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Friday, June 20, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Photo: Pauly's sold pizzas to raise money for YWCA's domestic violence program

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Big Pauly's, business, YWCA

Paul Berardini, owner of Big Pauly's Pizza, donated $200 to the YWCA's domestic violence program today and presented the donation to Linsey Vallett. The donation is comprised of $2 from each large pizza Pauly's sold on Monday.

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Photos: Cutting masonry on Center Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, Tompkins Insurance

When workers from Tompkins Insurance move into their new second-floor offices at Main and Center, they will have Doug Rebmann to thank for the bit of extra sunlight spilling into their space.

Rebmann has been working this week cutting through masonry to create two new window openings as part of extensive renovations to the second floor.

Tompkins expects to move its customer service center to the location in mid-September.

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Owners of the Rack Shack confident you'll go out of your way for their BBQ

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, restaurants, the Rack Shack

How far would you drive for really good BBQ? Yesterday, somebody reportedly drove 70 miles to try out Batavia's newest BBQ joint -- The Rack Shack, on Ellicott Street Road.

Open just a week and with little fanfare, the owners of the new restaurant are finding their location just a bit outside the city is well suited to the business they want to build.

"The location presented itself and we thought it was a good opportunity," said co-owner Mandee Hopkins.

The location was most recently Rosie's Diner. Rosie's nor the prior diner, Fedora's, really worked out for those owners. But Hopkins said she and her partners like the location because of the high volume of traffic on Route 63, the fact that the east side of Batavia -- with the ag park -- is growing, and they are confident good BBQ will make the restaurant a destination for smoked pork and beef aficionados.

The co-owners are her husband Jason, who has 25 years experience in the restaurant business, including working as head chef at the Hillside Inn and sous chef at the Valley Inn, and Jim and Melissa Penders. Jim is an award-winning BBQer who has worked in catering for 15 years.

"BBQ is what they love," Mandee said. "It's what they love to eat. It's what they love to cook, and it's a skill that needs to be mastered."

Mastered it, they have. The menu boasts that the pork ribs are so tender they melt off the bone. They'll never be accused of false advertising on that point.

The menu is filled with Southern flavor, from cole slaw to collard greens to cajun catfish along with WNY favorites such as salt potatoes, Pittsburgh salad, and their own version of the garbage plate, called the Shack Attack.

"We want to offer a warm, comfortable atmosphere where people can enjoy their food," Mandee said. "We believe in high standards and treating people like family."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:22 am

Hawleys give Rotary members a sneak peek at new malt house

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, business, New York Craft Malt

Ted and Patty Hawley have been working for three years to open a malting house in Batavia. The process is almost done, and Tuesday, the Hawleys provided a tour of their new facility on their farm on Bank Street Road to members of the Batavia Rotary Club.

Ted Hawley spoke for about 20 minutes about the history of malting and beer brewing in New York, why he decided to get into malting and how the process works.

Rotary members were able to sample the taste of about a half dozen different barley grains.

At one time, New York was number one in barley and hops, but the emergence of better growing areas and prohibition killed the industries in the state.

In Batavia, decades ago, there was a malt house off Elm Street owned by Charles Fisher, and Genesee Brewery made malt in a facility on Lyons Street.

Even though there are no commercial breweries in Genesee County now, microbreweries are popping up all over the state, even in WNY.  The growing demand for malt is what got the Hawleys interested in starting their own operation. 

Once the new malt house is fully up and running, Hawley said there's already enough demand from microbreweries in WNY that he doubts any of his malt will be sold to downstate markets.

Before a resurgence in microbreweries in New York (there are now 128), it had been generations since malting barley was grown locally.  

It's a challenge to grow in New York because of moist air. Fungus can wipe out whole crops and at harvest time, there's a short window of opportunity to combine the stocks before the grain starts to germinate.  

Last year, the Hawley's lost 40 acres of grain because of a day or two of rain right when the barley should have been harvested.

Hawley said the grain looked good in the field. It looked good after the straw was cut and the grain was brought to the malt house, but when he did a pre-germination test, he found that at a microscopic level, it had already germinated, killing all of the enzymes. 

Some of that barley went to area distilleries, which can still use barley at that stage, but most of it became livestock feed.

