Quantcast
Skip to main content
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Photo: City fire clearing snow from around hydrant

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Fire

Firefighters clear snow from around a fire hydrant on Clifton Avenue, Batavia. There are some 640 hydrants in the city. A firefighter noted, "I know it's our job, but we can't get to them all." He said it would be great if residents would adopt the hydrants on their streets and help keep them clear of snow. "After all," he said, "it's their property we're trying to protect."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 4:50 pm

One-vehicle rollover accident with minor injuries on westbound Thruway, Batavia responding

post by Billie Owens in batavia, accidents

Minor injuries are reported following a rollover accident on the westbound Thruway. One car is involved. It's near mile marker 386.9. Town of Batavia fire and Mercy medics are responding.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 2:33 pm

City Council mum on assistant city manager position during budget amendment meeting

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, budget

Notable during last night's City Council meeting were the words not spoken.

For all the talk in the community the past few weeks about eliminating the Batavia's assistant city manager position, not a single council member raised the issue when given the chance.

The council passed five budget amendments, all recommended by City Manager Jason Molino, eliminating $53,000 from the spending plan. But after those five motions passed and Council President Brooks Hawley asked if members of the council had any other amendments to offer, the panel was silent until Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian piped up.

"What's the use to raise an amendment if you won't compromise over here?" Christian asked.

After the meeting, Christian expressed frustration that she believes residents want more spending cuts but she doesn't feel anybody is listening to her pleas.

"It really bothers me," Christian said. "There are a lot of people out there who are having a difficult time living."

While there has also been a move afoot to eliminate spending for Vibrant Batavia, since that expenditure is not part of the budget, it will be addressed as a separate resolution at a future council meeting.

The assistant city manager position, however, is part of the budget.

Christian said she would certainly support eliminating the position, but she said she didn't make a motion because she believes only three other council members would vote with her, giving such a motion no chance of passing. 

"I didn't bring it up, you're right," Christian said. "What's the use?"

Councilman Eugene Jankowski said after the meeting he didn't bring it up because he's not ready to eliminate the job.

"I made the motion last year not to put it in the budget and it was voted down," Jankowski said. "This year I've seen some of the good work that she's done and I personally feel it's premature to just fire her after only a few months. I'm still keeping an eye on it to see how it's going to pan out."

Jankowski said he doesn't sense a strong sentiment from fellow council members for eliminating the assistant city manager position.

As for Vibrant Batavia, Jankowski said he intends to bring a motion reduce the proposed $45,000 allocation, but not cut it out completely.

He wants a compromise position, he said, because some constituents feel passionately that no more money should be spent on Vibrant Batavia and others are just as passionate in their support of Vibrant Batavia.

He wants to see Vibrant Batavia stand on its own and would like to find a mechanism to make that possible.

He said he doesn't know what the timetable would be to wean Vibrant Batavia off of city support.

"If it's impossible in 12 months, then I want to see what the plan is," Jankowski said. "If it's a reasonable plan and it looks viable and everybody in the community knows what it is and knows when that time is going to end, then it's up to them to decide whether they accept it or not."

He also said that partial funding wouldn't close the door to the council providing more assistance if Vibrant Batavia found it needed more time to stand on its own after making a verifiable and honest effort to be self-sufficient.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 11:52 am

City crews begin massive task of downtown snow removal

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown

In a winter of unrelenting cold and regular, periodic snowstorms, the snow keeps piling higher and the frustration of Downtown merchants has been mounting.

While merchants might be expected to shovel their own walks, there's nothing they can do, realistically, about the mounds of snow that gets piled up between parking spaces and sidewalks. It takes the city's heavy equipment to move that much snow.

At Monday's City Council meeting, Director of Public Works Sally Kuzon addressed the issue.

"We certainly understand (the complaints)," Kuzon said. "We would love to have a 24-hour operation, but we just can't do it."

This season so far, 90 inches of snow has fallen, including 52 inches in the past 13 days.

That has kept public works staff busy plowing and salting, often in 10-hour, overnight shifts.

That leaves at most two public works employees on the clock during the day.

"That's a little scary if something happens," Kuzon said.

Crews that are plowing and salting aren't available for the tedious, time-consuming, manpower-intensive task of snow removal.

Snow removal needs to be done at night when there is less traffic, fewer parked cars and no pedestrians to interfere with the operation. The project takes from 10 to 12 public works employees at a time.

And it ties up all of the city's loaders and trucks.

It so happened that crews started working on snow removal for the first time this winter last night.

The project was scheduled to start at 10 p.m., but before the workers could hit the streets, the plows and salters from the trucks needed to be removed. It also turned out two trucks had flat tires.

The work started just before midnight.

Crews cleared the south side of Main Street, Court Street and the parking lot near Jackson Street (where we caught up with them for photos at 5:30 a.m.).

Tonight, they will work on the north side of Main Street.

Weather permitting, they will work on Ellicott Street the night after that.

Monday, February 9, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Three Batavia Cub Scouts receive Arrow of Light, the Cubs' highest honor

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Cub Scouts, Pack 112

Photos and information submitted by Marsha Geiger.

Noah Burke, Luke Geiger, and Nicholas Grover were honored by Pack 112 of Batavia on Sunday for receiving both the Arrow of Light Award and the Super Achiever Award. The Arrow of Light is the highest award in Cub Scouting. To earn the Super Achiever Award, the boys had to complete all 20 Webelos achievements.

Monday, February 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm

UMMC planning new cancer center on Summit Street

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

A proposed new cancer center at UMMC will help the hospital treat more patients in Genesee County and provide those patients with a comprehensive, one-stop location, according to spokeswoman Colleen Flynn.

New new $6.5 million addition to the hospital will be fitted in the triangle area on the west side of the hospital known as the Summit Street entrance.

The wing will handle chemotherapy, radiology, infusion and include a linear accelerator. The staff will include a board-certified oncologist and a radiation oncologist.

"This has been in planning for a long time," Flynn said. "It will help save some patients that 45-minute drive each way to Rochester. One of our goals was to keep care in Genesee County for those who are our most vulnerable."

The proposed expansion will be reviewed this week by the Genesee County Planning Board and the City of Batavia Planning Board.

The new building will be 9,850 square feet and while it is currently planned as a one-story addition, the construction engineering will allow for a second floor to be added if needed, Flynn said.

UMMC, already expanded to 800 employees since the affiliation with Rochester General, will add more employees as a result of the addition, Flynn said.

Plans for the cancer center were started many months ago, before the affiliation with Rochester General was finalized, but the affiliation is helping the process along.

A license is required for a linear accelerator and Rochester General happened to have obtained a license it had no immediate plans to use. The NYS Department of Health has approved the transfer of the license to the UMMC location.

Among the issues planners will consider with the addition is the loss of parking outside the Summit Street entrance.

There are currently 15 spaces. The expansion will require 20 spaces, creating a deficit of 35 spaces. 

Officials plan to draw on the 71 spaces in the existing parking lot on the west side of Summit Street, which is shared with 207 Summit St. and 215 Summit St.

Employees will park at St. Jerome's on Bank Street, which currently has 50 to 60 extra spaces available and is already served by a shuttle for hospital employees.

The shared parking lot will have signs and markings to ensure the spaces closest to the cancer center are reserved for cancer center patients.

Officials hope to break ground on the new facility in the Spring with completion and opening for patient treatment in January.

The County Planning Board meets at 7:30 p.m., Thursday.

Also on the agenda is a plan by Darien Lake Theme Park to add a new ride called the Turbo Twister. The slide, which covers an area that is 191 feet by 76 feet, features an 80-degree drop angle to start, an inclosed tube, and it propels people at an average speed of 35 feet per second.

Plus, the agenda includes plans by East Pembroke Fire District for a new, voter-approved fire hall.

Monday, February 9, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Proposed 2015-16 budget presents key policy questions for City Council to address

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, budget, Vibrant Batavia
File photo

A municipal budget is more than the tally of ledger entries. It is a policy statement. It is the tool elected officials use to set the agenda for what kind of community a city is or might become.

As the Batavia City Council nears its deadline for setting the 2015-16 budget, the spending decisions it makes could impact the quality of life for residents and the potential for economic growth and job creation for years to come.

The big decisions facing the council are whether to fund Vibrant Batavia for one more year, whether to retain the assistant city manager position, and whether to continue to invest in economic development.

There are those in the community who advocate for cuts in all these areas and some on council seem inclined to follow those suggestions.

In his latest budget memo, which is on the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting, City Manager Jason Molino doesn't respond to the call for cuts to these initiatives, which he sees as key to Batavia continuing on the strategic plan path it started in 2010.

He does offer proposed spending cuts that would halve the proposed tax increase.

"The budget is about understanding the different issues at hand, and the different liabilities the city faces and recognizing you have different projects and balancing your priorities," Molino said. "It comes down to how committed are you to the strategic plan, to community empowerment and economic growth. These are all policy questions."

When the council convenes at 7 p.m., they'll hold a memo that calls for:

  • Removing $10,500 for replacement of a slide at Austin Park;
  • Shifting a one-time upgrade to the City Clerk's file system from the 2015-16 budget to reserve funds, thereby cutting $4,920 from the spending plan;
  • Adding a $1,950 expenditure to assist the BID in purchasing flowers for Downtown;
  • Slashing management raises from 2.5 percent to 2 percent. This cuts $5,000 from the budget;
  • An alternative to funding the two open police officer positions. Instead of showing those positions as fully funded for 2015-16, fund only one of them for the full year (leaving open the possibility of a transfer into the department), and fund the other position for only eight months, saving $34,490.

This brings the property tax rate down to $9.21 per thousand, a cut of 9 cents off the original proposal. The average assessed home would see an annual tax increase of $6.30 cents.

In an interview Sunday, Molino discussed the need for funding Vibrant Batavia to help improve local neighborhoods, sticking by the strategic plan for economic growth; and the benefits of the assistant city manager position.

The policy issues involving Vibrant Batavia go beyond just the policy commitment the City Council made two years ago to neighborhood revitalization. It also touches on sound budgeting practices and not falling into the poor habits that dug Batavia into a deep financial hole nearly a decade ago.

Stripping out the recommended $45,000 to fund Vibrant Batavia wouldn't necessarily lead to a reduction in taxes, not unless the council wanted to finance the tax cut with reserve funds.

The $45,000 earmarked for Vibrant Batavia doesn't come out of the 2015-16 budget. It is money left over from the 2014-15 contingency fund.

The contingency fund is set aside for unexpected expenses and emergencies. Since there were no big draws on the fund in 2014-15, there is money available to help finance the city pursuing its strategic initiatives.

"If you go back eight years, the city used its fund balance each year to the point that it actually had a negative fund balance," Molino said. "That was the downfall of the city's financial position. It got to where they didn't have a fund balance to balance the budget. The fund balance is not something you can rely on to balance your budget."

Contingency funds, fund balance, reserve funds, are all intended for one-time or short-term expenses, just like a family saving for a vacation or a new car, not for operational expenses, Molino said.

So the first policy question the council needs to answer this budget session is whether it wants to use uncommitted funds to finance a reduction in the proposed tax rate, essentially using one-time funds to finance operational expenses.

If it doesn't, the next policy question to answer is whether the council wants to stick to its own strategic plan.

The strategic priorities of the plan:

  • Financial health
  • Governmental efficiency
  • Economic development and job creation
  • Neighborhood revitalization
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Public safety
  • Healthy and involved community members

"I view it as investing in the community, taking $45,000 a year and putting it toward a project that is intended to increase civic engagement in your community, and civic engagement is what makes your neighborhood a neighborhood," Molino said.

An example of such a neighborhood locally is Redfield Parkway, Molino said. Redfield, with its flags and Christmas trees and its own events and obvious neighborhood pride, might serve as an inspiration for other neighborhoods

"That's not the model that needs to happen on every street in Batavia, but what it does is allow residents to talk with each other on an individual level. That's sounds soft and fluffy, but that's what makes safer streets and it's what makes neighborhoods."

Molino said he understands some of the negative feedback generated by Vibrant Batavia, but it's important to grasp the larger vision.

"It's not like building a street or building a building," Molino said. "It's not tangible in that sense, but there is value to it and it needs to develop over time. It took decades and decades for Batavia to become a vital community. That didn't happen over one or two years. You can't expect to reverse decades of downward spiral in just a year or two."

Molino agrees with Council President Brooks Hawley, who fears all of the money and effort that has gone into getting Vibrant Batavia to only its second year of existence will be wasted if the council fails to fund it in 2015-16.

