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Howard B. Owens's blog

Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 11:32 am

GCC kicks off fundraising campaign for new buildings, scholarships

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, GCC

By Tom Rivers, Orleans Hub

In 1965, a year before Genesee Community College officially started, Carl and Bernice Yunker took up the challenge to help create the college.

They talked to neighbors and friends, and local town and county officials. The idea wasn’t popular. People worried their taxes would go up with a new community college.

The Yunkers and other GCC supporters were able to convince the public to back the effort. The Yunkers’ son, Craig, observed his parents a half century ago and their push to make GCC a reality.

He is taking a turn in the spotlight now, working to rally friends and neighbors, and the general public on behalf of GCC. The college is planning a $20 million-plus project, its most ambitious since its beginning.

Yunker is the chairman of the fund-raising campaign that seeks $5 million in donations from the public. Donors have already stepped forward with $4 million.

“This campaign will change this college,” Yunker said during a campaign kickoff on Wednesday evening with about 100 GCC supporters. “It will propel it for the next 50 years.”

The college in the spring expects to start site work on two buildings – a 9,000-square-foot “Student Success Center” and 43,000-square-foot “College and Community Event Center.”

GCC also is working to raise $1 million for scholarships. That endowed fund will allow GCC to offer financial help to 80 to 100 local students each year.

For more of this story, visit OrleansHub.com.

Photo by Howard Owens.

Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 11:22 am

Knifepoint robber facing possible 15 years in prison after guilty plea

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime
Robert Propst

A Batavia man with several prior arrests admitted in County Court on Wednesday to stealing another person's wallet at knifepoint in August.

Robert J. Probst, 34, of Maple Street, pled guilty to robbery, 2nd. 

As a prior felony offender, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Probst was arrested in October, accused of confronting a 22-year-old victim on Pearl Street and taking his wallet.

Over the past few years, Probst has been arrested on various lesser charges in Batavia, but his prior felony offense for sentencing purposes is a 2002 robbery of a business in Batavia.

Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 10:23 am

Law and Order: Rochester resident accused of breaking into home, stealing phone

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Leslie R. Parris, 32, of Manor Parkway, Rochester, is charged with burglary, 2nd, robbery, 3rd, and criminal mischief, 4th. Parris was picked up on a warrant stemming from an alleged Nov. 26 incident in which Parris is accused of making forced entry into a residence and stealing a mobile phone. Parris was held without bail pending another court appearance.

Andrew Hollis Nickerson Jr., 26, of Livingston Avenue, Jamestown, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, uninspected motor vehicle and driver's view obstructed. Nickerson was stopped at 8:20 a.m. Wednesday on East Main Street, Batavia, by Deputy Patrick Reeves.

Joseph C. Jeffords, 23, of Ross Street, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant stemming from a petit larceny charge. Jeffords turned himself in. He allegedly failed to appear on the charge previously. He was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Gregory A. Cole II, 22, of New York Street, Rochester, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on a theft of services charge. Cole was located by Rochester PD and turned over to BPD. He was arraigned and jailed on $1,000 bail.

Woodrow C. Horseman, 38, no permanent address, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant stemming from a criminal possession of a weapon, 4th, charge. Horseman allegedly failed to comply with conditions of treatment court, so a warrant was issued for his arrest. Horseman was spotted by Officer James Defreze and Det. Eric Hill walking on Ellicott Street and was taken into custody. He was jailed on $100,000 bail.

Ricky A. Marsceill, 50, of East Main Street, Batavia, was arrest on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on a traffic summons. He was located at his residence and taken into custody. He was jailed on $300 bail.

Kristine Szumigala, 41, of Batavia, and Michael A. Balla, 39, of Machias, are charged with conspiracy, 6th, and unlicensed operation, 2nd. A car was reported off the road on State Route 39 in the Town of Castile at 9:09 p.m., Jan. 16. Deputy Aaron Chase, Wyoming County Sheriff's Office, responded to the scene. Szumigala and Balla are accused of conspiring to lie about who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. Balla was charged with third-degree unlicensed operation, second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation, and unsafe lane change.

Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 4:48 am

Truck off the road on Route 77, Pembroke

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, pembroke

A tractor-trailer has become entangled in poles and wires along Route 77 just south of Route 5 in Pembroke, though no injuries are reported.

A deputy on scene says that the only thing keeping the truck from rolling over are "these poles and wires."

National Grid is requested to the scene.