In order to grow enough barley for his three-tons-a-day malting operation, Hawley needs to partner with local farms to grow his barley (and Hawley is still running experiments with Cornell Cooperative Extension to find the right variety of barley to grow locally -- a four to five year process).

It can be daunting to introduce the idea to a farmer who has no experience with malt varieties of barely (which are higher in enzymes and lower in protein than feed barely).

"It's a real challenge to grow it," Hawley said. "When I talk with a farmer about growing it for me, it's hard not to deter them."

To grow it, a farmer must use about half as much nitrate fertilizer as he would for feed or wheat. There's a limited five-day window to spray for fungus, which if missed means the crop is lost. And at harvest, the combine must be run at about half speed so the grain heads aren't scabbed.

For all that, Hawley said, it's still a worthwhile crop for the right farmers.

"It's a very good gamble," Hawley said. "I'll pay them twice what it's worth as feed. It could be very lucrative to somebody who takes good care of the crop."

Previously:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Public hearing scheduled on proposed tax incentives for U.S. Gypsum expansion

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, Oakfield, U.S. Gypsum

The public is invited to weigh in during a public hearing at 4 p.m. Monday Tuesday, June 24, on a proposal to provide U.S. Gypsum with tax incentives for a major upgrade to its Oakfield plant.

The proposed tax abatements total $375,748.

U.S. Gypsum is considering investing $23.6 million in the plant, adding production capabilities that would create 12 new production jobs within three years after the project is completed.

Project description:

The United States Gypsum Corporation (USG) is considering upgrading its Oakfield, NY, paper mill, which currently supplies USG wallboard plants with the back paper "newsline" for sheetrock wallboard, to include face paper "manila" production capacity.

The Project includes replacing and relocating the hydropulper and detrashing equipment, stock cleaning, and manila production. Management has been considering upgrades to the facility as it is more efficient to produce the back as well as the front paper applications. Completing this Project will improve safety, quality, and efficiency to ensure the longevity of the facility as well as the retention and creation of manufacturing jobs.

The investment for the Project is expected to be approximately $23 million and will be implemented in three separate phases. Phase I activities, which are expected to commence approximately in the second quarter of 2014, will include replacing and relocating the filler pulper. Phase II will require stock cleaning which will commence in 2015. During Phase III, the facility will begin manila production which will commence in 2016.

If completed, the project is expected to retain 98 jobs at the Oakfield plant.

The proposed tax relief package includes $132,960 in sales tax exemption and $242,788 in property tax abatements on an 18,400-square-foot addition, creating an increased assessed value.

U.S. Gypsum would save $242,788 in taxes on the increase assessed value (while continuing to pay current property taxes) over 10 years.

The public hearing is scheduled to be held at the Oakfield Town Hall, 3219 Drake St., Oakfield.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 11:24 am

Local entrepreneur has growing new business on Cedar Street

The way 29-year-old Curtis Gallagher sees it, he's finally found a niche in business that isn't already occupied by a hundred other guys doing the same thing.

He's tried blacktop sealing and for two years he ran his own detailing and tinting shop. Now he's selling everything you need to start and maintain your own hydroponic garden.

A week ago he opened Nature's Best Hydro-Garden Center on Cedar Street, Batavia.

Hydroponics is an increasingly popular way for people to grow fruits, vegetables and even flowers without soil. The main medium is water, supplemented with nutrients.

"It's really pretty simple," Gallagher said. "A lot of people are intimidated. They think there's a lot to it, but it's very simple, and the growth rate for the plants and vegetables is twice as fast with hydroponics than in soil."

Gallagher sells everything a hydroponic gardner needs -- the trays and bins, grow tents, grow lights, nutrients and other items gardeners might use.

He settled on hydroponics for his new business because he found that he had a hard time getting what he needed locally to support his own hobby.

So far, he's drawing customers from throughout the GLOW region.

"There's a lot of people who have to travel out of town, so instead of spending their money in the community, they're spending it in Rochester or Buffalo," Gallagher said. "I'm trying to keep it in the community."

His parents loaned him the money to get started, though they were skeptical at first.

 "My parents asked me, are you sure, and I'm like, 'the only way to find out is to try it,' " Gallagher said.

He got out of the detailing business when his lease expired on his building and the landlord wouldn't renew it. He decided it wasn't worth it to try and open a new location.

