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Howard B. Owens's blog

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Town of Pavilion reeling from loss of highway superintendent

post by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion

Folks in the Town of Pavilion were shaken Friday by the death of Highway Superintendent John Strathearn, who succumbed to a heart attack suffered while salting the roadway on Route 19 near the fire hall.

CPR was performed on Strathearn after he collapsed Friday morning, but he died about 3 p.m. that afternoon, said Town Clerk Cindy Starr.

"He was a great guy," Starr said. "That's just how he was. I would ask him to do something, and he would do it."

Strathearn worked for the town for nearly 30 years (picture of a pin he was awarded last spring).

He was born Jan. 3, 1953 in Batavia, the son of the late Leigh and Eleanor Buckout Strathearn.

He was a graduate of Wyoming Central School.

He was a member of the Silver Lake Sportsmen’s Club, the Wyoming County Veterans Club in Warsaw and the Loyal Order of the Moose #1132 in Le Roy.

More than 200 people, possibly 300, turned out for a celebration of Strathearn's life on Saturday at B.W.'s restaurant, Starr said.

"Everybody thought very highly of John and that was a great tribute to him, I thought," Starr said.

Town of Pavilion employee Jamie Cleveland said Strathearn was always ready with a helping hand for whomever needed it.

"No matter what, no matter the cost, either on the job or just personal," Cleveland said. "I worked with him for 14 years and never heard one complaint about him. He had an impeccable record."

The loss is being felt throughout the town and the town's staff, Starr said.

"He was part of the family," Starr said. "Each one of us felt he was part of our families. He's a great loss for every member of our staff."

Calling hours are 3 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, at Robinson & Hackemer Funeral Home, 246 N. Main St., Warsaw, where John’s funeral service will be held immediately following visitation at 7 p.m. Burial will be in Dale Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Pavilion Fire Department, Pavilion, NY 14525 or the Wyoming Hook & Ladder Co., Wyoming, NY 14591.

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Proposed apartment complex in Town of Batavia receives state grants

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Big Tree Glen, business, housing

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today funding of $16.5 million for 240 units of new affordable housing across the state, including more than $2 million for Big Tree Glen, a project being planned for West Main Street Road, Batavia.

From the press release:

This $12.2 million project is being co-developed by Conifer LLC and United Memorial Medical Center to consist of 56 affordable rental units in seven two-story buildings. The project meets the Early Award Housing Opportunity Project goal in that the project will be served by Pembroke School District, one of the highest-performing districts in Western New York. The project is also in close proximity to jobs, shopping and services. The Town of Batavia supports the project, as evidenced by the approval of a Special Use Permit, approval of the preliminary site plans, and the issuance of a negative SEQRA declaration.

HCR funding for this project will be provided through a Housing Trust Fund award of $1,382,135 and through a $775,583 award of Federal Low-Income Housing Credit, which will leverage Bank of America and CPC loans of $2.2 million and $1,050,000 respectively, $120,000 of NYSERDA funds, and a deferred developer fee of $208,612.

Previously:

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Low gas prices could cost local governments a total of $1 million in gas sales tax revenue

post by Howard B. Owens in economy, taxes

The drop in gas prices may be great for your pocketbook, but it's costing Genesee County, and other local governments, a bit of money, though the precise amount of lost revenue is dependent on how the local economy does in other sectors.

County Treasurer Scott German's back-of-the-envelope calculation is at least $500,000 in lost sales tax revenue for the county and another $500,000 distributed among the county's other municipalities, based on current gas prices.

Officials, however, expect much of that drop in revenue to be offset by increased local sales and a seemingly growing local economy.

Since the county already budgeted for a $300,000 drop in sales tax, said County Manager Jay Gsell, any decline in gas sales tax will be a soft blow.

"The level of consumer spending and consumer confidence being up in last quarter of 2014 and new retail opportunities in late 2014 and 2015 could also help stave off fuel sales decline estimated by the county treasurer," Gsell said. "Sales tax projections are not an exact science and statewide figures during 2014 have been all over the map and inconsistent."

German said there are so many variables in sales tax, it makes it hard to predict revenue, even though the sales tax on gas is a nice chunk of change for local governments.

"Who would have thunk back in August that we would be paying less than $3 a gallon for gas around the holidays?" German said.

There is a delay in transfer of sales tax revenue from the state to the county, so determining the exact amount of the revenue decline isn't possible just yet, German said.

Most of the local fuel sales is from travelers on the Thruway and fuel prices could also increase the number of travelers on the Thruway, thereby increasing gross sales tax revenue.

The county -- with its fleet of snow trucks, maintenance trucks and patrol cars -- will realize some cost savings on its own fuel expenditures, but it's too soon to get those numbers, officials said.

Batavia City Manager Jason Molino said that while sales tax accounts for 18 percent of all sales tax revenue, he's planning on either a slight increase or flat sales tax revenue.

"That's got to have an impact when one-fifth of your sales tax comes from fuel sales," Molino said, but there's also an upside to lower fuel prices that will help boost revenue.

"I was out on the west side of town before Christmas and the parking lots were packed," Molino said.

An informal survey of a handful of The Batavian's advertisers found a universal sentiment that these stores had a strong holiday sales season.

German said the impact of holiday sales won't hit the books until April. Before then, it's not possible to put a number on how well the county did in November and December, at least according to sales tax figures.

Molino said the county's low employment rate combined with one of the strongest growth rates in real wages in the state is helping to offset any drop in gas sales tax revenue.

"How long prices are going to stay ... at this low level is the bigger question," Molino said. "There's no real answer to that question. It would be nice if there was some price stability."

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Audit critical of online banking security for Byron-Bergen schools

The Byron-Bergen Central School District needs to improve its online banking security, according to a NYS comptroller's audit released this month.

While the district informed the auditors that some of the report's recommendations were already being complied with or will be met, the board rejected one of the recommendations.

Auditors said that while the district has online access to all of its accounts -- including high-balance savings accounts -- such access is unnecessary.

The board countered: Actually, online banking for all district accounts is unavoidably necessary, thanks to the state.

"Due to the remote location of our school district," the district board responded, "and limited district office staff due to the ever-increasing budget constraints caused by the property tax cap, freezing of state aid and the Gap Eliminate Adjustment, we are unable to do banking transactions on a regular basis at our banking institution's branch locations due to distance and time away from other duties district office staff perform. We must be as efficient as possible in the use of our existing office staff. That efficiency is increased with the ability to our banking functions online."

The audit found that two employees were keeping their usernames and passwords on a piece of paper and while one document was locked in a filing cabinet, the other was kept in a cabinet that wasn't always locked.

Online-banking users also do not properly log out of their banking sessions and then delete their browsing history, cache and cookies, according to the audit.

The audit also knocked the district for not having copies on file of its banking agreements, but district officials said they felt the confidential information contained in these documents were best secured at the bank and not in district offices.

The district is not taking full advantage, the report states, of their bank's notification alerts for high-threshold transactions.

The district said it has instituted additional staff training in these area were best practices were not already in place.

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 2:28 pm

State Comptroller asks county officials to tweak record keeping procedures

post by Howard B. Owens in genesee county

A couple of minor discrepancies were uncovered by a state audit of county records related to court and trust funds cases and the handling of abandoned property. County officials took immediate corrective actions, according to the audit report, which the Comptroller's Office completed this month.

The state's abandoned property law requires that money that has remained unclaimed with a county treasurer for three years must be turned over to the Comptroller's Office.

The audit found $507 that had not been turned over to the Comptroller's Office.

The County Clerk is responsible for recording court orders involving surplus money from foreclosures, contract disputes and mechanic's liens, and in some circumstances, funds from estates are entrusted to the treasurer for safekeeping. The County Clerk and Surrogate's Court are required to develop procedures and processes that provide a system of internal controls to account for and safeguard these funds.

The audit examined records maintained from Jan. 1, 2011 to Jan. 1, 2014.  

While records were found to be up-to-date, the Clerk's Office was not properly recording funds into a trust fund register of the money ordered paid into a court.

"The clerk's records could not be used to verify that all court-ordered deposits had been properly received and deposited by the treasurer," the audit report reads. 

The audit indicates both issues have been addressed by the Clerk's Office and the Treasurer.

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Auditors tell Stafford Fire Department to improve its record keeping

post by Howard B. Owens in Stafford, Stafford Fire Department

The Stafford Fire Department board of directors needs to improve the department's record keeping and financial procedures, according to an audit completed by the state Comptroller's Office.

The audit found no evidence of missing funds, but said some of the lack of proper approval for expenditures could lead to unauthorized or improper expenditures.

The audit covered a 19-month period beginning with Jan. 1, 2013.

The department's revenue in 2013 was $550,130 and it spent $543,145.

While the department's treasurer maintained appropriate records and submitted monthly financial reports to the board, the treasurer did not properly receive all cash receipts.

For example, in 2014, the department collected $11,181 in cash from its annual carnival, but only $3,685 was turned over to the treasurer.

The department's president used the remaining $7,496 to pay for various carnival-related expenses, including a carnival ground cleaning service, food and supplies for a party for carnival workers and carnival set-up costs. 

"Although these expenses were supported by invoices and handwritten documents," the audit states, "the board was not given the opportunity to review and approve the payments before they were made."

The Ladies Auxiliary collected collected and deposited all of the department's banquet, hall and pavilion rental revenues into its own bank accounts, though there's no provision in the department's bylaws for this practice.

The Auxiliary collected $7,970 in banquet revenue, $2,305 for hall and pavilion rentals in 2013.

The auditors also reviewed 601 department checks with a total disbursement of $1.7 million from June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014 and though financial activity was properly recorded and payments were supported, there were 131 transactions that were not properly reviewed by the board.

These expenditures totaled $394,897 and were made by the Classic Car Committee.

The bills, the board told auditors, were not always submitted prior to the appropriate board meeting.

The Comptroller's Office made four recommendations for changes, and President Dave Wallace, responded in writing with the board's plan of action to address the recommendations, and it is as follows:

  • The bylaws will be changed to require checks for payment of all bills and all cash to be returned to the treasurer. Itemized bills are required for all expenditures;
  • A contract will be drawn up with the Auxiliary for financial transactions;
  • Committees must present their bills to the board in a timely manner;
  • The department will hire an independent audit service.
Monday, December 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Photo: FM antenna installation on WBTA's tower

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

Out on Creek Road is a long, tall structure the folks at WBTA affectionally call "the stick." It's where the over-the-air signal for the 73-year-old AM radio station is transmitted. Today, in our 28-degree weather, a crew installed a new FM antenna that will enable you to hear "one of America's two great radio stations" at 100.1 FM. WBTA (1490-AM) will start simulcasting on both frequencies Feb. 6. The station first went on the air Feb. 6, 1941.

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 11:36 am

Nursing Home lifts visitor restrictions as flu cases wane

post by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Nursing Home

Press release:

As of this morning (Dec. 29, 2014) the Genesee County Nursing Home has experienced no new cases of influenza in several days and is lifting visitor restrictions which have been in place for the past week.
 
However, Visitors with cold symptoms, fever, cough, etc. are asked not to visit. Young children should also not visit. All nursing home and adult home residents are still being monitored for cold or flu symptoms.
 
We appreciate the cooperation we have received so far in our efforts to reduce the spread of influenza among our residents and in the community.
Monday, December 29, 2014 at 8:57 am

Law and Order: Alleged purse snatcher accused of struggling with police

post by Howard B. Owens in Basom, batavia, Alabama, bergen, crime, Stafford

Ramon E. Esparza, 25, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny, obstructing governmental administration, 2nd, and criminal mischief. Esparza is accused of stealing a purse while at a local restaurant. The call came in at 10:52 p.m., Friday. When police arrived and located Esparza, he allegedly failed to comply with an officer's instructions. There was allegedly a brief physical struggle before Esparza was taken into custody by Officer Marc Lawrence. Esparza was jailed on $2,500 bail.

Sade A. Poole, 22, of West Avenue, Medina, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Poole allegedly struck an employee of a local bar. The call came in at 1:16 a.m., Saturday.

William B. Coley, 44, of Frisbee Terrace, Holley, is charged with petit larceny. Coley is accused of stealing $764 from a misplaced wallet at a location on Park Road, Batavia, on Nov. 5. 

Dustin V. Gothard, 26, of Wolcottsville Road, Akron, is charged with petit larceny and unlawful possession of marijuana. Gothard allegedly stole a bottle of cough medication from Tops Market. Upon his arrest, he was allegedly found in possession of marijuana.

Kayleigh Jean Allen, 22, of North Byron Road, Elba, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater and failure to signal a turn. Allen was stopped at 2:57 a.m. Dec. 21 on North Byron Road, Elba, by Deputy Eric Seppala.

Jason Scott Stanley, 22, of Judge Road, Basom, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and speeding. Stanley was stopped at 11:40 p.m., Friday, on Batavia Oakfield Townline Road by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Michele Lynn Buccinna, 46, of Alleghany Road, Basom, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and two counts of speeding (77 in a 45-mph zone and 52 in a 30-mph zone). Buccinna was stopped at 1:45 a.m. Saturday on Pearl Street, Oakfield, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Antonio Lee Escobar, 19, of 156 Woodside Court, Holley, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Escobar was allegedly found in possession of marijuana after a traffic stop on a suspicious condition complaint at 10:30 p.m. Dec. 21 by Deputy Christopher Erion.

Todd Wilbur Ellinwood, 54, of South Union Street, Rochester, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, unlawful possession of marijuana, unregistered motor vehicle, uninspected motor vehicle and failure to signal. Ellinwood was stopped at 8:11 p.m. Saturday on Rochester Street, Bergen, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Martha Ruth Thorn, 34, of Main Road, Stafford, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and lights not meeting standards. Thorn was stopped at 2:49 a.m. Sunday on Main Road, Stafford, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Sunday, December 28, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Pedestrian has minor injuries after being hit by car in Oakfield

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Oakfield

A person has minor injuries after being hit by a car on Sunset Parkway, Oakfield.

Oakfield fire and medics dispatched.

Sunday, December 28, 2014 at 5:27 am

Search for missing person in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy

Firefighters from Le Roy and other volunteer fire companies along with local law enforcement are on scene at a residence on West Bergen Road, Le Roy, to search for a missing person. 

The scene is closed to all but search personnel. 

Stafford, Bergen and Pavilion have been dispatched. 

Gators from Alexander and Caledonia requested to the scene.

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.: The subject was located about 15 minutes ago. The elderly male, an Alzheimer's patient, was found by a neighbor dressed in his pajamas huddled and shivering on the floorboard of the neighbor's car. The neighbor was leaving for work. The search started around 12:30 a.m. with a K-9 unit after relatives reported the man missing. He had last been seen sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight. Later in the morning, Le Roy fire was called in, with mutual aid from at least eight other departments, according to Chief Tom Wood. The man was transported to UMMC for evaluation but other than feeling cold, he appeared to be in good condition, Woods said. The outcome could have been a lot different in harsher winter conditions, Woods noted.

Saturday, December 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm

The Batavian Photo Sale

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

Here's a link to all of the photo galleries we published in 2014. Order a print from this collection of photos before Jan. 4 and get 10-percent off on your order. Use the coupon code: 2014sale.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Karen's Yarn, Paper, Scissors wins Downtown holiday window display contest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown

