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Howard B. Owens's blog

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 10:00 pm

FAQ and Help for The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in help, thebatavian

The following links are designed to help you better understand how things work on The Batavian.

 

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

Inmate transports essentially ties up four full-time deputies, so legislators exploring options

post by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail

Deputies spent 8,544 hours on inmate transports in 2013.

Most of those transports involve shuttling female inmates from Genesee County to jails in other counties that can house female prisoners (something the local jail was never designed to do).

Some of those transports involve taking inmates too and from court and too and from doctor's appointments.

Those 8,544 hours equal more than 1,000 eight-hour shifts, or about 213 weeks of work for a deputy working five, eight-hour shifts a week.

In other words, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office is using the equivalent of four full-time deputies to move prisoners from one location to another.

Rather than spending their time out on road patrol fighting crime and assisting residents, deputies are stuck behind the wheel of a police cruiser driving on roads far from Genesee County.

Not coincidently, Sheriff Gary Maha is planning to request adding four new deputies to the department in 2016.

Members of the Legislature are asking if there isn't a better way?

Options were the topic of discussion during a budget session in the Old Courthouse on Wednesday.

With Undersheriff William Sheron, Jail Superintendent William Zipfel and Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble in attendance, legislators talked about whether it would be best to hire a part-time staff to transport inmates or try to expand teleconferencing for court appearances.

"We're looking for some middle ground where we might be able to get these deputies back to where they belong," said Ray Cinanfrini, chairman of the Legislature.

A few part-timers, who would have the flexibility to meet the demands of unpredictable transport needs, would cost less than hiring new full-time deputies, though no analysis has been done yet on the cost.

Sheron said the part-times were still need to be sworn police officers, but their duties could be limited to transports.

At a previous meeting, legislators suggested hiring a private security company with bonded guards, but Sheron said the inmates need to remain under the custody of the Sheriff at all times for legal and liability reasons.

In an era of expanding technology, teleconferencing seems to be an option.  Thanks to a state grant received two years ago, the jail already has a room set up for teleconferencing.

It's never been used.

Local courts have resisted the teleconferencing option, but Cianfrini said maybe its time to start pushing local justices and defense attorneys to use the system.

Sheron said it would be helpful if all the local courts ended night court proceedings and scheduled all appearances during the day.

No decisions were made Wednesday.

As the current proposed 2015 county budget stands, property taxes would be reduced from $10.04 per thousand to $9.86.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Officers respond to report of youths breaking into cars on Kibbe Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A caller reported seeing youths trying to break into cars on Kibbe Avenue, and seconds later said they were leaving the area at a high rate of speed, heading southeast on South Jackson Street.

Within a minute, a patrol stopped a vehicle with two or three occupants.

The officers were attempting to question them.

On a car-to-car transmission, one officer drolly tells another, "they have no idea who they are."

The individuals are being separated for further interviews.

At the same time, officers are tracking individuals who are going through one of the cemeteries on Harvester Avenue. A K-9 is on scene.

UPDATE 10:45 p.m.: Both incidents are related. A total of six people are involved. When Batavia police officers pulled over a pickup truck to question the driver about the Kibbe complaint, two passengers fled the vehicle on foot and were seen going into the cemetery. The cemetery area is cordoned off; the K-9 was taken off leash to hunt for the two suspects. One has been apprehended; the other remains at large. Three additional passengers remained inside the truck; one is a female who appears to be in her teens. One of the males at large is described as white, about 15 years old, with a thin build.

UPDATE 11:23 p.m.: Batavia PD is still on scene questioning two individuals. One individual remains at large. Police located a GPS unit in the vehicle are are trying to determine if it's stolen. We don't anticipate any further updates tonight unless there's a significant development.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Photo: Hydrant flushing on Richmond Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

Heading toward the incident on Lewiston Road this morning, while heading down Richmond, when I got to Union Avenue, I came upon City firefighters in the midst of hydrant flushing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Realtors donate $10K to Mercy Flight

post by Howard B. Owens in Mercy Flight

Members of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors visited the Mercy Flight hangar at the Genesee County Airport today to present $10,000 in donations to the agency raised through golf a tournament sponsored by the association.