When he started thinking of a new career, he realized he already had one growing.

"I'm really the only person around here doing this kind of work, and I think around this area, Genesee County, you have to be more creative," Gallagher said. "You have to have something that's more unique to be able to succeed verus just opening up something that everybody else is doing already. Whoever has their foot in the door first is the one who stays with their foot in the door."

Now, Gallagher is looking forward to each new workday.

"It's almost like having a pet," Gallagher said. "Like my tomato plants over there, every day when I come in it's like another tomato and another tomato. It's growing so fast I can't believe it. It's fun. I'm into hunting and fishing. It's like another hobby. Now it's turned into a career, I guess."

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 11:03 pm

P.W. Minor reportedly tells employees the business is closing

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

Executives at P.W. Minor, a locally founded, 147-year-old business, reportedly told employees today that the firm is closing July 31 and the workers will be out of their jobs.

Employees posted about the announcement on Facebook and The Batavian contacted two employees directly. One wouldn't comment, the other confirmed the announcement.

The shoe-manufacturing company was founded in 1867 by two Civil War veterans who originally called their company Minor Brothers Boots and Shoes.

The Batavian e-mailed P.W. Minor's CEO Wally Hinchey at about 6 p.m. seeking comment and has not received a response.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Group of Le Roy residents upset with sale of old town dump to company for recycling facility

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy

A year ago, Town of Le Roy officials took a look at 118 acres of land on its books and decided the town really had no short-term nor long-term use for it, so they decided to put it up for sale.

That decision came under fire from about five local residents at the town board's Thursday meeting.

The parcel is being sold to Zoladz Construction Co. for $95,000. Zoladz plans to open a facility to recycle municipal green waste and concrete from reconstruction projects.

Neighboring landowners are concerned about the noise, the dust and the possible pollution.

"We don't dispute your right to sell it," Thomas Ryan said. "It's who you sold it to."

Supervisor Steve Barbeau spoke at length about the history of the property and the decision to sell it. He said the sale was advertised in the Le Roy PennySaver and the Genesee Valley PennySaver and he wrote about it in his column for the Le Roy PennySaver.

In the end, only two potential buyers came forward: One offering about $40,000 and Zoladz.

The lower bid came from an outdoor club that would have used the property for hunting. 

Town Attorney Reid Whiting said the town tried to convince the club to increase its bid, but the club leadership said that just wasn't possible.

The board didn't act on Zoladz's offer right away. Instead, Barbeau took the issue to the Le Roy Business Council for advice and feedback.

Members there, he said, supported accepting the higher bid from the commercial business, getting the property back on the tax roles.

The board held another public meeting about the issue and then decided to accept Zoladz's purchase offer.

It's still not a done deal, Barbeau said, and even once the property is conveyed to Zoladz, the company must still seek DEC permits and get zoning approval.

While the property is in an industrial zone, the list of permitted uses in Le Roy's industrial zone doesn't include green waste and concrete recycling. The company will need a variance for such an operation, which must be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Town Board.

The parcel is located off Neid Road, just north of Gulf Road, in an area dominated by Hanson and Dolomite quarries. It's near the Lehigh Railroad derailment site, which Barbeau noted the town got an unrequested reminder about a couple of years ago.

Tom Dintruff and other neighbors raised concerns about possible pollution at the site.

At one time, the site was a quarry, then in the 1940s, it became a town dump. In 1979, a fire shut it down.

The fire burned for 10 days with various fire departments dumping water on it to try and control it, Dintruff said.

Dintruff said one local business owner advised against even trying to put the fire out, especially with water.

"You don't know what's in there," Dintruff said the man told town officials. "He wasn't saying it's a mystery. He was saying he knew what was in there."

The land has been unused and unoccupied since.

Ryan, Charlie Miller and Keith Maxwell raised concerns about truck traffic and noise.

Ryan said when he bought his land, it was with the belief that the old town dump would never be used again because of the environmental issues.

"I wouldn't have bought my place if I'd known there would be trucks running up and down my front yard," he said.

The roadway into the dump is just 55 feet from the front of his house.

He added, "Neid Road is already starting to crumble. There are no shoulders. I don't think it's set up for industrial traffic."

