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Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Trustee will open Corfu village office tomorrow while return of staff remains uncertain

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu

The village office in Corfu will open tomorrow morning, but rather than being staffed by longtime Clerk Treasurer Sandra Thomas and assistant Denise Beal, Trustee Ken Lauer said he expects he will be answering phones and handling whatever business he can.

The trustees held a budget meeting Thursday night, but didn't address the clerk situation in public session.

After the meeting Lauer agreed to discuss the clerk issue and said the actual employment situation with Thomas and Beal has yet to be resolved.

He said he's hopeful they will return to work. He said he spoke with both of them Wednesday night and had "productive" conversations, but he all he knows is they are considering their options.

On Monday, Thomas and Beal filed a complaint through Lauer against Mayor Ralph Peterson, accusing Peterson of trying to pressure them into handing over their computer passwords.

On Wednesday, Peterson showed up at the village office and by the time he left, Thomas and Beal had packed up their belongings and turned in their keys.

Whether the two women were fired or walked out is a fact in dispute between Peterson and people who say they witnessed the exchange.

We initially tried to ask Peterson, after the meeting, about the clerk situation and he said he was done talking with The Batavian and silently packed up his briefcase.

Trustee Art Ianni said he had "no statement" on the matter.

The budget meeting was held entirely in closed session.

Prior to going into closed session, Peterson said the session was being held to discuss personnel matters, specifically to talk about salary considerations with the two highway department employees.

More than an hour later, the trustees emerged (some 10 minutes after the two employees had left the meeting) and reported to community members at the meeting what they had discussed.

Besides the two employees agreeing to a cut in pay, Peterson said the trustees also agreed to sell some surplus equipment, expecting to raise $26,000, and cut $3,000 from the equipment budget.

Resident Greg Lang objected to the non-personnel issues being discussed in closed session as a possible violation of the New York Open Meeting Law.

Ianni said, "You know how it is. You get into a discussion and it just starts to flow."

Lauer almost didn't make the meeting.

When the meeting was first called to order, Peterson said, "Where's Ken?"

After Peterson, Ianni and Keith Busch went into closed session, former trustee Al Graham called Lauer and when Graham came back in the room he said Lauer told him that Peterson had called him earlier to say the meeting was canceled.

Lauer confirmed later he did receive such a call from Peterson. He also said Peterson had tried calling him just prior to the meeting but didn't leave a message.

Once Lauer arrived, Lauer said that Peterson apologized, but didn't elaborate.

Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 8:51 am

Village of Corfu office remains closed this morning

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu

As some Corfu residents feared last night, the village office did not reopen this morning.

There's no word on when it might reopen.

Previously: Apparent blow up between Corfu mayor and employees has village administration in jeopardy

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Apparent blow-up between Corfu mayor and employees has village administration in jeopardy

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu

The big worry on the minds of a lot of people on Corfu tonight is, will their village office open in the morning?

An employment dispute between the mayor and the village clerk/treasurer and her assistant blew up this afternoon and depending on who you believe, the two employees were either fired or walked out.

Mayor Rosie Peterson would prefer to call the incident a misunderstanding, but people who say they were witnesses to whatever happened claim Peterson fired Sandra Thomas and Denise Beal.

What is certain by all accounts is that Thomas and Beal cleaned out their desks and turned in their keys this afternoon.

The event led Peterson to call an emergency meeting of the village board to try and figure out what to do.

Without a clerk and a treasurer, the village has no way to pay bills, issue paychecks, collect bill payments or deal with residents issues.

Three trustees and Peterson met at 7:30 p.m. and immediately went into closed session.

An hour later they emerged and Peterson said, "The result of our executive session is that we agree there was a misunderstanding today and as a board we reconciled the situation and we would like the office personnel to return to work."

Trustee Art Ianni said the board agreed that Thomas and Beal can come back to work, knowing that they will have jobs through the remainder of Peterson's term as mayor.

When asked if Thomas and Beal had agreed to stay on, Ianni said they had no choice under civil service law.

When a citizen pointed out that if they were fired, any such law wouldn't apply, Ianni said it was his understanding that they weren't fired and that it was just a "misunderstanding."

Trustee Ken Lauer said he attempted to contact Thomas and Beal during the closed session, but couldn't reach them.

So the board really doesn't know if Thomas and Beal will come back to work in the morning.

Former Trustee Al Graham said he witnesses the exchange between Peterson and the employees.

