.w. minor employee has been with company 24 years.  

Andrew Young and Pete Zeliff.

The style of shoe sent to the set of Boardwalk Empire.

UPDATE: After the jump, a press release from Gov. Cuomo.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Power line down prompts closure of portion of South Main Street Road

post by Billie Owens in batavia, east pembroke, Road Closure

A power line is down and blocking the roadway at 3644 S. Main Street Road. Law enforcement on scene requests East Pembroke Fire Police to close a portion of the road so National Grid can make repairs.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 10:40 am

Developer discusses pulling plug on senior housing project after GCEDC board blocks public funding

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

A company that was planning to build much needed middle-income senior housing in Genesee County is apparently ready to kill the project after the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board voted Tuesday to block the project from receiving financial aid.

A representative of Calamar, the senior housing developer, sent an e-mail to a county official yesterday that said without the more than $1.4 million in tax breaks Calamar was seeking, the project is not financially viable. 

A source provided The Batavian with a copy of the e-mail.

"We've been left with no options than to not proceed," wrote Jocelyn Bos, director of senior housing development for Calamar. "If we do not have an endorsement, I wouldn't be able to keep the rents affordable to the middle income senior group of Batavia." 

Asked by The Batavian for further comment and to confirm the contents of the e-mail, Bos backed off the not-proceeding statement.

Her entire statement:

First, I want to tell you how I have admired how your paper supports the seniors of all incomes in your community and just want to let you know that we are exploring our options regarding our proposed middle-income senior complex.

According to John Gerace, a real estate agent who assisted Calamar with locating the property on West Main Street Road for the project, Calamar officials spent much of yesterday discussing their options.

Among them, he said, is filing an Article 78 claim (essentially a lawsuit) against GCEDC.

The way Gerace sees it, middle-income housing for seniors is needed in Batavia; it's part of the county's master plan; it's an identified need in GCEDC's planning documents; and this is a commercial project just like any other, so it's eligible for assistance.

"I told them (the GCEDC board), 'you guys should be ashamed of yourselves because you know it's warranted and needed, so what you've done is just shut the door on any more senior housing in Genesee County,' " Gerace said.

Calamar was seeking $400,000 in sales tax and mortgage tax exemption and a $1 million PILOT, which exempts a property from additional property taxes on an increase in assessed value, graduated over 10 years.

The value of the developed property would have been at least $5 million, Gerace said, which would have meant an additional $175,000 in new local property tax revenue once the PILOT expired. 

Local residents selling their homes to move into the Calamar facility also would have generated new tax revenue, Gerace said.

Gerace worked as a secondary agent on the property sale, he said, and stood to get no more than a $4,000 commission on the $1 million sale of the property on West Main Street Road.

Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the County Legislature, and a GCEDC board member, said he voted against Calamar because he can't see authorizing spending $1.4 million in taxpayer money to create two jobs.

"We all agreed that it's a worthwhile project," Cianfrini said. "We all agree middle-income senior housing is needed. We agree with that, we just don't want to spend taxpayer money to do it. If the project doesn't go forward, I feel badly about that, but this was not a narrow vote."

Cianfrini said he also sees the Calamar project as competition for existing senior housing in the county -- housing that was built without taxpayer assistance.

Calamar would have been able to charge lower rents than some existing projects and that wouldn't be fair to the other developers, Cianfrini said.

The idea of competition is the key to the vote, Gerace said. More new housing in the county would mean more competition for Pete Zeliff and his Oakwood Estates project on the east side of town.

Zeliff, a newer member of the GCEDC board, is building single-family homes that would be marketed to upper-income professionals.

Gerace thinks that creates a conflict of interest for Zeliff and Cianfrini, who is the attorney for Zeliff on the project.

Cianfrini and Zeliff said both said don't see a conflict of interest. The two projects are completely different. They're aimed at different markets -- one is rental, the other is home ownership. Even if you factor in existing homes being vacated by seniors moving into the Calamar project, that's still a very different home buyer looking at those older homes than would consider something in Oakwood Estates.

Zeliff has not even approached the GCEDC about financial incentives for Oakwood Estates. He said his vote against the Calamar project had everything to do with the merits of the proposal.

"They're creating just two jobs at cost of $1.4 million," Zeliff said. "That's $700,000 a job. The residents complain when the EDC gives incentives to industry that is $100,000 a job, why would the residents want to commit $700,000 to a job to residential housing?"

And yes, competition is an issue -- Calamar would compete with projects such as Clinton Crossings, which charges $1,100 a month in rent. Calamar's taxpayer-subsidized rents would all be $1,000 or less.

Clinton Crossings received no tax incentives for its project, Zeliff said.

"They have 35 people on the waiting list waiting to get in," Zeliff said. "The area will support senior housing at the money Calamar claims it won't."

Gerace wonders why the GCEDC board wouldn't even let the project go to a public hearing, allowing the public to weigh in on whether Calamar should get tax incentives to help build much needed senior housing.

Cianfrini said he didn't see any point in a public hearing.

"My position, if we don't believe in the project in the first instance, why let it go to a public hearing when we know we're going to vote it down after a public hearing," Cianfrini said. "We just thought we'd be wasting valuable time to even let it go to a public hearing. If they want to know what the public viewpoint on this is, let them poll the public themselves and get their own opinion on it."

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