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Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Breaking: DOT cancels plans to build roundabout at Suicide Corners

post by Howard Owens in Bethany, Suicide Corners

A group of local officials met with staff members of the NYS Department of Transportation in Bethany today and learned the state is dropping plans to turn Suicide Corners -- the intersection of Route 20 and East Road -- in Bethany into a roundabout.

Tom and Debbie Douglas would have lost their home -- a former hotel more than 200 years old -- if the state had gone forward with building a roundabout.

Tom Douglas called The Batavian after the meeting, ecstatic to learn he and his wife  won't lose their home, which they've put so much time and effort into restoring.

"I'm really amazed," Douglas said.

He said the DOT will release a formal announcement today.

The new plan is apparently to increase signage and lighting at the intersection.

Legislator Esther Leadley said she spearheaded bringing today's meeting together to lobby one last time against the roundabout, but gave a lot of credit for bringing things together to Legislature Chair Mary Pat Hancock.

"Mary Pat's got a lot of clout," Leadley said.

Both Douglas and Leadley expressed a sense of surprise that the state actually listened to the concerns of Bethany residents.

"I have represented the folks in Bethany and all those who drive along Route 20 and I'm pleased that it's worked out this way," Leadley said. "I have problems with people who, or who at least I think, don't hear. They call a hearing and it's just kind of whistling Dixie. Very clear, though they conveyed at the hearing that they were not listening to us, in fact they did listen. I'm delighted. I'm happy for Bethany."

UPDATE: Press release from the DOT:

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) today announced it will enhance signage as part of safety improvements at Route 20 and East Road in Bethany, Genesee County.

In response to public comments, agency officials have decided not to construct a roundabout there. They met with community leaders today to discuss the decision and next steps.

NYSDOT originally proposed a roundabout to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle accidents at this intersection. After receiving comments from local residents and community leaders, NYSDOT is developing a new plan that will include enhancing approach signs that warn drivers of the stop signs on East Road.

“This project is a great example of how public involvement works,” NYSDOT Regional Director Bob Traver said. “We informed the community about this intersection and our recommended improvements. In response, the public commented and drove our decision to change our plan.”

NYSDOT presented the safety needs and a recommended solution to the community at a public hearing on Sept. 12 at the Bethany Town Hall. Information was also available online at www.dot.ny.gov/20eastroad

NYSDOT will continue to emphasize the importance of motorists to follow the rules of the road when approaching all intersections. Motorists should not drive distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

UPDATE: Assemblyman Steve Hawley called and said that he and Sen. Ranzenhofer also lobbied the DOT to change its position on the roundabout.

"We didn't think that it was A, something that was going to work, and B, the cost of the project was onerous and expensive, and C, the taking of a house that old was objectionable, and D, the board and town residents had been quite clear about their concerns," Hawley said.

Hawley said his office became involved in the issue in the fall of 2012, when it was clear that redistricting was going to put Bethany in his district.

"There were many people working on this. DOT has listened and has done the right thing," Hawley said.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Possible house fire on Telephone Road, Pavilion

post by Billie Owens in batavia, alexander, Bethany, fire, Le Roy, Pavilion, Stafford

A possible house fire is reported at 7635 Telephone Road. The homeowner called dispatch and said the house was full of smoke. Pavilion Fire Department is responding along with mutual aid from Le Roy. The location is between South Street Road and Asbury Road.

UPDATE 2:34 p.m.: The first responder says "I've got a lot of smoke." A second platoon is called.

UPDATE 2:35 p.m.: Mercy medics are also called along with mutual aid from Stafford, which is sending a tanker to the scene and a fill-in crew at Pavilion Fire Hall. The occupants are out of the home. The first floor is fully involved.

UPDATE 2:43 p.m.: Bethany is responding, too. National Grid is called. A power line is down and dangerously close to firefighters -- "about five feet away."

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: Bergen is called as well as Town of Batavia. Caledonia, which is to fill in for Le Roy, will also be asked to help access or set up apparatus to aid the firefighters.

UPDATE 2:53 p.m.: National Grid is asked to expedite the response because "there are power lines down all over the place.