He said Peterson arrived at the village hall and asked both women to go into the conference room with him. When he attempted to close the door, Beal wouldn't let him, Graham said.

When Peterson asked why, Beal said, "I don't trust you."

Peterson then said, "Well, you might as well know, I am not going to reappoint you."

Under village law in New York, the mayor must reappoint certain key positions each year.

Beal asked, "are we being fired?" and according to Graham, Peterson said, "yes."

Thomas and Beal then began packing up their stuff and Peterson, he said, "started to back track," telling them they weren't fired and that they needed to say on the job.

About two dozen residents attended the emergency meeting and all of them seemed upset with Peterson.

Several citizens demanded that Peterson better explain his actions, but he said he had and that as he said, the whole affair was just a misunderstanding.

Peterson is only a few weeks into his new job as mayor after narrowly beating former mayor Todd Skeet in the last village election.

Lauer said his understanding of what happened was much like Graham explained, but he also knows that Peterson explained it as a misunderstanding.

"Rosie is definitely learning and moving along," Lauer said. "It's not an easy process and unfortunately, it plays havoc with people's lives.

"The thing is," he added, "we need to play together better. We have to learn to get along better and we're going to do that."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 8:52 am

Corfu trustees spend four sometimes testy hours Monday trying to untangle issues

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu

A lot of topics were covered in a four-hour meeting of the board of trustees for the Village of Corfu on Monday evening.

  • The board decided to move ahead with an upgrade to the sewer treatment plant in conjunction with the Town of Pembroke;
  • The board attempted to hire a new village attorney;
  • A former trustee wanted to know why newly elected Mayor Rosie Peterson called up his employer to ban him from the sewer plant (which he manages);
  • A current trustee said he received two written complaints from village employees about demands that they share their work computer passwords;
  • The trustee took up the topic of the police budget as part of an ongoing attempt to close a possible budget deficit.

So, we'll take these topics one at a time.

Sewer Treatment
Paul R. Chatfield, president of Chatfield Engineers, made a presentation on the proposal to expand the capacity of the Corfu waste treatment plant in conjunction with the Town of Pembroke.

Peterson (inset photo) said he asked for the presentation because he didn't believe village residents were ever given an opportunity to learn the cost of upgrading the sewer plant without involving Pembroke.

The plant was built 30 years ago and needs upgrades, but it's also handling only 65,000 gallons a day when it was originally designed to handle 135,000 gallons a day.

The cost of building in conjunction with Pembroke is nearly $1.7 million. The cost of Corfu going it alone is nearly $1.5 million.

However, the Department of Environmental Conservation grant to help pay for the project is contingent on Corfu and Pembroke working together on the project. The grant covers $1.1 million of the cost.

Plus Genesee County Economic Development Center is providing a $75,000 grant to the project, contingent on the project getting the DEC grant. 

Not factored into Chatfield Engineers' calculations is another $100,000 grant that has recently become available, but the village has yet to apply for it.

With the grants, the cost of the debt service for Corfu residents on a combined plant is 64 cents per 1,000 gallons, the cost of going it alone (and therefore no grants) is $4.66 per thousand gallons.

The cost of operations and maintenance also increases in the go-it-alone scenario from $286 per home per year to $397.

If the village were to go it alone, the average resident would pay $677 annually for sewer service while combining with Pembroke means an annual fee of $324 for that same household.

As Pembroke grows, the cost per household will decrease as the cost is shared by more property owners.

Pembroke High School is also facing potentially costly sewer upgrades, which the combined plant can help solve, but without the combined plant, the school district would need to raise district taxes to help pay for upgrades.

The trustees voted to have an attorney draft a resolution on issuing a bond to help pay for the Corfu/Pembroke project.

New Village Attorney
The trustees went into closed session with local attorney Kevin Earl to discuss whether to hire Earl as the new village attorney.

When the trustees came out of closed session, Trustee Keith Busch made a motion to hire. Trustee Art Ianni seconded the motion but said he wanted to discuss it. As soon as it was seconded, Peterson called the question and he, along with Busch, voted yes and Trustee Ken Lauer voted no.

Ianni then explained that he could support hiring Earl if former village attorney Mark Boylan was retained to handle the sewer project.

"I don't think having him jumping in when this all started four years ago is a good idea," Ianni said. "Writing letters and sending e-mails and going back and forth between two lawyers, that's a bad way to go."

Peterson said he agreed.