There was no resolution to the issue for the local residents last night and no promises were made by the board regarding future actions.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 12:01 am

Le Roy residents debate town board over Frost Ridge lawsuit

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Frost Ridge Campground, Le Roy

The Town of Le Roy Board had no choice but to pursue a lawsuit against one of its own local businesses, attorney Reid Whiting said Thursday night during a discussion with town residents of the Frost Ridge legal proceedings.

About 25 Frost Ridge supporters turned out to the board meeting and spoke up during a conversation that lasted at least 90 minutes.

There were no speakers supporting the board's lawsuit.

Frost Ridge is being sued by both the town and two neighboring residents over its very existence as a campground and its ability to hold outdoor music concerts.

The neighbors, David and Marny Cleere and Scott and Betsy Collins, have been pushing the town to enforce its zoning ordinance in regards to Frost Ridge, Whiting said. The two couples made it clear, Whiting said, the town would be sued if it failed to enforce its ordinances.

Such a failure, Whiting said, would embolden others to violate the zoning code and give the town little recourse for enforcement.

"If we ignored the violations, we would be found in dereliction of our duty and we would not be able to defend ourselves in other matters," Whiting said.

Later in the meeting, he said, "We did not act lightly. We did not act recklessly. We did not act without thought. We have a statutory duty to enforce the laws of Le Roy. If we do not, we are at risk. If we're at risk, you're all at risk."

The town board decided to sue Frost Ridge rather than defend its own Zoning Board of Appeals, which determined in 1978 and again 2013 that Frost Ridge was an existing, nonconforming use and permissible under the town's law.

Supervisor Steve Barbeau (second photo) said the ZBA overstepped its authority by making those determinations.

"The issue of whether something is grandfathered in or not grandfathered in is not their decision," Barbeau said. "If in the 1960s a record of music was played over the PA system so now that translates into Molly Hatchett coming in for a concert, if you believe that's the case, that's not something within the purview of the ZBA to rule on."

Both Whiting and Barbeau made the point that the town board was not criticizing the ZBA or arguing with the ZBA. The town did not sue the ZBA. Cleere/Collins sued the ZBA.

Whiting leaned heavily in more than one statement that the town's position obviously had merit because Judge Robert C. Noonan issued a temporary injunction against amplified music and alcohol sales at Frost Ridge.

"Judge Noonan takes precedent over anything the town board does," Whiting said.

When Eilleen Sherman Dries (top photo) said a code enforcement officer, who trained the town's current officer, told her Frost Ridge was a pre-existing nonconforming use, Whiting snapped, "The only thing that matters is what Noonan says."

At the hearing prior to Noonan's ruling, the ZBA was not represented. Whiting told Noonan during the hearing that the ZBA had been served notice that it was a defendant in the Cleere/Collins suit but chose not to be represented. That turned out not to be an accurate statement. Chairwoman Debbie Jackett has since said the board stands behind its determination that Frost Ridge is not violating existing town code.

The ZBA will be represented by its own attorney, paid for by the town, at further court proceedings.

Late in the meeting, Whiting said the town is just a secondary player in the legal proceedings, even though Noonan denied the Cleere/Collins side its own request for an injunction, granting just the town's request for an injunction.

If the other sides in the case were able to come to an agreement, Whiting said, he would not interfere with the agreement, but bring it back to the town board for consideration.

Coming to an agreement was the major request of just about every resident who spoke during the meeting.

"This is revenue we had and now it's going to Caledonia instead of Genesee County," said Lucie Ann Griffis (Disclosure, Griffis is a part-time sales rep for The Batavian). "This is revenue that not only the town needs, but the whole area needs. It's a shame the town board couldn't jump aboard on this and instead of saying what we can't do, saying what we can do.

"It's a shame what's being said about use, about the town not being friendly to business. I'm a lifer here. This is a travesty that we're losing this revenue based on the complaints of just a couple of people."

Carl (who refused to provide his last name) also complained about lost business.

"The town board should be out trying to promote the town and promote business and not take away a business because of some violation of code, because one or two complaints, and shut something down," Carl said. "The board should try and do some something to help them."

A couple sitting behind Carl said they were from Rochester and camp regularly at Frost Ridge, and have camped there since before the current ownership. They both said Le Roy has started to gain a bad reputation in Rochester because of situations like this.

Jennifer Keys also spoke in favor of finding some compromise that could save Frost Ridge.

"We cannot deny that Frost Ridge is a great source of revenue for our community," Keys said. "I would like to see it worked out so that the revenue stays here rather than going to Caledonia or Batavia."

Barbeau said the town has already tried to reach a compromise with Frost Ridge owners Greg and David Luetticke-Archbell, but at the 11th hour, the owners hired an attorney who withdrew their application for a special use permit for the campground.

"Once they conformed to that, then they could seek out a variance for concerts," Barbeau said. "There was no guarantee at all. It would have gone through the ZBA, then the planning board and then a public hearing and then the town board."

Keys responded, "I don't want to speak for the owners, but since they're not here, it's my understanding that county planning told them you can't do that, that their application (for a special use permit) wasn't valid because they didn't need it. They felt threatened and things blew up and here we are now. I would still hope something could be worked out."

Greg and David are out of town and not available for clarification, but The Batavian has previously spoke to sources who said Greg and David were advised by their attorney at the time that the special use permit was a trap. The issuance of a permit would negate prior rulings by the ZBA and end concerts at the Ridge.

Barbeau said he did try to find a compromise for Frost Ridge last summer and that he convinced Cleere/Collins to hold off on a suit during the 2013 concert season because shutting things down with contracts signed and deposits paid would have been economically devastating for Greg and David.

"I do bristle and I will continue to bristle when people say we didn't try as a town board to do anything to work things out," Barbeau said.

Barbeau said if Frost Ridge had continued with its application, he was confident it would have been approved by the board unanimously and then he was going to propose a town-wide zoning change that would have permitted concerts on any property three times a year -- Memorial Day, the Oatka Festival and July 4.

Frost Ridge hosts concerts at least nine times a year.

"They were gambling (when they withdrew their application) and they gambled wrong," Whiting said.

A man named Steve (who also refused to give his last name), made one last plea for resolution favorable to the town near the end of the discussion.

"This is a no-win situation," Steve said. "If you win the lawsuit, you lose all that revenue from all those people who come to Frost Ridge. "If you lose the lawsuit, you're going to owe the campground all that money, all the while costing me and the other residents a lot of money. You need to get in a room with everybody and work it out."

One audience member kept asking how the supporters could go about getting an item on the agenda at a future board meeting about the board reconsidering its position, and the answer was, there's a public comments section on every agenda.

"I want to know when we can ask you to represent the majority of the people in Le Roy instead of just two people," she said.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Collins says FDA's proposed new cheese rules stink

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today is blasting a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will significantly hurt the local cheese industry. The FDA is contemplating banning cheese makers from the centuries-old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards. This process is commonplace among artisan cheese makers operating across New York’s 27th Congressional District.

“This is just the latest example of a federal government hell-bent on regulating everything it can get its hands on,” Congressman Collins said. “The process of aging cheese on wood boards is older than the federal government itself. Once again, the bureaucrats in Washington who are totally out of touch with the real world are arbitrarily introducing new rules and regulations that will hurt local economies, cost people their jobs, and stall business growth.”

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the cheese made by Yancey's Fancy in Pembroke, NY, (Genesee County) is aged on wooden boards. The company recently announced a major expansion aimed at increasing production of the very cheeses aged through the process targeted by the FDA. The company currently employs 120 people.

“The proposal that FDA has made to ban the use of wood for curing cheese will negatively impact our plans to grow the natural side of our specialty cheese business,” said Brian Bailey, VP of Operations for Yancey's Fancy. “My understanding is that the rule was going forward without any discussion with the cheese industry, and apparently without any consideration to the impact that such a ruling would have.

"There is a far greater tonnage of cheese imported into the United States that is cured on wood than what is made in the United States, yet I haven’t heard of any ruling to address that issue either. There is plenty of science that supports wood as a safe material for curing cheese but I’ve seen no evidence to date that science has been considered...Producing safe, quality food is as much our mission and goal as it is FDA’s. Our existence depends on it.”

Congressman Collins is sending a letter to the FDA encouraging them to abandon this proposal immediately. A significant amount of cheese imported from abroad is aged on wood boards and currently not subject to FDA’s scrutiny of this particular aging process. In reacting to the proposal, American cheese makers said the FDA was not acting on sound science or law.

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