Representing the realtors were John Leonardi, Christy Rothschild, Joe Rivelino, Sharon Ciminelli, Dorreen Fahey, Debbie Norman, Rebecca VanDorn, Diana Carney and Lynn Gleason.  On hand from Mercy Flight were Lynn O'Donnell, Michael Setaro, Jason Miles, Ross Feinmann, Samantha Ryan, Jeff Bartkowski and Taryn White (listed not by picture order).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Law and Order: Warrant suspect located in cemetery

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bergen, crime

Ted E. Kingsley, 42, of Prune St., Batavia, was arrested on a bench warrant. Responding to a tip that Ted Kingsley, wanted on a City Court warrant, was residing at 11 Prune St., Batavia. Patrols responded to the residence but were unsuccessful in locating Kingsley. Patrols checked the surrounding area, including the cemeteries on Harvester Avenue. During the check, a subject identified as Kingsley was seen running through Batavia Cemetery. Officers gave chance and Kingsley eventually stopped on request of a police officer and he was taken into custody without incident. Kingsley was jailed on $100,000 cash bail.  (Photo: Monday's arrest in the Batavia Cemetery submitted by Jim Woodhams III.)

Maleak H. Green, 21, of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 1st, harassment 2nd, crimina obstruction of breathing and unlawful imprisonment.  No details released on the alleged incident, reported at 1:20 a.m.  Green was jailed on $10,000 bail.

Christina L. Fox, 26, of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Fox is accused of stealing the property of somebody she knows.

Samantha L. Hicks-O'Connell, 27, of Ellsworth Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child, aggravated unlicensed operation 2nd, unlicensed operation and back seat passenger under age 16 without a safety belt. Hicks-O'Connell was stopped at 5:34 p.m, Oct. 8, on Liberty Street, by Officer Jason Ivison after a complaint was received of a female driving a pickup truck with a 10-year-old child riding in the back.

Neal Anthony Sendlak, 25, of Harlem Road, Amherst, is charged with possession of a hypodermic instrument, operation of an unregistered motor vehicle and no seat belt. Sendiak was stopped at 3:50 p.m., Tuesday, on Lewiston Road, Batavia, by Deputy Joseph Corona for alleged traffic violations.

Curtis Lamont Williams, 34, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, was arrested for an alleged Family Court Act violation, failure to pay child support. Williams was arraigned in Family Court and released because his child support is almost up to date.  He was ordered to return to court Nov. 10.

Ronald Warran Sloat, 73, of Godfreys Pond Road, Bergen, is charged with trespass. Sloat is accused of failure to leave another person's property after being told several times to leave.

Bruce Devan Reid, 52, of Saint Paul Street, Rochester, is charged with possession of burglar tools and attempted petit larceny. Reid is accused of possession of tools that would have helped him steal items from parked cars. He was jailed on $4,000 bail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Closure of crossing on 262 postponed

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, csx, railroad

CSX has postponed its planned closure of the crossing on Route 262 in Bergen.

The closure had been scheduled to start tomorrow.

No new closure date has been announced.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Batavia Teachers Association hosts health fair

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Teachers' Association, health

A couple dozen vendors participated today in a community health fair at the Batavia Middle School sponsored by Batavia Teachers' Association.

Above, Jen Housknecht gives a zumba demonstration class. Below, a visit with the booth for Genesee Dental.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm

The problem of distressed properties complex and easy solutions elusive

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, abandoned properties

There are an estimated 53 vacant and abandoned homes in the City of Batavia, which creates a drain on city resources, brings down property values for neighbors and are black holes in local economic growth.

It's a problem.

How we go about solving that problem was the subject of a 45-minute talk Monday evening by City Manager Jason Molino.

Forty-five minutes. It's that complicated of a problem.

The city can't legally seize the properties, except for the nine or so that are falling behind in property taxes, and with banks that hold mortgages leaving the properties in legal limbo, there's no way for the city to enforce code violations.

Fixing the problem will take a mixture of tactics: research to locate responsible title holders; trying to locate mortgage holders and convince them to move the title one way or another; convincing Albany legislators to change state law regarding abandoned properties; and creating programs locally to make upgrading abandoned homes more economically feasible. 

It's relatively easy to identify which homes in the city have been abandoned. They've stopped using city water.

The 53 homes believed to be abandoned have been vacant an average of three and a half years.

On average, they've generated five visits each year while vacant from code enforcement officers, and one police patrol response per year.

The code enforcement efforts cost taxpayers about $8,000 per year.

Often, the code enforcement citations result in no action because the previous owner who occupied the property can't be located. And though a bank or mortgage holder is continuing to pay taxes on the property, the bank hasn't taken title so it can't be held legally accountable for code violations.

Molino said there's no one answer, and no firm reason is really known, as to why banks don't take title on abandoned properties.

It could be that a large institution is dealing with so many mortgages, nobody is even aware a particular property is on its loan rolls or is abandoned. It could be the company is dealing with so many abandoned properties, some fall through the cracks. It could be that a bank is so bogged down by bureaucracy that it takes years to deal with the paperwork of an abandoned property. It could be the bank has no financial incentive, and some disincentives, to deal with the property.

"We really have to dig into that issue," Molino said. "That's one of the things we really need to look into in the coming months to really understand who are all the lending institutions and why are they not moving on title.  ...  We really need to get a good understanding of that, because everything hinges on moving title for these properties."

Once a property is back on the market -- either the bank puts it up for sale or auction or the city somehow obtains title -- it becomes subject to the market forces that determine value and the value of restoration.

Molino spent some time explaining supply and demand as it relates to the local housing market.

Since 1960, Batavia has lost 2,700 residents. At the same time, there has been a slight increase in housing stock. During the same time period, people have become more mobile, thinking nothing of driving 20 or 30 minutes to work or an hour and a half to outlet stores. As time as passed, Batavia's housing stock has also aged.

All of this affects the value of properties, the interest of people in living in a place like Batavia, and the affordability of remodeling and restoration.

While there are economic growth activities in and around the city that could lead to more jobs, a population boom isn't necessarily a given.

"Obviously, we'd love to have another 2,000 or 3,000 people come back in the city and increase the demand for housing stock," Molino said. "Realtors would love it. People would be demanding houses and prices would go up. Truth is, that's probably not practical."

Even if economic growth doesn't bring a few thousand more people to Batavia, economic growth is still vital to increasing the value of homes locally.

"If that median income number doesn't go up, then you're limiting your ability to do things, and we can't do a lot of what we want to do or achieve what we want to achieve," Molino said.

What we need, he says, is enough growth to fill the housing stock we have, and then make it economically viable for owner-occupants or speculators to buy and invest in those properties.

Molino used the example of a house currently valued at $50,000. With upgrades, its value might rise to $75,000, but a modernization and restoration project might cost $45,000. That means the owner would need to sink $95,000 into a property that wouldn't be worth more than $75,000 when ready for occupancy.

That's where "gap financing" tools come into play. There are various government programs available. A single program the city could create -- laws would need to be changed by Albany to make it possible -- would allow for abated taxes on the increase in assessed value.

If the assessment goes up by $25,000, the city would tax only on the original $50,000 for the first eight years after restoration, foregoing tax revenue on that $25,000.

That makes economic sense for the city, Molino said, when you consider that's only $230 annually on a property that may currently be costing the city more than $1,000 annually on code enforcement, law enforcement, and lost fees for a property that is abandoned and vacant. Moreover, if a family lived in that home, it would generate from $10,000 to $20,000 in local buying power.

The state needs to pass legislation that would allow Batavia and other cities to create such a program.

Changesare also needed in the laws giving cities more power to deal with banks who let abandoned homes sit fallow, so to speak.

Some of these homes may not be worth saving, Molino acknowledged. While the city may not want to seek demolition of all abandoned homes, some may need to go. That will be a policy decision for the city to make as it learns more about the abandoned housing stock locally.

In the bigger picture, home values are also affected by things related to quality of life, and those, too, are issues the city is taking steps to address or needs to address as part of strategic planning, Molino said.

"When somebody wants to invest on a street," Molino said, "are they going to want to invest on a street on a street that has potholes? Are they going to want to invest on a street that has sidewalks that are turned up? Are they going to want to invest on a street where the neighbors don't talk with each other? Are they going to want to invest on a street where they've got to pay another $1,500 in flood insurance? Who wants to invest there? They don't."

Among Molino's recommendations is creating a home expo, which would bring together representatives of all the various private, government and nonprofit agencies that offer assistance to owners of distressed properties. There's several programs available, but few people know what they all are. Giving residents that kind of information, Molino said, might spur activity that would lead to better housing stock.

Molino's presentation was video-recorded by Alecia Kaus and will be posted to the city's Web site at a later date.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

Photos: BDC recognizes businesses that successfully complete loan program

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

During Monday's meeting of the Batavia City Council, three local businesses were honored by the Batavia Development Corp.

Each received a plaque in recognition of the owners' successful completion of a loan program that helped them expand or grow their businesses.

Above, Susan Francis, owner of The Color Salon, with the her husband John Zola, receiving a plaque from Ray Chaya, a member of the BDC Board, Council President Brooks Hawley, and BDC VP Gregg Torrey.

Steve Mullen, owner of Larry's Steakhouse.

Mary Valle, co-owner of Valle Jewelers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:30 am

Possible transformer explosion reported on State Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

A possible transformer explosion is reported in the area of 235 State St., Batavia.

City fire responding.

UPDATE 9:37 a.m.: A problem was found with a transformer, but no sparks or smoke. National Grid needs to be notified.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m.: City fire back in service.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 8:52 am

Flooding at UMMC closes lab, which leads to emergency room shutdown

post by Howard B. Owens in UMMC

A basement flooding issue has forced UMMC to close its emergency room this morning, which requires any emergency patients to be diverted to the next closest hospital.

The flooding took out equipment in the lab, according to Colleen Flynn, spokeswoman for UMMC.

Most other departments remain operational, though surgery is delayed two hours.

The flooding was caused by a water line break.

There's no estimated time when the ER might reopen.

Some of the equipment that is off-line will need to be reinspected by manufacturer reps before it can be operational again.

An operational lab is essential to keep the ER open, Flynn said.

UPDATE 11:43 a.m.: UMMC's emergency room is no longer closed. It is open, fully operational and has resumed normal patient care capabilities.

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Ranzenhofer responds to ham-handed mailer from teachers union

post by Howard B. Owens in Mike Ranzenhofer, politics

Perhaps you've seen this campaign mailer attacking Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer. 

The Ranzenhofer campaign issued a statement about it today:

Albany's special interests are at it again. This time, a powerful teachers union is attacking a legislative idea suggested by a group of fourth-grade students and their teacher. It's ironic that the union representing teachers is attacking a legislator for getting a law passed to make yogurt the official state snack when students at Byron-Bergen Elementary School first requested it. What is even more bizarre is that the political mailing is filled with a myriad of spelling errors. It misspells loses ("looses"), Ranzenhofer ("Razenhofer"), the Town of Batavia ("Batvia") and the yogurt manufacturer, Alpina ("Aplina"). If the union handed in this political attack to be graded, it would be returned with red ink all over it with a note to keep practicing spelling. Teachers union candidate Elaine Altman should give it a failing grade.

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Rail crossing closure planned for Route 262 in Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens says he was notified late Monday afternoon by CSX that there will be a rail grade crossing closure on Townline Road (Route 262) in Bergen from Thursday morning through Saturday afternoon.

The detour is Jerico Road to Route 33 to Route 19.

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 4:09 pm

State Police arrest Darien Center man following report of burglary in progress in Clarence

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien
Casey Lafleur

Dispatched to investigate a burglary in progress on Main Street in Clarence, troopers spotted a man they believed was fleeing north from Main Street.

Casey L. Lafleur, 24, of Darien Center, was stopped and later arrested.

Lafleur allegedly entered an unlocked enclosed port and went into the residence through a closed, locked door, causing damage to the doorway. He then left the residence, police said.

He is charged with criminal trespass, 2nd, criminal trespass and criminal mischief, 4th.

Lafleur was arraigned in Clarence Town Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Batavia to receive $750K for bike path in city

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

The governor's office has announced a $750,000 grant for a community bike trail in the City of Batavia.

From the press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced approximately $70 million in awards to fund 68 bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use path transportation projects in New York. The projects, funded by the Federal Highway Administration and which leverage a total investment of $103.7 million, will promote walking and biking, and boost tourism and economic development opportunities in dozens of communities across the state.

"These projects will help communities become more walkable and bicycle friendly, as well as show off the natural beauty that exists in every corner of this state,” Governor Cuomo said. “I thank the Federal Highway Administration and our representatives for helping the state secure this funding so that residents and visitors alike can enjoy New York like never before."

The projects include the addition of accessible sidewalks, improved pedestrian access to public transportation services, construction of new bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and the preservation and conversion of abandoned railroad corridors for trail use.

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said, "We are investing in projects that meet the increasing public demand for walkable and bikeable communities, while promoting sustainable transportation alternatives, tourism and recreation, and local and regional economic development. Governor Cuomo has shown a historic commitment to investing in transportation infrastructure in New York State, including making bicycle and pedestrian safety a priority."

The funds are made available to the State through the Federal Highway Administration and are administered by the State Department of Transportation. The program provides up to 80 percent of the cost of each project, with the remaining share coming from the project sponsor. The funds are dedicated for strategic investments in transportation alternatives and with a local sponsor match of more than $33.6 million, support a total investment of nearly $103.7 million.

The projects announced today were chosen through a competitive solicitation process and rated on established criteria that included public benefit and community support for the project; connectivity to an existing transportation system; how well the proposed improvements benefit walking and bicycling; impact on local or regional economies; availability of matching funds; and ability to deliver the project within federally required timeframes. (A total of) 135 applications were received.

Selected projects relate to one or more of the following categories: on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized forms of transportation; infrastructure-related projects and systems that provide safe routes for non-drivers to access daily needs; use of abandoned railroad corridors for surface-transportation related trails; scenic byway turnouts and viewing areas; safe routes to school; construction of boulevards and complete streets thoroughfares; and storm water management related to highway runoff.

The full press release goes on to list the other projects in the state.

UPDATE: The DOT sent over this supplemental information about the Batavia project.

  • City of Batavia: Healthy Schools Corridor: $720,657 -- Sidewalks on Summit Street, Liberty Street, South Liberty Street and Washington Avenue; Benefits schools and businesses.
Monday, October 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm

GCEDC approves amended purchase agreement for insurance auction house in Bergen

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

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved an application for an amended purchase agreement for Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. (IAA) at its Oct. 27 board meeting.

“Even before IAA has put a shovel in the ground, the company is already expanding its footprint which bodes well for our region in terms of jobs and continued economic development in Genesee County,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC.

In June, the GCEDC board accepted IAA’s offer to purchase 30 acres at Apple Tree Acres. During the company’s due diligence period, IAA’s engineers discovered that more useable acres were required to meet the long-term objectives of the company. The GCEDC and the Town of Bergen worked with IAA to increase the proposed site to 36.2 acres. The Apple Trees Acres Corporate Park is a 119-acre site in the Town of Bergen located on routes 33 and 19.

“IAA is committed to expanding its presence in communities where there is strong customer demand,” said John Kett, CEO and president of IAA. “We look forward to being part of the Bergen community, and thank the GCEDC board for approving this application, which will enable us to better serve our customers and providers in the area.”

Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc., (IAA) is the leading live and live-online North American salvage vehicle auction company with the most auction facilities footprint in North America. The company is committed to providing customers with the highest level of services and has more than 160 auction facilities across the United States and Canada offering towing, financing and titling services. IAA provides registered buyers from around the globe with millions of opportunities to bid on and purchase donated and salvaged vehicles.

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