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Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Ten Batavia businesses pass underage alcohol sales check

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business

If you're under age and want to buy booze in Batavia, good luck finding a server or clerk who will sell it to you.

Recently, Batavia PD spearheaded a compliance check at 10 local establishments that sell alcohol.

All 10 businesses carded the underage buyers and refused to sell liquor to them.

"The fact that all the establishments involved in the compliance check requested identification and refused to sell alcohol is a tribute to our local establishments, their management and employees," the PD said in a statement.

The program was conducted in conjunction with the GCASA Drug Free Communities Coalition and Genesee Community College’s Criminal Justice Program.

Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

The vote is final: The Wiss Hotel building will come down

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel

Many of the supporters of restoring the Wiss Hotel building on Main Street in Le Roy walked out of Wednesday's village board meeting saying "their minds were made up."

Mike Tucci, Robert Taylor and Jim Bonacquisti all voted to demolish what may be Le Roy's oldest standing commercial building, even though over the past several months, two architects, three contractors and a code enforcement officer all toured the building and said it could be saved.

"They kept moving the goal posts," Trustee Jennifer Keys said after the meeting.

By her calculation, the $132,000 Tucci, Taylor and Bonacquisti voted to expend on destruction of the Wiss equals 8.5 years of the village's community swimming pool fund.

The fee paid to Empire Dismantlement will be pulled from the village reserve fund, according to Mayor Greg Rogers, who, along with Keys, voted no on Bonacquisti's motion to destroy the Wiss.

On Monday, the Le Roy, New York LLC submitted its fifth revised offer to purchase the building so it could be saved and restored.

The new offer answered many of the objects raised by Tucci, Taylor and Bonacquisti.

The offer was written by village resident and Buffalo attorney Chandy Kemp.

"We did everything that was suggested to us to make our offer more appealing," Kemp said. "We identified the parties (of the LLC). We told them where the money was going to come from. We eliminated some of the contingencies. We gave plans about what we intended to do with the property. And they still shot it down. I’m not sure what more we could have done."

At one point, Kemp and her husband, Chris, were thinking of buying the building themselves in order to sidestep any distrust the trustees might have of the LLC. But after touring the building themselves, they realized saving it would be just too much work to take on by themselves, so they joined the LLC.

"I don't think an offer Chris and I would have submitted independent of the LLC, I don't think now, it would be much different," Kemp said. "I'm not convinced we would have been successful. I'm thinking a lot of this, maybe the decision was made a year ago, and a lot of this was just running around until the bids for demolition came in and they knew how much it was going to cost and that just sealed it."

The latest offer also contained the promise of a $500,000 performance bond.

Tucci, Taylor and Bonacquisti all said they respected the hard work of the LLC, that they each gave the issue a lot of thought -- Bonacquisti said he lost sleep over it -- but in the end, tearing the Wiss down was "the right decision."

"In the last 20 years we’ve taken the Sterling Diner down, Vic Bloods has come down, the Millman block has come down, but all Main Street hasn’t come down," Bonacquisti said. "Not only did we survive those buildings coming down, but we’ve gotten better."

Tucci read a prepared statement:

I do have upmost respect for everyone associated with the Le Roy New York LLC. I do appreciate all of their hard work and dedication as to wanting to save this building and make something better of it. They have a passion for Main Street that I hope carries on after this vote. I realize not every one agrees with me with my decision to take it down but I do believe it’s in the best interest of the village. I can only hope people respect my decision and know it’s come with a lot of thought.

Taylor spoke about his 72 years of living in the village and the many hours of his life spent enjoyably at the Wiss, and that he's spoken to a lot of people about the issue.

"My personal opinion, the LLC just picked the wrong building," Taylor said.

Bonacquisti said, "the time for the Wiss has come," and that whatever replaces it will be better.

What replaces it is a complete unknown at this point, though, a point Louis Buono, a supporter of the LLC and owner of the McDonald's franchise in Le Roy, raised later in the meeting.

"There’s not been a plan in place; there’s not been an idea proposed; yet, you ask the LLC over and over againt to formalize a plan which could produce many opportunities here in this village, and yet we’ve heard nothing other than we will demolish the building," Buono said.

"In respect for the other people who spoke in support of saving it," Buono added, "I believe you owe it to the community to explain -- what do you plan to do with that property? -- and not just a commitment saying ‘we will do our best,’ but what is your plan?"

Rogers admitted there is no plan, but by the second meeting in April, the trustees will have a better idea of what will be done going forward.

Previously during the meeting, Rogers said the trustees now have a responsibility to protect the character of the village.

"It's the village board's responsibility to take care of that corner and put something there that makes sense and doesn't destroy the character of this village," Rogers said. "That's our responsibility. That's the five people who sit on this board, that's their responsibility. You have my word that I will work extremely hard not to be an embarrassment. It's a job I take very seriously."

What comes next is the biggest fear the preservationists have. 

"All I’m hearing the board talk about is memories of what it was," said David Damico, a graphic artist who moved to Le Roy in 2008 and is concerned about the village losing its identity. "None of them seem to have any foresight as to what it could be. I think maybe it takes a new person to see that. I want to see this community grow and if we’re tearing everything down, I don’t see how that’s going to happen."

Many fear another Walgreens-type of development, which Selby Davis says, "maimed" the northwest corner of Main and Lake streets.

"It's now something we can do nothing about," she said.

That's also the fear of Chandy Kemp.

"My first reaction is fear," Kemp said. "I'm still afraid of the slippery slope. I trust the mayor and believe and trust his word that he wants to preserve Main Street, but I'm not sure that can be said of the others in the village who may have dollar signs in their eyes. That's my biggest concern, that this is the first step toward major demolition of Main Street, and that's something I would hate to see."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Significant cost expected to clean up former metal recycling facility on Bank Street

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

The cost will be significant to clean up a former industrial property at 301 Bank St., Batavia, but it will be the state that picks up the bill, the City Council learned Monday night.

Some 4,000 tons of solid waste needs to be removed and another 20,000 tons of contaminated soil must be dug out and trucked to Texas for incineration.

The current owner of the property, Batavia Waste Material Co., Inc., went into bankruptcy in the mid-1990s. The city could have filed a tax-lien foreclosure in 1999, but the risk was the city would take on the responsibility for clean up of any contamination.

For more than 50 years, the property was used as an iron and metal recycling facility, so the possibility of contamination seemed likely.

"From a city perspective, the situation first involved a Hobson's Choice," said City Attorney George Van Nest. "What do you do? Do you foreclose and maintain municipal ownership, or do you leave it alone for the next 100 years."

The city found a middle way in the early 2000s -- apply for a state grant to hire a consultant to do an environmental assessment and come up with a plan for cleanup. 

Working with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the city hired GZA GeoEnvironmental of New York, based in Buffalo, to take on the study and develop the plan.

It's been a slow process, at a cost of more than $200,000 (city share, 10 percent) because DEC officials have had to approve it each step along the way.

Fieldwork was conducted between January 2006 and December 2010. There were 22 test pits dug, 50 soil probes, seven monitoring wells sunk and some 130 soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater samples collected.

The result -- some significant contamination on some portion of the property, including lead and PCB.

Already, some 40 tons of soil laced with PCB and pesticides have been removed and incinerated in Texas, just to take care of the most pressing issues.

Now the DEC is considering a full-on cleanup and will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m., March 20, to present its findings and gather public input. A final "record of decision" will be released March 31.

The cleanup, called remediation, is expected to take as long as 10 years, but when completed, the city will be able to finally foreclose on the property -- valued at about $190,000 -- and then sell it to the highest bidder. CORRECTION: The entire prodcess, starting in 2004, is a 10-year process, so officials expect completion in 2014.

The property is zoned for residential development.

As for who pays for the cleanup, the DEC will use money from the state's Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Superfund, a pot of money collected from fines and fees paid by polluters. 

Part of the Superfund process for a site cleanup is identifying a "responsible party" who will then be billed to remediate the current site.

"This is the best case, because we don't have to take over the property and be responsible for the cleanup and assume the cost of the cleanup," City Manager Jason Molino said. "In time, we can turn it into residential property."

Top photo: Chris Baron, consultant with GZA GeoEnvironmental.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm

GCEDC approves incentives for five business expansions

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bergen, business, Darien, GCEDC, Oakfield, pembroke

Reed Batavia Properties, LLC, 39 Washington Ave., Batavia, has been approved for $140,861 in tax incentives for upgrades to its building. Reed purchased the building from Batavia City Schools. The 13,452-square-foot building is the former administration building. Reed will renovate the building for medical/office use. Genesee County is currently designated a Health Professional Shortage Area. The assessed value is $475,000. The property was formerly tax exempted and will become taxable at the current assessed value. Reed will receive a tax abatement PILOT on the increase in assessed value over the current assessed value, which is an anticipated tax savings for Reed of $76,361. Reed will also receive sales tax exemption on construction materials, furniture and fixtures of $52,000 along with a mortgage tax exemption of $12,500. Reed is investing $1.5 million in the project and expected to create six new jobs.

Yancey's Fancy, Inc./D&Y Cheeses, Inc., 857 Main Road, Pembroke, is planning a $10.2 million expansion. GCEDC has approved $980,000 in incentives. The expansion will increase capacity and create new flavors and cheese types. All packaging will be performed at the facility. The company will also build new offices. The current facility is 29,000 square feet. The expansion is 65,000 square feet plus a 25,000-square foot expansion of the second floor. The sales tax exemption is $320,000 with a mortgage tax exemption of $112,500 and PILOT of $547,533. Yancey's Fancy has pledged 50 new jobs within three years.

Darien Lake Theme Park, is investing $5.2 million in new rides and upgrades to the park and accommodations. The company will receive a $328,939 incentive package through GCEDC. The project includes construction of new cabins, a new "launch ride," and a laser light attraction. The upgrades are expected to take three years to complete. GCEDC has approved a sales tax exemption of $181,600 and a PILOT of $147,339. Darien Lake provides more 400 full-time equivalent jobs, including 2,000 seasonal workers. The expansion is expected to create six new jobs and retain 422 FTEs.

Fontrick Door, Inc., 9 Apollo Drive, Batavia, is expanding through acquisition of the building at 1 Treadeasy Ave., Batavia. Frontrick Door is investing $500,000 to purchase the $31,919-square-foot building, where it plans to develop a window manufacturing location in 2014. GCEDC has authorized a mortgage tax exemption of $6,250. 

Bonduelle is planning to make a $3.2 million capital investment in its plants in Oakfield, Bergen and Brockport. This is mainly a retention project to upgrade facilities, according to GCEDC. The majority of the investment will be made at the Oakfield plant, where a lima bean line will be installed. Bonduelle has secured contracts with farmers for 2,500 acres of lima bean production. The upgrades are expected to lead to 12 new seasonal -- five months -- jobs in Oakfield. Bonduelle is receiving a $250,000 grant for the project. Jobs retained: 305.

Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Cedar Street Sales and Rentals celebrates 20 years serving Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Cedar Street Sales and Rentals

It's all about relationships, says Guy Clark Jr., owner of Cedar Street Sales and Rentals.

Clark's business turned 20 today, and he said the enterprise has lasted because the people of Genesee County have trusted him and his staff.

"We owe a big thanks to the community," Clark said.

Raised in Stafford, Clark opened his first tool shop in Le Roy in 1985. He described it as an under-capitalized one-man operation, and he struggled, but he also started to gain a good reputation.

As the calendar flipped to 1993, the people at Cummings & Bricker, a Batavia-based wholesaler of farm equipment, approached Clark about opening a rental business on Cedar Street. Cummings and Bricker already owned the property, so they along with Clark and Ricky Palermo joined forces and opened Cedar Street Sales and Rentals March 1, 1993.

After a few years, Cummings and Bricker pulled out because both businesses shared the same peak seasons, Clark said, and that caused a little tension.

Another partner entered the picture for a few years, but seven years ago, Clark became sole owner of the business and has operated it successfully since, despite a recession and increased competition from the likes of Home Depot and Lowe's.

Clark said Home Depot went after the local rental business pretty hard a few years back.

Whatever Clark set as his rental price, Home Depot would offer the same tool for $1 less.

"They were attacking us pretty hard, but then they closed (the rental business) about three years ago," Clark said. "I was thrilled for that. I was proud of that."

Cedar Street has become one of the top Cub Cadet dealers in the nation, but there was a time when Clark didn't sell lawn mowers.

A persistent salesman kept trying to get him to stock a few, until finally, Clark recalled, the salesman said, "Look, let me put six in your store and if they don't sell by fall, I'll take them back, no hard feelings."

Clark added, "That was about 5,000 lawn mowers ago."

Clark was all smiles during the 20th anniversary party at his store today and said he does feel like he's accomplished something getting this far, even if you don't always notice the time sliding by.

"You don't think about it, and I didn't start thinking about it until I started looking at a calendar," Clark said. "Until people start coming in and saying, you've been here a long time, and you think, 'hey, I have been here a long time,' you don't think about it. You just go to work every day and never give it much thought."

The celebration continues Saturday with food, games, prizes and a chance to ride an all electric zero-turn mower from Cub Cadet. Clark said Cedar Street is the only dealership in the United States with the new mower in the store. They will go on sale this spring. The photo above is of Clark riding the mower. Customers who test drive it get a free hat. Food will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Free seminar - 'A Woman's Guide to Money Matters' - by Edward Jones Financial Advisor

post by Billie Owens in announcements, business

Edward Jones Financial Advisor Michael R. Marsh, of Batavia, is hosting a free educational seminar titled "A Woman's Guide to Money Matters" at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, March 2, at 7 Jackson St., in Batavia.

During the upcoming seminar, participants will learn more about:

  • What one can do now to prepare for retirement;
  • One's options to pay for a child's or grandchild's education;
  • Developing a strategy to help achieve one's financial goals.

The seminar is free, but space is limited. To make a reservation, call Robin Ettinger at 345-1773.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Applications being accepted for course in food processing

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

Press Release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) announced that applications to its Food Processing Training Program are available beginning March 4th. The deadline for submitting applications is April 15.

Applications will be available at the Genesee County Career Center, located at 587 E. Main St., Suite 100, Eastown Plaza in Batavia. Applicants will need to complete a Customer Registration Form at the Genesee County Career Center as well as submit an up-to-date resume, and, if required, participate in a math/reading test and a follow-up interview.

“This is a very exciting initiative because it is an integral component of our business operations, creating opportunities for employment for our residents,” said GCEDC Chairman Charlie Cook. “The program also continues our commitment of collaboration among various public and private sector partners throughout the community.”

In addition to receiving a non-credit certificate from the Genesee Community College (GCC), participants will have a permanent record and transcript for successful completion of the program. They will also receive certificates in Lean Systems Six Sigma Yellow Belt (Rochester Institute of Technology), Team Building (GCC), Basic Dairy Science & Sanitation Certificate (Cornell University), and an OSHA Certificate for Safety in a Manufacturing Environment (GCC).

The training program, developed by GCEDC, GCC, RIT and Cornell University, will benefit the area’s existing food-processing companies. It will also prepare a workforce for companies in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The training program is being funded by an Area Development grant obtained by the GCEDC from the National Fuel Gas Corp. with additional financial support from the Finger Lakes Food Cluster Initiative — funded by the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration in the amount of $38,000 or 28 percent of the program. The program is expected to train approximately 120  people while creating a model for future food processing and technology training programs.

“If we are to continue to market and grow the food-processing industry we need skilled and educated workers,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “The investment we make to train and educate our workforce is just as important as the investment we make in bricks, mortar, water, and sewer infrastructure that makes our properties shovel-ready to bring business here.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Scott Paul: Golfer, musician, photographer, co-owner of Center Street Smoke House, dead at age 57

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Center Street Smokehouse

There were two things that brought Scott Paul back to Western New York two decades ago -- the chance to go into business with his brother and the fact that he just had to get away from the long commutes in Washington, D.C.

"He'd had enough of the two-and-half hour drive to work and the three-and-half hour drive home in DC traffic," Cregg Paul said. "He said, 'there's got to be a better way to live your life.' "

Scott packed up his belongings and headed to Batavia to help Cregg restore the former Batavia Times building and open in 1993 the Center Street Smoke House.

Yesterday, Scott Robert Paul died after a short illness. He was 57.

While Cregg has run the day-to-day operations of Center Street, Scott worked behind the scenes, in the back office and handling the marketing materials and menus for the popular restaurant.

Scott was always the creative type, Cregg said. He went to RIT for photography, remained an avid photographer, and was by trade a graphic designer. He was also a musician, loved playing guitar, played in bands and owned several guitars.

Among Scott's heroes was golfer Ben Hogan, and Cregg said Scott shared Hogan's trait for seeking perfection. Scott was also an avid golfer.

One of Center Street's iconic promotional gimmicks brought together Scott's visual sense with his love of music -- a black-and-white sedan, looking much like a police car from the 1970s, that was patterned after the old police cruiser in the movie "The Blues Brothers."

There were restaurants in Florida and Myrtle Beach, S.C., that used a Blues Brothers' car and Scott thought the theme would fit the Smoke House, which often features live music.

The brothers found the perfect sedan for sale on Ebay. It was being stored in a barn in Kansas. They had it shipped to Batavia and a friend converted it into a "bluesmobile."

The car would get strange looks on Batavia's streets, Cregg recalled, but the most memorable incident with the car happened in Rochester.

Scott and Cregg drove it to the big city to pick up some supplies and next thing they knew, a police car was flashing its lights.

Scott pulled over and a police officer approached and asked if he had a permit for the giant bullhorn on the roof.

Of course he didn't.

Cregg recalls the officer saying, "This is what we're going to do. You two guys are going to get out of that car. You're going to go over there and stand on the curb.  Then, me and my partner are going to get into your car and you're going to take our pictures."

Cregg laughs recalling the story. "OK," Cregg said they told the officers. "We're OK with that."

The cops handed over their own Polaroid camera for the brothers to take pictures of them in the car and then of "arresting" them by the car.

Today, Cregg recalled Scott's life at Center Street, which he said Scott loved, and there were no tears, but lots of laughter.

The Auburn native liked to live life the way he wanted to live it, Cregg said.

"If somebody came in and said you should do this and you should do that, he would look at him and tell him don’t tell me what to do," Cregg said. "And that was the way he was. He said, 'I’m going to live my life my way on my terms.' "

And he had his own opinions -- many of them -- and he'd hold fast when he thought he was right.

"To his credit, he didn't compromise on very many things," Cregg said.

"It’s funny," Cregg added, "because T.J. (Woodward, of Gilmartin Funeral Home) asked me, 'was your brother a veteran?' I go 'no, but he did fight a lot of wars.' I said, 'he did win some, he lost some and he signed some peace agreements, but not many.' "

There will be a gathering from 1 to 4 p.m., Friday, at the Center Street Smoke House for close friends and family to honor Scott and remember his life.

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Photo: Former Green Wolf Pub up for auction

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Ellicott Street

We posted earlier today about plans by the City of Batavia to auction off properties obtained because of unpaid taxes. One of those properties is the former Green Wolf Pub on Ellicott Street.

Potential business opportunity for somebody.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Photo: Third annual Bridal Show at Terry Hills

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Bridal Show, business, terry hills

Today was the third annual Bridal Show at Terry Hills. Unfortunately, I got there later in the afternoon and most of the big crowd that had been there when the doors opened had moved on, but organizers said the show was a another big success.  Above, models showing off gowns from Stella's Bridal Boutique in Le Roy.

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