There was a little more discussion and then Peterson moved onto the next issue.

Ianni never cast a vote on the motion.

After the meeting Peterson and Sandra Thomas, village clerk, admitted the motion had not been properly handled and the issue will need to be on Thursday's agenda (when the board meets for further budget discussions).

Once the voting started on Busch's motion, it needed to be voted down before a new motion was made and it couldn't be amended at that point, plus Ianni never actually cast a vote on the motion.

Later in the meeting, former trustee Al Graham asked why Peterson wanted to replace Boylan. Peterson said, "One thing about this post, I do have some options available to me. This was a board decision and other board members voted also."

Peterson and Busch also said Earl's rates are lower than Boylan's.

Peterson's call to Al Graham's boss
The first topic raised during public comments was by former trustee Graham. He wanted to know why Peterson called his boss and told him Graham was banned from the sewer plant.

Graham's employer has the contract to run the sewer plant and Graham is a regional manager, overseeing the Corfu plant among others.

Peterson confirmed he made the call.

"I don't trust you," Peterson said.

Graham pressed the issue and Peterson repeated that he didn't trust Graham and said nothing more.

Tim Skeet, brother of former mayor Todd Skeet, asked, "so you're going to run the village on gut feeling?"

Peterson said he felt like he had been verbally punched in the mouth a few times by Graham and that's why he didn't trust him.

"This village board was elected by the people of the community and the board is who actually makes the decisions," Peterson said. "The mayor is the manager of the organization, so when we talk about actual management of the village, the mayor is the manager. The board makes all of the decisions."

During public comments, it was noted that there will be a change in how disposal of large items will be handled in the village from now on. For years, residents could drop off items at a roll-off container once a month. With the new budget, the expense is being trimmed, and the roll-off will be available only once a year, in June.

Employee Complaints
Lauer said in the absence of the deputy mayor, who is out of town, village employees Thomas and Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Denise Beal, filed written complaints with him about Peterson demanding the passwords to their work computers.

Obtaining the password, it was noted, would allow Peterson to alter files without being detected.

Peterson said he was merely trying to learn as much as he could about what has been going on with the village and why it's in the shape it's in.

"All I'm trying to do is find out what's going on this village," Peterson said. "I get criticized for not knowing anything, but then when I try to figure out what's going on I get criticized. It's one of those things where I'm learning. I guess some people are born with all the knowledge they need to know when they need to know it at that point in time. Unfortunately, I'm not that gifted."

Multiple sources have confirmed with The Batavian that earlier, after Peterson began trying to obtain passwords to village computers, officials from the NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct had seized the village court's computers. The commission is conducting an investigation into the conduct of former Village Justice Robert Alexander, who presided over the court when at least $10,000 in court fines and bail money allegedly disappeared.

As to the possible connection after the meeting between Peterson trying to obtain passwords and the seizure of the court computers, Peterson said it was the first he was hearing about the seizure and he had no comment.

When the former mayor asked during this portion of the meeting what was going to be done with the employee complaints, Peterson told him the time for public comment was over and he couldn't speak.

It was the only time during the entire meeting in which a specific member of the public was told he or she couldn't speak.

With the election of a new justice, Peterson must appoint an acting justice. The acting justice is required by village law so there is a justice is available to fill in when the elected justice is not available.

The acting justice, if the person has no prior experience, must take a state-mandated class. That class is being offered this week.

Peterson said he needs more time to think about it.

Some village residents expressed concern that Peterson is delaying so he can appoint Alexander to the acting justice position.

Police Budget
The bottom line is the police budget is being reduced from $170,000 to $137,000.

After a long discussion about the budget, in which Officer Gene Nati and Peterson discussed how to make the police department more profitable, the board went into closed session -- even though the closed session wasn't previously announced on the agenda -- with Police Administrator Sgt. James Meier.

After the closed session, Peterson announced that Meier had offered to take an $8,000 annual cut in pay.

Meier receives a salary to work 20 hours a week overseeing the part-time village police force.

After the meeting, Meier, who is employed full-time with the Sheriff's Office, confirmed he made the offer because he does have a full-time job and other village employees need their present jobs. He hopes by taking a pay cut it will help protect those jobs.

During the meeting Nati pressed the board to eliminate the administrator position.

He provided a break down of revenue for the village from traffic tickets and said the number of tickets written from 2008 to 2012 declined, and so did revenue. Nati believes the police department has gone from a revenue generator to a money loser in that time frame.

