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Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Judge will consider whether to overturn denial of permit for rooming house on East Main

Local landlord Terry Platt has brought an Article 78 action against the City of Batavia over a planning committee's denial of his application to open a rooming home on East Main Street, and the Erie County judge presiding over the case indicated in court today he leans in favor of Platt's side of the case.

When Larry O'Connor, representing the city's insurance company, told Judge John Curran that he thought the case was straightforward, Curran responded, "I think it is straightforward and you're running up hill."

O'Connor said he got that feeling after listening to Curran pepper Platt's attorney, Michael Perley, with questions about how the case should be decided.

Platt sought approval from the city in May for a rooming house at 316 E. Main St. and several neighbors came to a meeting of the Batavia Planning and Development Committee and objected to the plan.

The committee voted to deny Platt the necessary approval for the project.

In the Article 78 action, Platt's attorney argues that the proposed use is both allowed by existing zoning, fits the mixed use nature of the neighborhood and could not be denied on any legal basis.

O'Connor said the committee had the authority to deny the application based on the city's Comprehensive Master Plan.

That, however, raises what Perley characterized as a "fatal defect" in the city's case -- there's no proof on the record that the city ever formally approved its master plan.

O'Connor did not provide proof of plan approval prior to arguments in the case and Curran said the record is now closed. O'Connor said, however, he could provide proof of an approval. (Outside of court, O'Connor said Curran could "take judicial notice" of the approval, even if it's not part of the record).

Perley said the city couldn't produce a copy of the master plan when Platt issued a FOIL request for the document earlier this year.

A copy was found and it is now part of the case.

City Manager Jason Molino confirmed later in the day that the City Council did ratify the master plan Feb. 25, 1997. Molino could not comment further on the case.

According to the discussion in the Erie County courtroom of Curran today, Curran must weight the role of the master plan in the committee's decision, whether the master plan gives the committee the authority to reject Platt's application, and whether he should take the extreme step of overturning the decision of a group of community volunteers over a zoning issue.

Curran spent a lot of time asking the attorneys questions about how they propose he decide the case.

"The property is properly zoned?" Curran asked.

"Correct," said Perley.

"There's no defect in the application?"


"There's no request for a variance?"

"There's no need for a variance."

"There's no request for a change in zoning?"


"There's is no need for a special-use permit?"


"Both you and Mr. O'Connor have experience in municipal law," Curran said. "You and I both know a lot of municipal law. If I run a (report) for special-use permit legal cases to come up with standards or if I run it for variances to come up with a standard, we know what I'll find. What do I run for this one?"

"The standard you apply is whether or not this decision was arbitrary and capricious," Perley said. "How does the committee deny an application that is proper for the property before it without misapplying the zoning law?"

O'Connor argued that the denial was consistent with the master plan, and Curran honed in on the section that says the permitted uses of buildings on that section of East Main Street (zoned C1, which is mixed use) includes professional offices, small restaurants and other small businesses, but says nothing about single-family residences, so how can the city argue that it wants to preserve the historic nature of the single-family residences?

The master plan as a whole is about preserving and enhancing current single-family residences, O'Connor told Curran.

"This is an area of single-family homes along with limited commercial use," O'Connor said. "The city wants to preserve the integrity and character of that area."

Then Curran laid out his underlying frustration: Neither attorney had filed a memorandum of law.

Such memorandums are often filed by attorneys to provide a judge with their views of how the law and prior legal precedents apply to a particular case.

Perley said he wrote such a memorandum and was surprised it hadn't been filed with the case. Since O'Connor hadn't received such a memo, he hadn't written a response.

Curran agreed to give both attorneys time to file such memos and continued the case to Jan. 30.

The options before Curran include: upholding the committee's decision; overturning the decision and permitting Platt to open the rooming house; or overturning the committee's ruling but ordering the committee to reconsider its decision.

Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Chamber announces 2013 award winners

The 42nd Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards are getting a bit of a makeover this year with no general Business of the Year honoree and a complete skip of Innovative Enterprise of the Year -- even with a qualified nominee in the mix.

Much like last year, there are two winners for Geneseean of the Year, with awards going to Laurie Mastin, of Pavilion, and Timothy Michael Adams, of Stafford.