UPDATE: Reader submitted photo.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 11:13 pm

Hawley, Ranzenhofer issue statements on Cuomo's State of the State Speech

post by Howard B. Owens in micheal ranzenhofer, steve hawley

From Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“A plan to expand broadband Internet access will be beneficial to the more rural parts of my district, and I look forward to hearing more about the proposal. I am concerned that Gov. Cuomo’s small-business tax cut plan is not structured in a manner that allows business owners to expand and hire more employees. The proposed cut is less than one-10th of what the legislature gave to Hollywood film executives to entice them to produce movies in New York State. We need to get our priorities straight and protect family-owned businesses that have been in New York for generations. Furthermore, I am concerned that the governor’s plan does not properly fund agriculture in a way that will protect our farmers and allow their businesses to stay in New York and be passed down from generation to generation.”

From State Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has issued the following statement in response to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address and Executive budget proposal:

“In the coming days and weeks, I will be going over the Executive budget proposal with a fine-tooth comb. I am pleased that the Governor has proposed major investments in infrastructure, a new property tax relief program and expanding broadband access in rural communities.” 

“For four years, State budgets have passed on time that closed billions of dollars in deficits by controlling spending and reduced taxes for small businesses and middle-class families.  Our priorities should be to build on this progress, including strengthening our economy, ensuring our children receive a first-rate education and repealing burdensome regulations.”

“The 2015-16 Legislative Session presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to keep New York State moving forward. We cannot afford to allow it to be squandered.”

If you missed the speech, here's coverage from The New York Times.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm

Boys Hoops: Batavia crushes Hornell 71-31

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, Batavia HS, high school sports, sports

Jeff Redband scored 38 points to help the Batavia Blue Devils to a 71-31 victory over Hornell on Wednesday night.

Trevor Sherwood posted 10 points and led the team in assists with five.

The Blue Devils shot nearly 50 percent from the field and made 58 percent of its three point attempts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Council response to budget muted and mixed after first work session

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Budget

A budget that drops spending by $300,000, even with a tax increase, is a little more palatable than a budget proposal that increases spending and raises taxes, Councilman Gene Janokowski offered near the end of a budget workshop in City Hall on Tuesday night.

There's an element of the council that agrees with Janokowski's balanced take on the administration's proposed budget, with its property tax increase of 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, said Council President Brooks Hawley after the meeting.

There are also those who side with Councilman John Deleo, who is having a hard time accepting the thought of any tax increase.

His senior constituents, many on fixed incomes, and his working constituents who haven't had a raise in pay in years are telling him to say no to a tax increase, he said.

"If I want to keep my seat, I've got to answer up to them," Deleo said.

In response, City Manager Jason Molino said the proposed budget continues the conservative revenue and expenditure projections that have been part of his administration's strategies for the past several years and have helped guide the city into calmer fiscal waters.

"We've stuck to the core fundamentals of budgeting," Molino said. "As long as there are no outliers, no huge unexpected expenses and no big dips in revenue, over a 10-year period, you can expect taxes to fluctuate within 3 percent, up to a 3-percent increase or a 3-percent decrease. Generally, residents can live with minor fluctuations in either direction, but what gets you into trouble (are) 4- and 5- and 6-percent increases."

He cautioned against using reserves to balance the budget because that's what puts municipalities in a bad spot and eventually leads to those big tax increases.

The proposed budget anticipates a continued slump in gas prices, cutting heavily into the 18 percent of the city's sales tax revenue that comes from fuel sales, and doesn't assume growing consumer confidence and greater buying power will necessarily lead to sales tax growth in the retail sector.

For the average homeowner, the tax increase and higher water rate will add up to only $27 a year in added expense, Molino said.

Deleo said he knows that doesn't sound bad, but his constituents want no tax increase under any circumstances.

Hawley said it's too early to predict how the council as a whole will direct Molino to modify the budget, if at all.

"I think the administration as a whole did a good job on the budget, but it's just a proposed budget and this is just our first meeting during the session," Hawley said. "We've still got a couple of months yet to look at it. There are some good things and there are some things we might want to change. For right now, I appreciate the administration coming here tonight and laying everything out in front of us."

The budget workshop is a chance for the city's department heads to explain expenditure requests and for council members to ask questions. The session went from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and included all departments except police and fire, which the council will hear from after Monday's regular meeting.

The proposed budget can be downloaded here (pdf).