"The giant elephant in the room when you look at the village numbers and do the cost comparison from 2008 to now is that one officer accounts for 23 percent of the patrol budget but generate's zero dollars in revenue," Nati said.

Peterson asked Meier if he would be willing, in addition to his administrative duties, to go on patrol and write tickets and Meier gave a one word answer, "no."

Nati pushed for more patrol hours.

"Keep in mind," Nati said, "that every hour an officer doesn't work he doesn't generate any revenue."

Peterson said what he would like to do is cut patrol hours, but then concentrate those hours during times when traffic is going to Darien Lake.

If the patrols generate a profit, then the additional revenue can be used to fund more hours for officers.

Budget Deficit
At the start of the budget discussion, Peterson said the village still had a $211,000 budget deficit to close.

The village anticipates $530,000 in revenue with current expenses, before additional budget talks, at $741,00.

If those numbers were to hold, the village would need to raise property taxes from $2.90 per thousand to $7.19 per thousand.

Peterson said it's up to village residents to decide if they want to make the expense cuts necessary to balance the budget or accept a tax increase.

The trustees will discuss the budget again on Thursday and on Friday.

Monday, April 8, 2013 at 8:51 am

Law and Order: Rochester duo jailed after allegedly shoplifting from Walmart

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bergen, corfu, crime, Darien, pembroke

Michael B. Collier, 50, of Gladstone Street, Rochester, and Stephen J. Wood, 60, of West Main Street, Rochester, are charged with petit larceny. Collier and Wood are accused of shoplifting at Walmart. Collier was arraigned and turned over to the Orlean's County Sheriff's Office on a warrant and Wood was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Brandon L. Doward, 28, of 125 Liberty St., lowor, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Doward is accused of pushing a woman to the ground during an argument. He was jailed on $750 bail.

Diana L. Bloom, 55, of 117 State St., lower, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Bloom is accused of shoplifting at the Hess Mart, corner of West Main and Oak streets, Batavia.

Harry J. Hall, 46, of Pine Tree Drive, Poughkeepsie, is charged with possession of untaxed cigarettes, plate obstructed and driver's view obstructed. Hall was allegedly found with 24 cartons of untaxed cigarettes during at traffic stop by Deputy Chris Parker at 10:01 a.m., Sunday, on Route 77, Pembroke.

Mitchell Scott Lindbergh, 44, of Chairfactory Road, Elma, is charged with stalking, 4th. Lindbergh is accused of repeated contact with a person in Darien he had been told to leave alone.

Brian Lee Smith, 51, of Colonial Blvd., Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Smith is accused of violating an order of protection by contacting the protected party via e-mail.

Dennis Andrew O'Neal, 25,of Alleghany Road, Corfu, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. O'Neal is accused of punching holes into the drywall of a house in Corfu.

Andrew Richard Bastiano, 26, of Sumner Street, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and operating with inadequate lights. Bastiano was stopped at 10:59 p.m., Friday, on Townline Road, Bergen, by Deputy Jason Saile.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

Law and Order: 80-year-old Corfu man accused of stalking

post by Billie Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, Le Roy

Lawrence Bruce Cawker, 80, of Main Road, Corfu, is charged with stalking in the 4th degree. He allegedly followed a female victim around her workplace, sent numerous cards to her, left packages at her residence, and made numerous inappropriate comments to her. According to the Sheriff's Office report, this persistent conduct continued after the defendant was repeatedly told to cease such conduct and has placed the victim in fear of her and her family's safety. He is to be arraigned at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 25, in Le Roy Town Court.

Darcy Lynn Booth, 19, of Hill Street, Hornell, is charged with unlawful possession of alcohol and fraudulent procurement of alcohol by means of a fake ID, following a physical confrontation that reportedly occurred while at Walmart in Batavia. It is alleged that Booth was in possession of a bottle of liquor and the ID of a person over the age of 21. She was issued an appearance ticket and is to be arraigned at 1 p.m. April 29 in Batavia Town Court.

Margaret Isabel Clancy, 19, of Meadowbrook Road, Arkport, is charged with driving while intoxicated, driving with a BAC of .08 Percent or higher, and consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle. On March 27, following the investigation of a harassment complaint that happened on Veterans Memorial Drive in the Town of Batavia, Clancy was arrested on the charges after she was allegedly involved in a physical altercation with another person while operating a motor vehicle in an allegedly intoxicated condition. She was issued an appearance ticket for Batavia Town Court and is to appear there at 1:30 p.m. on April 18.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Brawl in parking lot in Corfu

post by Billie Owens in corfu, crime

A fight involving multiple subjects is reported at 77 E. Main St., east of Meadowbrook Terrace, in Corfu. Sheriff's deputies are on scene and State Troopers are en route.