Rather than Business of Year, the chamber is honoring a Service Business of the Year, Alex's Place, and Retail Business of the Year, Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles.

The Agricultural Business of the Year is Bonduelle USA, Inc., of Bergen and Oakfield.

The Bergen Business and Civic Association is receiving special recognition with a Special Service award.

Nominated by The Batavian for Innovative Enterprise of the Year was Insource Urgent Care, but no award was given in that category for 2013.

While Insource has transformed the urgent care business through innovative use of telemedicine and cooperative arrangements with doctors and specialists from throughout the region, greatly reducing the cost of care for patients, the Batavia-based company was bypassed by the awards committee. 

It's not unprecedented for the chamber to hand out awards with different titles than previous years or what was on nomination forms.

The awards dinner is Feb. 22 at the Clarion Hotel, Park Road, Batavia. Tickets are $50 or a table of 10 for $450. Hors d'oeuvres are at 5:30 p.m. followed by entree tables (no formal sit down dinner). There is a cash bar. The awards program starts at 7 p.m., which will include coffee and dessert.

Call Kelly Bermingham at 343-7440, ext. 26, to make reservations.

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

High Tunnel School offered to area farmers, techniques to meet growing Eat Local demand

post by Billie Owens in announcements, agriculture, business

Press release:

High Tunnel School Offered to Area Farmers  -- Pre-registration with payment is required by Dec. 1

School will emphasize warm-season management and production skills that lead to profitability and adoption of winter farming techniques to meet growing Eat Local demand.

Batavia, NY – Vegetable growers with or considering high tunnel production are invited to attend High Tunnel School on Dec. 4-5 in Batavia at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, 420 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

The two-day High Tunnel School, organized by the Cornell Vegetable Program, will emphasize warm-season management and production skills that lead to profitability and adoption of winter farming techniques to meet the growing Eat Local demand. Focus will be placed on cool season production on Dec. 4 whereas Dec. 5 will focus on tunnel management basics and warm season production. Information presented on Dec. 5 may also be relevant to small fruit producers.

Growers can sign up for either day of the school, but are highly encouraged to attend both days.  DEC pesticide re-certification credits and CCA credits are available for each day.

A full agenda and more information can be found on the Cornell Vegetable Program Web site at cvp.cce.cornell.edu. Cost is $25 for one day only or a discounted rate of $40 to attend both days.  Lunch and any program materials are included in the registration fee.

Pre-registration with payment is required by Dec. 1 to reserve a seat. Seating is limited. Please register online at cvp.cce.cornell.edu or contact Vivian Flynn at 315-536-5123.

Dec. 4 – Winter Greens Production and Farm Tour
Consumer attitudes are changing, and there is an increasing demand for local greens throughout the winter. Crop plans and markets are critical to success, but holistic planning is the basis for a sustainable system. Topics covered include:

* Profitable Winter Greens Productions in High Tunnels for Farmers' Markets - Paul and Sandy Arnold
*  Cool climate pest management
*  How and why we are growing winter crops with tunnels - Ken Bowman
*  Winter greens production tour at Bowman and Hill Micro Farm, Kent, NY

Dec. 5 – Warm Season Production and High Tunnel Basics
This program is designed for commercial growers new to or considering high tunnels. NRCS cooperating farms are particularly encouraged to attend. All who are interested in improving their crop yield, quality and profitability by using high tunnels are welcome. Though focused on vegetable production, fruit producers will benefit from the site, structural, and irrigation information.

Topics include:
* What to look for when selecting a tunnel
* Site considerations
* Which crops work for tunnels?
* Our Warm Season Tunnels - Paul and Sandy Arnold
* Best Management Practices to improve your profits
* Growers' perspectives, lessons learned

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Attention farmers -- Cornell and state Ag & Markets to present farm food safety training (GAPs)

post by Billie Owens in announcements, agriculture, business

Cornell Lake Ontario Fruit Team, Cornell Vegetable Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension, along with assistance from NYS Dept. Ag & Markets, will be presenting farm food safety training - GAPs (including Harmonized GAPs) this winter.

The first will be held in Batavia on Dec. 10 and 11 at the Fire Training Center, 7690 State St. Road, Batavia.

A new program, Harmonized GAPs, has been developed to combine several food safety certifications into one program. New York’s retail produce buyers, such as Wegmans, are asking growers to adopt Harmonized GAPs certification in many cases. In response, Cornell National GAPs Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension have developed a multi-day workshop.

The first day of training will focus on the details of what GAPs is, how it works and what it means for your farming operation. The second day will be devoted to helping you write a food safety plan as required for audit certification. A laptop computer is required for the second day. (If you need to borrow a computer, please let us know in advance.)

The registration fee of $60 per person includes educational materials, lunch and refreshments. Add $15 for each additional attendee from the same farm. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.; program runs 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days.

Pre-register for the Batavia class by Dec. 3. Register online at cvp.cce.cornell.edu <http://cvp.cce.cornell.edu>  or mail in your registration form and payment to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County, Attn: Angela Parr, 480 N. Main St., Canandaigua, NY 14424. Make checks payable to: “Cornell Cooperative Extension”.

For more information, contact Craig Kahlke at cjk37@cornell.edu or 585-735-5448.

To see a full listing of upcoming farm food safety trainings, go to www.gaps.cornell.edu <http://www.gaps.cornell.edu> . These workshops are partially funded through a grant from the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 5:06 pm

New auto shop owner says experience will help him provide customers with quality care

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, Syd's Automotive

With 25 years in the auto repair business -- a career that took him from mechanic to district manager and vp of operations for other people's businesses -- Steve Getty says he's found a place he wants to put down roots, in Batavia.

Getty has acquired a former oil change and auto repair location at 4003 W. Main St. and opened up Syd's Automotive.

"It feels really good to own my own business," Getty said, "especially being where I live."

Asked what will set his business apart, he said, "quality."

"Most companies in the industry I'm in focus on the fast," Getty said. "We'll be quality first, fast second. It's still a fast oil change, but you're getting a quality oil change, quality repair work."

Photo: Getty left with Scott Levensailor, who is also working in the shop.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm

High Voltage Tattoo & Piercing to hold third annual charity fundraiser Dec. 14

post by Billie Owens in announcements, business

Press release:

High Voltage Tattoo & Piercing will be holding its 3rd annual charity fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 14th from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.

We will have three tattoo artists and a body piercer working all day. We will be offering $30 tattoos and $15 piercings.

One-hundred percent of the funds raised from tattoos, piercings, tips, donations and after-care products will go to charity.

We will post pictures of designated tattoo designs and lettering styles that we will be offering on the 14th very soon.

We have decided to split the funds this year between three organizations:

With everyone’s generous support we were able to raise more than $3,000 last year and we are hoping to raise even more this year. We are also looking for a couple volunteers to help get people signed in and help around the shop.

Please message us on Facebook if you are interested in helping out. Thanks and we hope to see you all soon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm

No employees will be out of work in wake of devastating fire at Baskin Livestock

post by Howard Owens in Baskin Livestock, Bethany, business, fire

The Friday morning after a fire destroyed key components of the feed-making process at Baskin Livestock, one of Bill Baskin's newest hires walked into his office. He was certainly wondering if he still had a job starting Monday morning.

"I said, 'Joe,' " Baskin said, " 'Don't worry about it. Come here Monday. You've got a job.' "

Baskin hired two new workers last week and both, like his other 50 employees already on the Baskin payroll, all have jobs, he said. There will be no layoffs even though it will be months before the feed operation is fully operational again.

The feed portion of Baskin's business involves collecting waste from large bakeries operating throughout the Northeast, drying it (if it's not dry), separating it from packaging (if it's packaged) and grinding it into grain that can be used as feed for cows.

Baskin Livestock processes 1,500 tons of feed each week.

The company has hardly missed a beat since Thursday night's fire. Trucks keep bringing in waste product and Baskin has lined up agreements with three other similar operations to buy the waste Baskin collects and sell him back the finished feed, which he can then sell to his customers.

There's been some lost sales in the immediate aftermath of the fire, Baskin said, but the procurement side of the business has continued nonstop.

"Procurement is important because a place that is making cookies or donuts or cakes, if they can't get rid of their waste, they have to shut the plant down," Baskin said.

We may never know how the fire started.

The ignition point was somewhere in the area of the equipment that screens and separates material for feed.

"Was it in the fan, was it in the cyclone, was it in the compactor motor? I can't tell you, but that's where the fire started," Baskin said.

Ironically, Baskin was just four weeks from finishing the installation of new equipment that would have pretty muck taken the equipment where the fire started out of production.

"If that was the case (the new equipment in place), the part that failed, whatever part it was that failed, would not be in use," Baskin said.

Baskin hasn't sat down and totaled up the cost of the damage yet, he said, but it's probably approaching seven figures and could exceed a million dollars.

That doesn't count temporary lost sales and the big cut into profit margins while his feed is being processed in out-of-state plants.

The big unknown is how much damage the main building, the warehouse, sustained. It will take a battery of structural tests on the I-beams and foundation to determine if the building is still structurally sound.

"Our structural engineer who designed the building said it's all a function of how hot it got and how fast it cooled," Baskin said.

"You don't want to have a two-foot snowstorm," he added, "and have your roof sitting on your equipment."

The other irony of the fire, Baskin said, is it started in the screening area of the process, not with the burners.

The fire that severally damaged Baskin Livestock five years ago started in the burner and the current system is built with state-of-the-art fire-suppression technology.

If the burner detects even an errant spark it ejects the product being dryed onto a cement pad outside the building and the system is deluged with water.

"We've got so many safety features built in on the drying end because you figure you're running 1,400 or 1,500 degree burner to dry this feed, 25 million BTUs, with all kinds of opportunities for failure there, so everything is designed around that," Baskin said. "Then we've been running this (the screening area) for years without a problem and that's where the failure was."

Baskin had just climbed into bed when he got the call from an employee that there was a fire and when he and Susan looked out their window, they could see the glow.

Baskin jumped in his car and rushed to the plant. He immediately got an a skip loader and created a fire break in the warehouse, moving product on the floor away from the burners and the north side of the building to slow the opportunity for the fire to spread to those pieces of critical and expensive equipment.

When firefighters were on scene and had sufficient water supply, he implored them to fight an interior fight in the warehouse to keep the fire from spreading north, and the strategy appears to have worked.

Baskin is grateful for the support of so many people in the community, the close friends he and his wife, Susan Blackburn, have made in the 21 years they've lived here. He also praised the Bethany Fire Department in particular, but all of the departments that responded to the fire, for their hard work and dedication to their jobs.

Even his customers have set aside hard-nosed business negotiation to offer their support and express their desire to keep doing business with Baskin Livestock.

"The bakery people say we're glad you're OK because you're really important to us," Baskin said. "I've had customers say we can cut back a little bit but we really want to keep your product in our product flow. What can you so to help us get through until you're back full steam? It's gratifying that at the end, after you're done fighting over price, fighting over product, there's that kind of concern."

He's told his employees not to worry about their jobs, that Baskin Livestock will be a bigger and better company once the plant is fully functional again.

Baskin estimates the plant will be 75 percent operational by Christmas and up to 100 percent by March 1.

In an interview Monday, Bill Baskin was all business talking about his business, but when asked what was different or what was the same about this fire and the fire five years ago, Baskin said there was a key similarity between the two fires -- and this is when he got a tad emotional -- that nobody was hurt.

"I couldn't have been through it once, much less twice if anybody got hurt," Baskin said. "The rest of it can be replaced. It can be rebuilt and be bigger and better or whatever, but for me, that's the take home. Nobody got hurt."

Top photo: Bill Baskin, right, meeting with an insurance adjuster Monday afternoon.

Here's the slide show we published Friday morning of Thursday's fire:

Monday, November 11, 2013 at 4:05 am

Liberty Pumps introduces new compact system for residential sewage

post by Billie Owens in business, liberty pumps

Press release:

Bergen-based Liberty Pumps introduces the "ProVore," a compact system for residential sewage applications. The new ProVore 680 duplex system is powered by two 1 hp grinders pumps and features Liberty’s patented V-Slice cutter technology. This proven design easily shreds difficult solids -- such as feminine products, rags and other unwanted debris.

Operating on 115 or 230 volts, the system can be plugged into standard 20 amp home circuitry making installation easy! The compact system is only 24” tall and ships complete with an alternating pump control unit.

For more information contact Liberty Pumps at 1-800-543-2550 or visit the Web site at www.libertypumps.com.

Friday, November 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Cause of the Baskin Livestock fire not yet determined

post by Howard Owens in Baskin Livestock, Bethany, business, fire

There isn't much new to report from the overnight fire at Baskin Livestock in Bethany.  I was out to the property this afternoon and firefighters were on scene dealing with hotspots and flare-ups.

Bethany Fire Chief Jeff Fluker hadn't even been home since arriving on scene shortly after 11 p.m. last night. He started to leave early this morning and then there was a small fire that broke out in the cyclone (it separates packaging from discarded baked goods).

I interviewed Fluker, but my phone died in the middle of the conversation, so no direct quotes here, working off memory.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

The main structure is largely intact, but it's too soon to estimate the extent of the damage and how much of the feed-processing equipment was damaged, but some of it was damaged.

We spoke about the water supply, which was definitely a problem, but for a fire this size, he said, with three ladder trucks going, even a public water supply would have a hard time keeping up. It takes 10 tanker trucks to service one ladder truck.

Friday, November 8, 2013 at 4:40 am

Major fire causes severe damage to one of Genesee County's largest ag businesses

post by Howard Owens in agriculture, Baskin Livestock, Bethany, business

A lack of public water along Creek Road, Town of Bethany, hampered firefighting efforts at Baskin Livestock on Thursday night after a barn fire was reported just before 11 p.m.

Bethany, Town of Batavia, Alexander and Pavilion fire departments all responded quickly after their fire tones sounded, but as the Baskin barn burned, most of the firefighters on scene could only watch while they waited for tankers to arrive and porta ponds to be erected.

Baskin is one of the largest ag-related employers in Genesee County, with more than 100 workers. The company specializes in converting waste baked goods into animal feed.

Owner Bill Baskin is popular in the local business community, beloved by his employees and was named 2011 Agriculture Business of the Year.

The fire appears to have started in a barn-like structure where trucks pull in to be loaded with feed.

The structure was completely destroyed.

While the fire spread into the adjoining production facility, it's unclear how much damage was done.

At one point during the fire fight, Baskin was pleading with fire chiefs to send in a hand-line crew through a doorway on the north side of the processing building.

"I know my building," he said. "You can save it if you send a crew in here."

It took some minutes, but crews were sent into the building through that door. The fire was pretty much stopped at that point.

Paul Kennedy, a former Dansville firefighter, was among the first people to see and report the fire. He and a friend had been out hunting when they saw the smoke.

"The heater between the two big buildings was on fire," Kennedy said. "It wasn't much at first, but it turned into something quick with the wind."

Minutes after Kennedy arrived on scene Baskin arrived, and Kennedy helped him pull trucks away from the building and close the doors on the back of the building.

Bethany Assistant Chief John Szymkowiak said a lack of water definitely played a role in making the fire harder to fight and contain.

"This fire had a big head start on us," Szymkowiak said.

This is the second major fire at Baskin Livestock in just about five years. In 2008, Baskin suffered a serious fire, but did rebuild.

Fire companies from five counties -- Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming and Monroe -- responded to the fire or provided fill-in support at local fire halls. All but three departments in Genesee County -- Alabama, Pemborke and Indian Falls -- responded to the fire scene.

Ladder trucks for the town and City of Batavia along with Le Roy helped fight the fire.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

UPDATE Friday 9:07 a.m.: Bethany Fire is dispatched to Baskin Livestock for a cyclone fire.

UPDATE 10:29 a.m.: The fire was put out about 20 minutes ago but they are still working on dousing some hot spots.

UPDATE 11:33 a.m.: Mutual aid is called from Town of Batavia Fire Department to assist Bethany in fighting a sawdust fire in the rafters of a structure.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m.: A tanker from Attica is called to respond.

UPDATE 11:52 a.m.: A tanker from Stafford is requested.

UPDATE 12 p.m.: Aid from Alexander is requested.

(Initial Report)

Bill Baskin pleading with firefighters to use a hand-line crew on the north side of the building.

Baskin, far right, and an employee showing a chief the situation inside a doorway on the northside of the building.

Perhaps one of the largest porta pond operations ever assembled for a fire in Genesee County.

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