Here are some highlights:

  • Proposed $318,558 on sidewalks for Redfield Parkway, Allen Street, Holland Avenue, North Street, Olyn Avenue and 27 curb ramps at these locations;
  • $201,800 on road resurfacing;
  • $217,050 on legal services, including $57,550 prosecutorial services;
  • Six upgraded computers and support subscriptions for city computers at $23,544;
  • Wireless service for City Hall and citywide IT support, $50,625;
  • The summer recreation program, $68,000;
  • New roof on the youth center, $25,000;
  • Total Youth Services spending, $194,715;
  • Budget for the Bureau of Inspection, $329,965;
  • In Public Works, a purchase of cab and chassis, $20,000;
  • The total street maintenance budget is $607,115;
  • Fuel costs, $66,500 for diesel and $21,020 for gasoline;
  • Total budget for the Public Works garage, $495,345;
  • The total cost of snow removal, $541,830, with $150,360 for sodium chloride, $20,800 for parts and equipment;
  • Powering the city's public lights, $220,000, plus another $16,000 to power traffic lights;
  • Replacing vandalized park equipment will cost $10,500 for Austin Park slides;
  • Tree removal and trimming parks, $25,000; tree replacement, $13,900;
  • Total parks budget, $217,150;
  • Street cleaning, $39,270;
  • The fire department proposed budget is $3.9 million, with $2 million in base salaries, $125,000 in overtime, $139,390 in holiday hours, a $35,000 one-ton utility vehicle, $21,000 in professional development and training, a $549,190 contribution to the state retirement fund, $188,430 for Social Security taxes;
  • The police budget is $4 million -- $2.1 million for base salaries, $220,000 for overtime, $12,000 for the emergency response team overtime, $85,000 for holiday pay, $63,360 for two patrol vehicles, $61,000 for gas, $44,870 for uniforms and body armor, $19,000 for travel and training, $38,000 for new officer training, $539,980 for the state retirement fund and $194,340 for Social Security tax, and $434,610 for medical insurance.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Corfu resident wins today's Flip Ad contest

post by Howard B. Owens in advertisement, Sponsored Post, thebatavian

Kate Sick of Corfu is today's Flip Ad contest winner. Kate was the fifth person to e-mail us today with today's secret phrase, "Trumbull Cary," which was flipped under the Settler's ad.

We'll send Kate $25.

Watch next week for another Flip Ad contest.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Post Dairy Farm named Genesee County Conservation Farm of the Year

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, elba

Press release:

The Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Directors have announced the selection of Post Dairy Farm, LLC, as the 2014 Genesee County Conservation Farm of the Year. The Post family will be the honored guests of the District at the Celebrate Agriculture Dinner on March 21st at the Alexander Firemen’s Recreation Hall. They will be formally presented with their award at that time.

Post Dairy Farms LLC/ Dan and John Post – Town of Elba
The Posts have been working with the district since 1965. Their dairy consists of about 400 cows and they work about 500 acres. They just recently built a new barn with four robotic milkers; the district was involved with installing drip trenches around the perimeter. Some other conservation practices they have implemented include drain tile, diversion ditches, grassed waterways, covered heavy use area protection, and a wastewater lagoon. (Ken Post – father of Dan and John -- was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1973).

Previously: For five generations, farming has been all in the family for the Posts of Elba

File photo: Front row, Dan, John and Ken; and, Laurie and Jeff.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Former 420 Emporium owner pleads guilty to federal drug charge

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bath salts, crime

A 39-year-old Rochester man has admitted in federal court that he sold drugs commonly known as bath salts in Batavia and other communities and faces a maximum prison term of 30 years or $2 million fine or both.

Charles Fitzgerald entered a guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute before U.S. District Court Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr.

As part of the plea, Fitzgerald admitted to ownership of the 420 Emporium, once located on Ellicott Street, where substances known as Amped, Pump It, Da Bomb and Mr. Happy were sold.

Shortly after the store opened in the Spring of 2012, local law enforcement officers were responding to a series of calls dealing with people engaging in bizarre behavior. 

By the summer, a number of local residents joined in pickets in front of the store and a rally against bath salts held at a local business.

Federal officials responded as part of a nationwide crackdown on bath salts July 25, 2012, with a raid of the Batavia location as well as Fitzgerald's other 420 Emporium locations.

Fitzgerald lived with Amber Snover, who had previously listed herself on Facebook as the owner of at least two of the 420 locations. Snover was also arrested and agents seized $771,109 in cash at their residence at 221 West Hills Estates, Greece.