UPDATE 2:56 p.m.: National Grid has a 15-minute ETA. Firefighters can't access part of the structure until power is shut off. "There's a power line right in front of it, can't access the east side at all."

UPDATE 3:01 p.m.: National Grid is on scene.

UPDATE 3:04 p.m.: Wyoming County dispatched Perry to the scene. The power is cut off.

UPDATE 3:10 p.m.: Firefighters are told there is gunpowder inside the home along with guns and propane cylinders.

UPDATE 3:21 p.m.: Alexander is on scene.

UPDATE 3:41 p.m.: The American Red Cross is called to provide emergency assistance to one adult. Churchville is called to fill in at Le Roy's Fire Hall.

UPDATE 4:12 p.m.: Inmates from the Wyoming Correctional Facility are being transported to the scene to help.

UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: Brothers James Lawrence Bearce and Kenneth Vincent Bearce lived in the house, along with a couple of dogs, which they saved. Along with brother Jack, they were traveling musicians years ago and had a recording studio in the structure. Ken said he's not sure how much of their inventory of recording tapes are salvageable, ditto for tools that were kept in the basement.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Photos: A morning and afternoon drive through Bethany

post by Howard Owens in Bethany, photos

Slow news day. I had some business to conduct in Le Roy this morning, so naturally I took just about the longest route I could without leaving Genesee County. That took me through Bethany. In the afternoon, I was going to cover a story in Pavilion, but that didn't pan out, and as the late afternoon sun bent toward the West, I found myself again in Bethany.

Above, telephone poles on Brown Road.

Again, on Brown Road.

From Brown Road.

Jerico Road and East Road.

East Bethany Le Roy Road.

The Little Tonawanda off Mill Road, Linden.

I was fascinated by this large leaf I found on the ground next to the Little Tonawanda. I brought it home to Billie.

A little flower by the roadside of Mill Road.

Friday, September 27, 2013 at 10:58 am

Photo: Old truck next to cornfield

post by Howard Owens in Bethany

Well, the morning started out nice. Then the sun disappeared. Here's a picture from Cook Road, Bethany, from my short drive this morning.

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 8:40 am

Law and Order: Another shoplifting arrest at Kmart

post by Howard Owens in batavia, alexander, Bethany, crime

Tracy Lynn Damato, 47, of Horsehoe Lake Road, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Damato is accused of stealing $19.99 in merchandise from Kmart.

Jordon Elizabeth Prescott, 19, of Ellicott Street Road, Bethany, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, and criminal contempt, 2nd. Prescott is accused of being at College Village after being barred from the property. She is accused of violating an order of protection by coming into contact with the security guard that was on duty at College Village.

Travis S. Bartz, 37, of Alexander, is charged with a violation of probation and criminal contempt, 2nd. Bartz was allegedly located at a residence on Route 98, Town of Attica, Wyoming County, by State Police in violation of probation conditions and a current stay-away order of protection.

Kimberley A. Smith, 36, of Alexander, is charged with felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .08 or higher and failure to stop at stop sign. Smith was arrested at 6:27 p.m. Wednesday on Brookville Road, Alexander, by State Police. Following her arrest, she was released to a third party.

Lamar Iteef Randall, 28, of Spruce Avenue, Rochester, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 5th. Randall was arrested on a warrant out of Stafford Town Court upon his release from Monroe County Jail where he was being held on an unrelated charged. He was jailed on $5,000 bail.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Working barn fire reported on Roanoke Road, Stafford

post by Billie Owens in batavia, Bethany, fire, Le Roy, Pavilion, Stafford

A working barn fire is reported 9418 Roanoke Road, Stafford. There is heavy black smoke visible. Stafford Fire Department is responding, along with mutual aid from Bethany, Le Roy, Pavilion and Town of Batavia. The latter is to stand by in Stafford's hall.

UPDATE 7:28 p.m.: A secondary explosion is reported and there is livestock involved.

UPDATE 7:31 p.m.: A firefighter in the area says the barn "looks like it's fully involved."

UPDATE 7:33 p.m.: Command asks that National Grid be contacted.

