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Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Officers respond to report of youths breaking into cars on Kibbe Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A caller reported seeing youths trying to break into cars on Kibbe Avenue, and seconds later said they were leaving the area at a high rate of speed, heading southeast on South Jackson Street.

Within a minute, a patrol stopped a vehicle with two or three occupants.

The officers were attempting to question them.

On a car-to-car transmission, one officer drolly tells another, "they have no idea who they are."

The individuals are being separated for further interviews.

At the same time, officers are tracking individuals who are going through one of the cemeteries on Harvester Avenue. A K-9 is on scene.

UPDATE 10:45 p.m.: Both incidents are related. A total of six people are involved. When Batavia police officers pulled over a pickup truck to question the driver about the Kibbe complaint, two passengers fled the vehicle on foot and were seen going into the cemetery. The cemetery area is cordoned off; the K-9 was taken off leash to hunt for the two suspects. One has been apprehended; the other remains at large. Three additional passengers remained inside the truck; one is a female who appears to be in her teens. One of the males at large is described as white, about 15 years old, with a thin build.

UPDATE 11:23 p.m.: Batavia PD is still on scene questioning two individuals. One individual remains at large. Police located a GPS unit in the vehicle and are trying to determine if it's stolen. We don't anticipate any further updates tonight unless there's a significant development.

UPDATE noon, Thursday: No arrests were made. The investigation is continuing, according to Assistant Chief Rob Yaeger.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Photo: Hydrant flushing on Richmond Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

Heading toward the incident on Lewiston Road this morning, while heading down Richmond, when I got to Union Avenue, I came upon City firefighters in the midst of hydrant flushing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Law and Order: Warrant suspect located in cemetery

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

Ted E. Kingsley, 42, of Prune Street, Batavia, was arrested on a bench warrant. Police were responded to a tip that Ted Kingsley, wanted on a City Court warrant, was residing at 11 Prune St., Batavia. Patrols went to the residence but were unsuccessful in locating Kingsley. Patrols checked the surrounding area, including the cemeteries on Harvester Avenue. During the check, a subject identified as Kingsley was seen running through Batavia Cemetery. Officers gave chase and Kingsley eventually stopped at the request of a police officer and he was taken into custody without incident. Kingsley was jailed on $100,000 cash bail. (Photo: Monday's arrest in the Batavia Cemetery submitted by Jim Woodhams III.)

Maleak H. Green, 21, of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st, harassment, 2nd, criminal obstruction of breathing and unlawful imprisonment. No details released on the alleged incident, reported at 1:20 a.m. Green was jailed on $10,000 bail.

Christina L. Fox, 26, of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Fox is accused of stealing the property of somebody she knows.

Samantha L. Hicks-O'Connell, 27, of Ellsworth Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child, aggravated unlicensed operation, 2nd, unlicensed operation and back seat passenger under age 16 without a safety belt. Hicks-O'Connell was stopped at 5:34 p.m Oct. 8 on Liberty Street, by Officer Jason Ivison after a complaint was received of a female driving a pickup truck with a 10-year-old child riding in the back. NOTE: After reviewing the press release following a complaint by Hicks-O'Connell (see comments), we should note the release does not specifically state a traffic stop was involved in the chargers.

Neal Anthony Sendlak, 25, of Harlem Road, Amherst, is charged with possession of a hypodermic instrument, operation of an unregistered motor vehicle and no seat belt. Sendiak was stopped at 3:50 p.m. Tuesday on Lewiston Road, Batavia, by Deputy Joseph Corona for alleged traffic violations.

Curtis Lamont Williams, 34, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, was arrested for an alleged Family Court Act violation -- failure to pay child support. Williams was arraigned in Family Court and released because his child support is almost up to date. He was ordered to return to court Nov. 10.

Ronald Warran Sloat, 73, of Godfreys Pond Road, Bergen, is charged with trespass. Sloat is accused of failure to leave another person's property after being told several times to leave.

Bruce Devan Reid, 52, of Saint Paul Street, Rochester, is charged with possession of burglar tools and attempted petit larceny. Reid is accused of possession of tools that would have helped him steal items from parked cars. He was jailed on $4,000 bail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Two people arrested, two others released after officers respond to report of gun being loaded in Tops plaza

post by Billie Owens in batavia, crime

Two individuals are in custody because they have warrants out on them and two others were released following an incident that occurred late this morning at Tim Horton's on Lewiston Road.

Law enforcement initially responded to a report of four people loading a gun in the parking lot of the Tops Market plaza. After a search of the area, including a foot patrol, nothing was found. Soon thereafter, the suspect vehicle was spotted by an officer as it pulled into the parking lot of the new Tim Horton's.

Sheriff's deputies, City PD and State Troopers responded and with guns drawn apprehended the four suspects. A search turned up nothing except a small amount of marijuana inside their vehicle. The two people with active warrants were kept in custody and two others were released.

UPDATE 3:50 p.m. (by Howard): Initial information above based on what we were first told at the scene. Only one person was released without charges. The driver was arrested and charged with unlicensed operation and unlawful possession of marijauna. Investigators spent a good deal of time interviewing the four individuals. Det. Thad Mart, Batavia PD, said the investigation is ongoing, but declined to discuss what investigators are still looking at in the case. The vehicle was initially reported near the Verizon store. Mart said based on the report originally called in, it was something to take seriously. "Obviously, in this day and age, somebody loading ammunition into a firearm in a public parking lot, it raises some eyebrows and some cause for concern. We have to be concerned about the public and be concerned about officers investigating."

UPDATE: We should have included that the vehicle was a rental. Two of the subjects were from Orleans County and two from Monroe County. The vehicle was impounded.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Batavia Teachers Association hosts health fair

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Teachers' Association, health

A couple dozen vendors participated today in a community health fair at the Batavia Middle School sponsored by Batavia Teachers' Association.

Above, Jen Housknecht gives a zumba demonstration class. Below, a visit with the booth for Genesee Dental.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Car wreck snarls traffic at Ellicott and Jackson

post by Billie Owens in batavia, accidents

A two-car accident is blocking westbound traffic on Ellicott Street at Jackson. Injuries are believed to be minor. There is one person possibly entrapped. City fire and Mercy medics are scene.

UPDATE 5:04 p.m.: City Fire back in service.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

The problem of distressed properties complex and easy solutions elusive

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, abandoned properties

There are an estimated 53 vacant and abandoned homes in the City of Batavia, which creates a drain on city resources, brings down property values for neighbors and are black holes in local economic growth.

It's a problem.

How we go about solving that problem was the subject of a 45-minute talk Monday evening by City Manager Jason Molino.

Forty-five minutes. It's that complicated of a problem.

The city can't legally seize the properties, except for the nine or so that are falling behind in property taxes, and with banks that hold mortgages leaving the properties in legal limbo, there's no way for the city to enforce code violations.

Fixing the problem will take a mixture of tactics: research to locate responsible title holders; trying to locate mortgage holders and convince them to move the title one way or another; convincing Albany legislators to change state law regarding abandoned properties; and creating programs locally to make upgrading abandoned homes more economically feasible. 

It's relatively easy to identify which homes in the city have been abandoned. They've stopped using city water.

The 53 homes believed to be abandoned have been vacant an average of three and a half years.

On average, they've generated five visits each year while vacant from code enforcement officers, and one police patrol response per year.

The code enforcement efforts cost taxpayers about $8,000 per year.

Often, the code enforcement citations result in no action because the previous owner who occupied the property can't be located. And though a bank or mortgage holder is continuing to pay taxes on the property, the bank hasn't taken title so it can't be held legally accountable for code violations.

Molino said there's no one answer, and no firm reason is really known, as to why banks don't take title on abandoned properties.

It could be that a large institution is dealing with so many mortgages, nobody is even aware a particular property is on its loan rolls or is abandoned. It could be the company is dealing with so many abandoned properties, some fall through the cracks. It could be that a bank is so bogged down by bureaucracy that it takes years to deal with the paperwork of an abandoned property. It could be the bank has no financial incentive, and some disincentives, to deal with the property.

"We really have to dig into that issue," Molino said. "That's one of the things we really need to look into in the coming months to really understand who are all the lending institutions and why are they not moving on title.  ...  We really need to get a good understanding of that, because everything hinges on moving title for these properties."

Once a property is back on the market -- either the bank puts it up for sale or auction or the city somehow obtains title -- it becomes subject to the market forces that determine value and the value of restoration.

Molino spent some time explaining supply and demand as it relates to the local housing market.

Since 1960, Batavia has lost 2,700 residents. At the same time, there has been a slight increase in housing stock. During the same time period, people have become more mobile, thinking nothing of driving 20 or 30 minutes to work or an hour and a half to outlet stores. As time as passed, Batavia's housing stock has also aged.

All of this affects the value of properties, the interest of people in living in a place like Batavia, and the affordability of remodeling and restoration.

While there are economic growth activities in and around the city that could lead to more jobs, a population boom isn't necessarily a given.

"Obviously, we'd love to have another 2,000 or 3,000 people come back in the city and increase the demand for housing stock," Molino said. "Realtors would love it. People would be demanding houses and prices would go up. Truth is, that's probably not practical."

Even if economic growth doesn't bring a few thousand more people to Batavia, economic growth is still vital to increasing the value of homes locally.

"If that median income number doesn't go up, then you're limiting your ability to do things, and we can't do a lot of what we want to do or achieve what we want to achieve," Molino said.

What we need, he says, is enough growth to fill the housing stock we have, and then make it economically viable for owner-occupants or speculators to buy and invest in those properties.

Molino used the example of a house currently valued at $50,000. With upgrades, its value might rise to $75,000, but a modernization and restoration project might cost $45,000. That means the owner would need to sink $95,000 into a property that wouldn't be worth more than $75,000 when ready for occupancy.

That's where "gap financing" tools come into play. There are various government programs available. A single program the city could create -- laws would need to be changed by Albany to make it possible -- would allow for abated taxes on the increase in assessed value.

If the assessment goes up by $25,000, the city would tax only on the original $50,000 for the first eight years after restoration, foregoing tax revenue on that $25,000.

That makes economic sense for the city, Molino said, when you consider that's only $230 annually on a property that may currently be costing the city more than $1,000 annually on code enforcement, law enforcement, and lost fees for a property that is abandoned and vacant. Moreover, if a family lived in that home, it would generate from $10,000 to $20,000 in local buying power.

The state needs to pass legislation that would allow Batavia and other cities to create such a program.

Changesare also needed in the laws giving cities more power to deal with banks who let abandoned homes sit fallow, so to speak.

Some of these homes may not be worth saving, Molino acknowledged. While the city may not want to seek demolition of all abandoned homes, some may need to go. That will be a policy decision for the city to make as it learns more about the abandoned housing stock locally.

In the bigger picture, home values are also affected by things related to quality of life, and those, too, are issues the city is taking steps to address or needs to address as part of strategic planning, Molino said.

"When somebody wants to invest on a street," Molino said, "are they going to want to invest on a street on a street that has potholes? Are they going to want to invest on a street that has sidewalks that are turned up? Are they going to want to invest on a street where the neighbors don't talk with each other? Are they going to want to invest on a street where they've got to pay another $1,500 in flood insurance? Who wants to invest there? They don't."

Among Molino's recommendations is creating a home expo, which would bring together representatives of all the various private, government and nonprofit agencies that offer assistance to owners of distressed properties. There's several programs available, but few people know what they all are. Giving residents that kind of information, Molino said, might spur activity that would lead to better housing stock.

Molino's presentation was video-recorded by Alecia Kaus and will be posted to the city's Web site at a later date.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 8:56 am

Photos: BDC recognizes businesses that successfully complete loan program

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bdc, business

During Monday's meeting of the Batavia City Council, three local businesses were honored by the Batavia Development Corp.

Each received a plaque in recognition of the owners' successful completion of a loan program that helped them expand or grow their businesses.

Above, Susan Francis, owner of The Color Salon, with the her husband John Zola, receiving a plaque from Ray Chaya, a member of the BDC Board, Council President Brooks Hawley, and BDC VP Gregg Torrey.

Steve Mullen, owner of Larry's Steakhouse.

Mary Valle, co-owner of Valle Jewelers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 8:30 am

Possible transformer explosion reported on State Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

A possible transformer explosion is reported in the area of 235 State St., Batavia.

City fire responding.

UPDATE 9:37 a.m.: A problem was found with a transformer, but no sparks or smoke. National Grid needs to be notified.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m.: City fire back in service.

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