The arrests of Fitzgerald, Snover, Joshua Denise (who was listed on state documents as the owner of the Batavia location) and Michelle Condidorio, an employee in Batavia, was the culmination of an investigation that involved undercover buys and an unnamed informant seemingly within Fitzgerald's inner circle.

The substances Fitzgerald sold were synthetic drugs, compounds devised by clandestine laboratories to mimic the highs produced by illicit drugs such as meth, cocaine and marijuana.  

Bath salts were blamed on a rash of unusual behavior across the country, including reports of naked men eating the faces of victims.

Prior to the raids, the federal government listed the known synthetics of the time as analogues to controlled substances, making sales and possession illegal.

While bath salts are known to cause issues locally, including emergency room visits and even possibly one death, bath salt incidents locally dropped off dramatically after the raid and closure of the 420 Emporium.

Three 420 Emporium employees have pled guilty to federal charges and are awaiting sentencing.

“This case demonstrates how by working together, the community and law enforcement can improve the quality of life for all,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul. “In this case, a rash of emergency room visits due to overdoses of synthetic drugs was brought to our attention by concerned members of the community, including the media. Law enforcement immediately engaged, and within several months, was able to execute search warrants throughout Western New York and make arrests of those selling such illegal and highly dangerous substances. With this conviction, we are able to report that the entire investigation was a success.”

Fitzgerald will be sentenced at 3 p.m. on April 15 by Judge Geraci.

The Batavian provided the most comprehensive, and fastest-breaking news coverage of the bath salt issue in Western New York in 2012. For an archive of those stories, click here.

PHOTO: File photo of cash and drugs seized by federal agents in the raids on July 25, 2012, of the 420 Emporium stores and the owner's residence.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 10:57 am

Law and Order: A pair of arrests

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

A 16-year-old resident of Sandpit Road, Alexander, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. The youth is accused of confronting a protected person while at Alexander Central School at 7:38 a.m., Tuesday.

Shelley A. Fox, 33, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC .08 or greater and operating in violation of a conditional license. Fox was stopped at midnight Tuesday on East Main Street, Batavia, by Officer Darryle Streeter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 10:29 pm

Rep. Collins responds to State of the Union address

post by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

“Once again, President Obama used his annual national address to double down on divisive political rhetoric and unrealistic ideas. Rather than focus on policies that brighten the future of the middle class in a sustainable manner, the President has instead, sabotaged success and pitted Americans against one another. The President continues to advocate class warfare, and divide our country. He has repeatedly demonstrated that his idea of a bipartisan solution is his way or the highway.

“What the President failed to address was that this past election, the country spoke loud and clear about the direction we need to take. The result was the strongest Republican House majority since the 1920s, a Republican Senate majority, and Republican control of 68 out of 98 state legislative chambers. Americans recognize that Republicans are focused on creating an environment friendly to job creation through comprehensive tax reform, energy independence, entitlement reform and a patient centered health care system. The President needs to accept this new reality, and find a way to unify the country as we move forward.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Public service committee approves vehicle purchases among other items

post by Howard B. Owens in genesee county

The Genesee County Public Service Committee took the following actions today:

  • Authorized $19,663 paid to United Uniform Company for Sheriff's Office uniforms. UUC is based in Buffalo and was the sole bidder for the one-year uniform contract.
  • Approved a one-year lease for P&L Air for a flight training school at the Genesee County Airport. The lease will generate $2,475 in revenue for the county.
  • Approved the purchase of a 2016 model 4X2 International truck cab and chassis as part of a bid package by Onondaga County at a price of $89,747.
  • Approved the purchase of four Ford Focus sedans from Van Bortel Ford at a cost not to exceed $60,506.04. The vehicles will be available for various county departments.
  • In the next step toward replacing the River Street bridge over the Tonawanda Creek, approved a capital project fund in the amount of $211,000 with federal aid of $168,800 and a local match of $42,200.
  • Authorized the establishment of a capital project for safety improvements at the intersection of Pratt and Powers roads, Town of Batavia, with $628,200 of federal aid and $69,800 in local match.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 11:28 am

Hawley announces availability of interest-free loans for muncipal wastewater projects

post by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced that interest-free loans have become available for certain municipalities to make improvements to their wastewater infrastructure systems. The availability of this cheaper funding for up to 30 years means smaller governments and towns in the district may now have the financial means to upgrade their infrastructure.

“I am excited about the availability of these new zero-percent loans,” Hawley said. “This is a case where a decision has the potential to positively impact communities and residents at the local level. Many local governments in my district struggle to keep taxes low and finance community projects due to costly state mandates and rising healthcare costs.  These interest-free loans will hopefully absorb some of the financial stress placed on our local governments and allow them to finance long-term design and construction of more efficient wastewater infrastructure systems. In doing so, we can employ local construction groups, protect the environment and allow for more efficient removal and purification of our residents' wastewater.”

Hawley’s comments come after The Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors approved $288 million worth of zero-percent interest loans for wastewater infrastructure improvements Thursday. The City of Olean and Village of Malone were the first to take advantage of the new loan funding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 9:43 am

Law and Order: Call about suspected drug use leads to arrest

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu, crime, pembroke

Zachary Jordan Franclemont, 20, of Indian Falls Road, Corfu, is charged with criminal possession of a hallucinogenic substance, one gram or more, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, unlawful possession of marijuana and criminally using drug paraphernalia, 2nd. Deputy Kevin McCarthy responded to a suspicious activity report at 12:30 a.m., Monday, at the East Pembroke Arrowmart of a person in a car using drugs. Upon investigation, Franclemont was found in a vehicle allegedly found in possession of cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. Franclemont was arrested, arraigned and jailed on $20,000 bail. Assisting were Deputy Jason Saile, Sgt. Eric Seppala and Sgt. Greg Walker.

Monday, January 19, 2015 at 10:27 pm

South Byron names Fireman of the Year and appoints 2015 officers

post by Howard B. Owens in byron, south byron, South Byron Fire

At the department's installation dinner this weekend, Jacob Yasses was named South Byron's Fireman and Member of the Year. Presenting the award are Christopher Hilbert and Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who also acted as emcee for the dinner.

Sworn in as firematic officers where:

  • Robert Wilson, chief
  • Jefferey Starowitz, deputy chief
  • Scott Blossom, assistant chief
  • Chase Cone, captain
  • Ben Baun, 1st lieutenant
  • Jacob Yasses, 2nd lieutenant
  • Christopher Hilbert, engineer
  • Lenny Peterson, fire police captain
  • Jim McKenzie, fire police sergeant
  • Reginald Macdonald, fire police corporal
Administrative officers:
  • Christopher Hilbert, president
  • Jacob Yasses, vice president
  • Sandee McKenzie, secretary
  • Alfred Klycek, treasurer
Photo and information submitted by Peter and Michelle Yasses.
Monday, January 19, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Video: Third annual bridal show at Terry Hills

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

Terry Hills hosted its third annual bridal show yesterday. This is a video produced for Terry Hills about the show, in case you missed it.

CORRECTION: It was the 4th annual bridal show.

Monday, January 19, 2015 at 10:15 am

Law and Order: Driver accused of fleeing accident on Sandpit Road, Alexander

post by Howard B. Owens in Basom, batavia, alexander, crime, Le Roy

Randall Steven Spring, 29, of Spring Road, Alexander, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, leaving the scene of a property damage accident, speed not reasonable and prudent and moving from lane unsafely. Spring was reportedly involved in an accident on Sandpit Road, Alexander, at 12:36 a.m. on Saturday, which was investigated by Deputy Jason Saile.

Heather Daffney Stone, 19, of Ellwood Drive, Rochester, is charged with burglary, 3rd, and petit larceny. Stone was arrested on a warrant by RPD and turned over to the Sheriff's Office. She is being held until her next court appearance. No further details released.

Daniel D. Stalica, 70, of Crittenden Road, Alden, is charged with petit larceny and conspiracy, 6th. Stalica was arrested on a warrant out of City Court after being located by State Police in Erie County when troopers made contact on an unrelated matter. He was turned over to BPD and jailed on $750 bail.

Alton G. Williams, 38, of East Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Williams was allegedly involved in a physical domestic incident at about 4:15 p.m. Thursday in the presence of a 15-year-old child. Also arrested on the same charge, Tera M. Williams, 41, of East Avenue, Batavia.

Kayla D. Joiner, 22, of West Main Street, Le Roy, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear. Joiner was stopped by BPD for an alleged traffic violation, arrested, processed and released.

Crystal A. Mounts, 37, of Summit Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Mounts is accused of shoplifting at Dollar General.

Edward W. Simcoe, 58, of Buffalo, is charged with petit larceny. Simcoe was arrested by State Police at 381 Bloomingdale Road, Basom, and held on an unspecified bail. No further details released.

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