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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.

 

Friday, October 31, 2014 at 10:00 am

Efforts to dissolve village government in Corfu moving forward

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu

The winds of dissolution are blowing strong in the Village of Corfu.

There's been a committee formed, consultants are advising, documents are being prepared and trustees are talking the talk.

If the wind doesn't change direction, inside of two years, there will be no Village of Corfu, just a Town of Pembroke with a quaint little hamlet centered around the intersection of routes 33 and 77.

We'll still call it Corfu, but life will be different, but how different are among the details to be worked out.

Right now, it looks like the property taxes paid by village residents to maintain their current small government will vanish. Whether special districts need to be formed for sidewalks and lighting is an open question. Some village employees would be out of work, others positions would be shifted to the Town of Pembroke.

What Corfu would do for part-time police service is still under study, but committee members and the few residents who attended the committee's meeting last night seem to favor a contract with the Sheriff's Office for extra patrols.

The four trustees in Corfu (there is currently no mayor) are unanimously behind the dissolution effort, said Trustee and Deputy Mayor Dave Bielec.

"The population of the village is reducing tremendously," Bielec said. "We lost 100 people roughly since the last census. We've lost some businesses. We don't have much in the village anymore at all. Plus, the state is kind of pushing this a little bit, so there's some benefits for us there."

The committee was formed in April and has been meeting monthly. The Department of State has been providing a staff member as a free-to-the-village consultant.  

The list of considerations is long. It's no simple matter dissolving a village. There are laws that need to be changed or taken off the books, planning and zoning boards to wind down, decisions to be made about dealing with village records and documents, issues to be resolved around any existing village debt, plans to be made for maintenance issues and property to transfer.

The committee is in the midst of drafting a dissolution plan to present to village residents.

The residents would need to vote at some point on whether to eliminate their local government.

The plan probably will not be ready for a vote prior to the regular village election in March, so the vote would come at a later date.

The earliest the village could be dissolved would be Dec. 31, 2016.

Pembroke Town Councilman Ed Arnold, who is a member of the dissolution committee, said so far his fellow board members have been supportive of dissolution, but it's not like the town has a lot of choice in the matter.

The decision to dissolve or not is entirely a village decision, and if voters choose that route, the jurisdiction becomes part of the town regardless.

The town's participation at this point is about ensuring an orderly transition.

"If the village says this is what it wants to do, really from our end, that's what we need to follow through with," Arnold said. "What we're trying to do is be involved with it, seeing what are the concerns of the residents of the village and then seeing how we an incorporate that into the town side of it. But really, if the village says yes, we want to dissolve, we have to pick it up one way or the other."

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Time coming to change your clocks and change your batteries

post by Howard B. Owens in City Fire

Press release: 

The City of Batavia Fire Department is joining nearly 6,000 fire departments nationwide in promoting the annual Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries campaign on Sunday, Nov. 2.

Fire Prevention Officer Lt. Jeff Whitcombe encourages all residents to adopt the simple, lifesaving habit of changing smoke alarm batteries along with the batteries in carbon monoxide (CO) detectors when they change their clocks back from daylight savings time to standard time.

“It’s an easy, inexpensive and proven way to protect your family and your home,” Whitcombe said.

Since 1987 the International Association of Fire Chiefs has joined forces with Energizer batteries to spread the message that non-working smoke alarms are responsible for needless death and injuries. Now 27 years later, thanks to the change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries campaign, home fire deaths continue to decline.

Recent surveys conducted for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Consumer Products Safety Commission found that 96 percent of all homes have at least one smoke alarm, but only 75 percent have at least one working smoke alarm. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Smoke alarm failures usually result from missing or dead batteries or disconnected wires. The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most families are sleeping. A working smoke alarm can provide the critical extra seconds needed to get people out safely.

According to the NFPA, the maximum life cycle of a smoke alarms and CO detectors is 10 years from the date of manufacture, not the date of installation. Beginning in 2002, all smoke detectors must have a manufacture date marked on the outside of the smoke alarm. If your smoke alarm does not have a manufacture date, then it is older than 10 years and must be replaced. The City of Batavia Fire Department recommends purchasing smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries. All smoke and CO alarms should be tested monthly.

Along with working smoke alarms and CO detectors, home escape plans are another way families can avoid injury or death in their homes. By identifying at least two different escape routes, families can practice the plan together – before an emergency strikes. Practicing the plan helps educate younger children to the danger of hazardous situations and the importance of recognizing that the sound of a smoke alarm or CO detector signals a potential hazard in the home.

“Changing the battery in your smoke alarms and CO detectors, along with developing and practicing a home escape plan, are three of the best ways to protect your loved ones and yourself from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning,” Whitcombe said.

The City of Batavia Fire Department has a free smoke alarm and battery installation program.

“We have installed hundreds of smoke alarms and batteries over the past 20 years and will continue to do so until everyone who needs them has them,” Whitcombe said.

For information about the free smoke alarm and battery installation program, City of Batavia residents should contact the City of Batavia Fire Department at (585) 345-6375.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Photos: New escalators being installed at Batavia Downs

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business

Batavia Downs is in the home stretch of a $20 million expansion that includes a new gaming floor, a new sign, new offices, and in the final phase, a new facade and entry on Park Road.

Today, a pair of 7,500-pound escalators are being installed and soon a statue of Fortuna, the goddess of good luck, will arrive from Wisconsin.

With the last major pieces in place, it's just a matter of putting on the finishing touches.

The new gaming floor, now on the first floor, opened last October. The old gaming floor on the second level is now offices for Batavia Downs and Western OTB staff.

The escalator to the second floor will provide access to the clubhouse and grandstands as well as a new OTB inter-track wagering facility, which will move from its current location across the street on Park Road.

The entry way will feature lighted neon and Fortuna will stand through a hole in the ceiling so she can be viewed from ground level or from up above.

"It's just going to look incredible," said Ryan Hasenauer, marketing director for Batavia Downs.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

Inmate transports essentially tie 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 to and from court, and to 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-timers will 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 it's 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 and are trying to determine if it's stolen. We don't anticipate any further updates tonight unless there's a significant development.

UPDATE noon, Thursday: No arrests were made. The investigation is continuing, according to Assistant Chief Rob Yaeger.

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 raised through golf a tournament sponsored by the association. Mercy Flight WNY and Mercy Flight Central each received $5,000.

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, Andy Gill, 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 Street, Batavia, was arrested on a bench warrant. Police were responded to a tip that Ted Kingsley, wanted on a City Court warrant, was residing at 11 Prune St., Batavia. Patrols went 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 chase and Kingsley eventually stopped at the 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, criminal 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. NOTE: After reviewing the press release following a complaint by Hicks-O'Connell (see comments), we should note the release does not specifically state a traffic stop was involved in the chargers.

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.

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