UPDATE 7:42 p.m.: Stafford commands says all responding tankers can go back in service. The equipment on scene with suffice.

UPDATE 7:44 p.m.: South Byron is asked to stand by in Stafford's fire hall instead of Town of Batavia.

UPDATE 7:46 p.m.: An engine out of Caledonia is asked to stand by in Le Roy's fire hall.

UPDATE 8:03 p.m.: Bethany is back in service.

UPDATE 8:23 p.m.: Howard interviewed property owner Terry Smart at the scene and the man said he lost four pigs, 16 chickens and two dogs in the blaze. He said he had just completed work on his new pig pen today and doesn't know how the fire started. Three years ago, in the same location, his house burned down.

UPDATE 9:13 p.m. (by Howard): Photo at the top by Doug Yeomans. Doug also sent over video that I'll post as soon as it's uploaded to YouTube. We also have our own photos coming.

UPDATE: Video by Doug Yeomans. Copyright by Doug Yoemans. Used with permission.

UPDATE 9:24 p.m.: Le Roy fire back in service.

UPDATE 10:34 p.m.: Stafford units back in service.

Monday, September 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

Law and Order: Grand Island man accused of causing disturbance at local hotel

post by Howard Owens in batavia, Bethany, crime, Le Roy, Pavilion, south byron, Stafford

James Alvin Daigler, 58, of Stanley Road, Grand Island, is charged with resisting arrest, trespass and disorderly conduct. Daigler is accused of causing a disturbance at the Clarion Hotel, 8250 Park Road, Batavia, at 1:20 a.m., Sunday. He allegedly refused to leave after being ordered to leave and used obscene and offensive language while in public. Daigler was jailed on $500 bail.

Ted E. Kingsley, 40, of 117 State St., upper, Batavia, was arrested on a bench warrant. Kingsley allegedly failed to appear on a petit larceny charge related to a theft of beer from Tops. Kingsley was jailed on $1,000 bail.

James A. Chase, 33, no permanent address, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd, and harassment, 2nd. Chase is accused of violating a no-offensive-conduct order of protection by shoving and spitting on the protected person. Chase was jailed on $2,500 bail.

Reinaldo Roman, 41, of 130 W. Main St., Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Roman is accused of repeatedly threatening to kill another person while in the presence of police. Roman was jailed on $100,000 bail or $200,000 bond.

Shane Zimblis, 42, of 24 Hutchins St., upper, Batavia, is charged with trespass. Zimblis is accused of trespassing on a property on Hutchins Street.

Jamie M. Hamill, 36, of 209 W. Park St., Albion, is charged with criminal trespass. Hamill was allegedly ordered to leave a residence several times and refused to leave.

David N. Taplin, 36, of 54 Newport Drive, Brockport, was arrested on a bench warrant. Taplin allegedly failed to show up at the jail for an imposed weekend sentence. Taplin was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Terry T. Saddler Jr., 37, of 112 State St., lower, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Saddler was picked up on a warrant out of Brockport by Batavia PD and allegedly found in possession of marijuana.

Brandy Lee Stalica, 38, of Route 63, Pavilion, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Stalica allegedly subjected another woman to physical contact during a custody exchange. The alleged incident was reported at 8:31 p.m., Friday, at a location on East Bethany -- Le Roy Road.

Jennifer Joan Wolcott, 43, of East Bethany -- Le Roy Road, Stafford, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Wolcott allegedly had physical contact with another person during an argument. The alleged incident was reported at 8:31 p.m., Friday, at a location on East Bethany -- Le Roy Road.

Eric Jon Merritt, 24, of Rose Road, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, reckless driving, failure to stop at stop sign, failure to signal, failure to yield to emergency vehicle and failure to keep right. Merritt was stopped at 4:06 p.m. Saturday on Main Street Road, Batavia, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Deborah Ann Scholonski, 43, of Keeney Road, Le Roy, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Scholonski allegedly sent a text message to a neighbor she had been told not to contact.