"If the decision comes to completely discontinue Vibrant Batavia, then we're out all that energy and effort," Molino said. "We haven't given it enough time to blossom and succeed. Ironically, all of the negative attention around Vibrant Batavia is that same negative culture it was intended to address.

"If we could harness all of that negative energy and turn it into positive energy, we would reach our goal twice as fast," Molino added.

The same policy and strategic planning questions apply to economic development (which we didn't discuss specifically) and the assistant city manager position.

The council agreed to create the position a year ago and in June Gretchen DiFante beat out a field of 60 applicants to win the job.

She's been a great choice so far, Molino said, and the work she's done in less than eights on the job has already more than paid for her $75,950 annual salary.

"She's accomplished a lot of work," Molino said. "What Gretchen has done on just one item, flood insurance, is something that has never been done in this city before. We're talking about moving more properties out of the floodplain in six months than had happened in Batavia all the years before."

So far, 12 properties are no longer considered part of the floodplain, Molino said.

"Combine that with the possible accelerated program on flood insurance so that residents can see real reductions in their flood insurance in the next year, that's impacting thousands of property owners predominately on the Southside," Molino said.

A reduction in flood insurance costs will have a real, tangible, economic impact on the city, Molino said.

"We have a great team of people working on that and a great leader working on that, and that's just one item," Molino said.

DiFante has also played a critical role, Molino said, in addressing the police and fire radio communication issue -- which DiFante had said was the biggest liability issue facing the city at one point.

Her overall responsibilities, besides flood insurance, include overseeing administrative services, including finance, the clerk-treasure, personnel, information technology, the youth bureau and assessment, with additional projects such as how to handle a burgeoning population of feral cats, the Redfield gateway and strategic planning.

An assistant city manager also frees up Molino to work on other projects. Not only would he never have had time to handle the flood insurance issue himself, even the attempt would take him away from other projects.

With DiFante on staff, Molino is free, with the help of staff, to pursue another complex, difficult problem facing the city: Abandoned and vacant properties, something he hopes to focus on this year.

"We need to climb some serious mountains and drive some serious growth, not just in the city but in the community as well," Molino said. "Of course, there's a limited amount of resources. If you keep cutting resources, you can't expect the same output."

Monday, February 9, 2015 at 10:27 am

Law and Order: Churchville woman charged with drug possession

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

Jessica Lynn McGowan, 29, of Attridge Road, Churchville, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument, aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, and unlicensed operator. McGowan was arrested following an investigation by Deputy Bradley Mazur into a situation on Route 19, Le Roy, at 9:44 a.m. Sunday. She was jailed on $500 bail.

Dana M. Faiello, 32, of East Avenue, Hemlock, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on an overnight parking ticket. Faiello was taken into custody by State Police in Geneseo and turned over to Batavia PD. She paid $100 bail and was released.

James A. Chase, 35, no residence, Batavia, is charged with violation of sex offender registry. Chase was the subject of a warrant and following pubication of his status as a wanted person Friday, Chase turned himself in at Batavia PD headquarters. He was jailed without bail.

Stephen S. Bogle, 28, of Ross Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Bogle was arrested after police responded to the parking lot of the Richmond Memorial Library to check on a reported suspicious vehicle.

Kevin Charles Greene, 60, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Greene allegedly stole $37.42 in merchandise from Walmart.

Pierre A. McMullen, 32, of Buffalo, Christopher A. McCullen, 43, of Buffalo, and Craig A. Elston, 30, of Buffalo, are all charged with criminal possession of stolen property, 4th. The three were arrested in an ongoing investigation into an incident reported at 11:55 a.m., Jan. 25. The investigation is being conducted by State Police. All three were held on cash bail. No further details released.

Robert P. Nowak, 57, of Pembroke, is charged with menacing, 2nd, criminal possession of a weapon, 4th, and making a terrorist threat. The alleged incident was reported at 3:30 a.m., Saturday. The case is being handled by State Police. No further information released.

Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Photo: Rime ice on tree on Tracy Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Tracy Avenue, weather

Dave Twichell shared this photo he took this morning of the spiky ice on a tree on Tracy Avenue, Batavia.

The formation is known as "rime ice," which is formed by the rapid freezing of cold water droplets of fog onto a cold surface.

Premium Drupal Themes