UPDATE 3:44 p.m.: A deputy says things have calmed down and it's possible no charges will be pending. State Troopers are told they can back it down.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Commercial building on fire on Route 20, Darien

post by Billie Owens in corfu, Darien, fire

A working fire is reported at M&M Fabricating at 1606 Broadway Road (Route 20) in Darien. There are multiple hazards on the site of this commercial building, including a number of propane tanks which some neighbors report have exploded. The fire has already gone through the roof of the building. Darien Fire Department is responding along with mutual aid from Corfu and Alden.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: Mercy medics are heading to the scene in case they are needed. The location is west of Colby Road. The fire has gone to a second alarm. There have been multiple 9-1-1 calls reporting this incident.

UPDATE 2:52 p.m.: Alexander is called in along with the city's Fast Team.

UPDATE 2:56 p.m.: Fire police are told to shut down westbound traffic at routes 20 and 238.

UPDATE 3 p.m.: At the fire scene itself, Route 20 is shut down in both directions.

UPDATE 3:07 p.m.: Bennington is sending in a truck. National Grid is notified.

UPDATE 3:24 p.m.: A ladder truck from the Town of Batavia Fire Department is called to provide mutual aid.

UPDATE 3:36 p.m.: All interior crews are ordered out of the building. Sheriff's deputies are on scene, too.

UPDATE 3:35 p.m.: National Grid is on scene.

UPDATE 3:46 p.m.: Wyoming Correctional Facility inmates are enlisted to help out.

UPDATE 7:02 p.m.: Town of Batavia Fire returning, back in service.

UPDATE 8:04 p.m.: A backhoe is being brought in to start peeling back the metal roof on the building, "not to knock it in," a chief says. Monroe County Water Authority requested to the scene to shut off water to the building.

UPDATE 9:10: p.m.: Westbound Route 20 is open.

UPDATE 9:39 p.m.: Route 20 opened in both directions.

UPDATE 9:42 p.m.: All units back in service.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Challengers oust incumbents in Village of Corfu election

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu

By two votes, Ralph Peterson has won the mayoral election in the Village of Corfu over incumbent Todd Skeet.

Peterson and Skeet have clashed for more than a year over administration of the village court and operation of the village police department.

Peterson garnered 99 votes today and Skeet received 97 votes.

Incumbent Al Graham lost his bid for reelection as a trustee with 82 votes. David Bielec got 121 votes and Keith Busch 115.

Both Peterson, Bielec and Busch ran on the Corfu United Party. Busch also had the Democratic endorsement.

Skeet was endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats, Graham was on the GOP line.

The two incumbents were often aligned on disputes with Peterson over administration of the court and police department.

David O’Connor ran unopposed for village justice and received 136 votes.

UPDATE: Elba's results.

Remaining one-year term for Mayor:
Scott Schuler     54 Votes
Michael Welch   30 Votes
Remaining two-year term Trustee
Denis Rohan      64 Votes  
Two-year term Trustee  
Steve Hynes-Fisher  57 Votes
Four-year term Trustee
Raymond Hackett     65 Votes


Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Five young women named to dean's list at Elmira College

post by Billie Owens in batavia, corfu, elba, Le Roy, Milestones, Oakfield

Elmira College has released its dean's list for Academic Acievement for the Fall 2012 term. The dean's list recognizes students that have a grade-point average of 3.6 or higher.

Alicia Hough ('13) of Elba, is majoring in Business Administration.

Megan Lowe ('13), of Le Roy, is majoring in Adolescence Education: Mathematics.

Jessica Pcionek ('15), of Oakfield, is majoring in Childhood Education and Foreign Languages French.

Amy Schmidt ('15), of Batavia, is majoring in International Studies.

Brittany Schmidt ('15), of Corfu, is majoring in History and Classical Studies.

Elmira College, located in the Finger Lakes Region of beautiful, historic Upstate New York, is one of the great small colleges of the nation. To learn more about what Elmira College has to offer, navigate to www.elmira.edu or call 800-935-6472 to schedule your visit to Elmira College.

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