Marilyn Lois Weinert, 61, of Route 237, South Byron, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to dim headlights and failure to keep right. Weinert was stopped at 2:06 a.m. Saturday on Byron Holley Road, South Byron, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Thomas Patrick Lester, 45, of Lake Road, Brockport, is charged with felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, driving left of pavement markings and failure to keep right. Lester was stopped at 4:12 p.m. Thursday by Sgt. Ron Meides.

Timothy M. Fingland, 24, of Rochester, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation. Fingland was stopped on Route 63, Batavia, at 8;59 p.m. Friday by State Police.

Tammy L. Long, 40, of Cheektowaga, and Paul J. Dipalma, 49, of Cheektowaga, are both charged with grand larceny, 3rd. Long and Dipalma were arrested by State Police in connnection with an alleged crime reported in the Town of Batavia on Jan. 17. Both were jailed on $5,000 bail each. No further details released.

Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

Local Libertarians oppose state taking house to build roundabout in East Bethany

Press release:

The United States Constitution was crafted to protect the rights of individuals. An Eminent Domain clause was entered into the 5th Amendment to protect individual property owners from seizure of their property without the just cause of “public use,” and not without "just compensation."

We at the Genesee County Libertarian Party (GCLP) stand firmly against the seizure of the Douglas family home in East Bethany, NY. There can be no "just compensation" for a family who is forced to sell their home against their wishes. This violation of rights affects all taxpayers as well, since there is no justice in forcing said taxpayers to compensate property owners for a theft committed by bureaucratic means.

While it may be so that a roundabout will reduce the chances of accidents at this particular intersection, the GCLP believes that there are less expensive, and less intrusive solutions available to the NYS DOT which would could help alleviate this issue, while still respecting the individual rights of its citizens.

The GCLP urges the NYS DOT to explore those options, save the taxpayers undue expenses, and offer the Douglas family the security of knowing they are safe from government eviction.

Friday, September 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

DOT presents case for Suicide Corners roundabout, listens to residents' opposition

post by Howard Owens in Bethany, roundabout, Suicide Corners

Town of Bethany residents heard for the first time Thursday night details from Department of Transportation officials on their plans to build a roundabout at Suicide Corners.

There were dozens of citizens in the room. None seemed to favor the roundabout proposal, even after a stats-packed presentation by the state's leading specialist on roundabouts.

"Yeah, something needs to be done, but I don't believe spending that much money is the way to go," said resident Jeff Bloomberg. "I think there are cheaper alternatives."

DOT officials said they looked at all of the alternatives -- from rumble strips to four-way stops -- and concluded a roundabout, at a cost of $2.6 million, is the only solution that addresses all of the issues that have contributed to so many accidents at the intersection.

Where East Road and Route 20 meet, there is a hill to the west that provides less than ideal visibility while a driver looking to the east can see for up to a mile.

Ironically, nearly all the crashes involve cars and trucks coming from the east.

"People get fixated on the hill and even though they can see a mile down the road (to the east), they miss the car 100 feet away," said DOT Project Engineer Eric Thompson (inset photo).

For the study period, going back to the 1990s, there have been 36 total crashes at the intersection and three fatal accidents. There have been 18 right-angle crashes (meaning cross traffic) and 14 of those have involved westbound vehicles.

The agency has tried widening the intersection, adding more signs and adding bigger signs, but nothing, Thompson said, has really improved the intersection much.

There isn't much you can do about inattentive drivers other than slow them down and lessen the chances of right-angle impacts, officials said.

A roundabout does that.

Rich Schell (second photo), the state's roundabout specialist, said that on a nationwide basis, roundabouts have reduced accidents where they've been installed by nearly 40 percent. The number of injury crashes by 76 percent and the number of fatal accidents by 89 percent.

Colorado is one of the nation's leaders, with 200 roundabouts now, in installing such intersections.

Schell referred repeatedly a DOT-installed roundabout in Mendon. The intersection, like Suicide Corners, is rural and involves a heavily trafficked highway with a lot of truck traffic.

During one woman's comments, Schell again pointed to the Mendon roundabout and the woman snapped, "I'm tired of hearing about Mendon. Let's talk about here."

"Well, I like to talk about success," Schell said.

The most serious accidents at Route 20 and East Road involve either northbound cars blowing right through the intersection or making a rolling stop and then continuing.

Only a roundabout, Schell said, addresses both of those issues.

Schell played a video of at least a dozen accidents at intersections that had red light cameras installed. Repeatedly, cars didn't even slow as they approached the red light, even with tractor-trailers in their path or four or five cars crossing in front of them.

"Red light cameras do not save lives," Schell said.

There's simply no device that can be installed at an intersection that solves the problem of distracted drivers. 

"Everybody has had the experience of driving through an intersection and saying, 'Damn, I just ran a red light,' " Schell said. "A roundabout demands your attention and that is what's needed at this intersection."

Rumble strips might slow drivers, but that still doesn't mean they will be as attentive as they should be at the intersection. Rumble strips would not have saved the driver in one accident at the intersection who came to a rolling stop before proceeding.

Many area residents who have seen the roundabout at Oak Street question the raised red-brick median in the middle of the intersection. People have called it a design flaw and implied it's not well thought out.

The raised center serves a very important purpose, Schell explained after the meeting.

"That's important to keep cars from straightening out the curve and going 40 miles per hour through there," Schell said. "Curves dictate speed. There's a direct relationship. People don't like to hear their tires squeal, so putting a curb out there allows trucks to still get through but deflects cars and lowers their speed. Lowering speed is what it's all about."

Slower cars give drivers a better chance at driving defensively and more reaction time to avoid drivers who are ignoring the rules of the road, Schell said.

Even after Schell's presentation and a more than 30 minute question and answer period, the public speakers were uniformly opposed to the roundabout proposal.

"I am dismayed that the only solution that seems to be, at least according to the NY DOT, is a roundabout," said County Legislator Esther Leadley.

There was a sense, people said, that the decision has already been made.

"I think this meeting has been educational and it's got a lot of information," Frank Morris said. "I do think the DOT has turned a blind eye to everything but a roundabout. This meeting is just a formality. Your minds were all made up before we came in here. The input we put in here tonight, I don't believe it was welcomed and I don't believe it was taken seriously."

To some degree the very proposal of a roundabout can be traced back to a petition Tom and Debbie Douglas passed around several years ago.

And that's ironic, Tom Douglas (top photo) noted, because if the roundabout is built, it is his home that will be destroyed.

A firefighter, Douglas is all about safety, but he doesn't believe a roundabout is the logical next step for the DOT, not before rumble strips are tried.

"A simple solution, that I brought to you before, is rumble strips," Douglas said. "In 2004, I was standing right outside, on my front law and I watched that vehicle on East Road. I could see them. I heard the Jake brake. They were talking, having a conversation. They never even touched a brake. A rumble strip would have woken them up."

The couple has raised five children in their more than 200-year-old home. Even though DOT officials promise to do everything possible to find them a suitable replacement home to their liking, that's easier said than done, Douglas noted after the meeting.

He likes older homes, but doesn't want to repeat the massive amount of restoration work and expense he's already put into his house.

The house was once a road stop for weary travelers on historic Route 20.

Dave Carley, a town resident and architect noted that Route 20 was once the longest continuous highway in the nation. It's history goes back even further than English settlements.

The former tavern is more than just a building inconveniently located for new construction.

"It is a piece of our historical heritage in our town," Carley said. "(Tearing it down is) one of the things that happen and continues to happen across the country that we should not allow to happen. It's a beautiful old building."

UPDATE: There is a Facebook group now, Save the Douglas Home in East Bethany.

Dave Fleenor

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Trailer fire reported at Lei-Ti Campgrounds, Bethany

post by Howard Owens in Bethany, fire

A trailer fire is reported at Lei-Ti Campgrounds, at 9979 Francis Road, Bethany.

Bethany and Town of Batavia fire departments responding.

UPDATE 7:38 p.m.: A chief responding can see smoke. Alexander's tanker requested to the scene. The fire is in the back in the "overflow" area.

UPDATE 8:10 p.m.: The fire is out.

UPDATE: The trailer was a 30-foot, fifth-wheel travel trailer that had sat unoccupied for about two years. The cause of the fire is not yet determined.

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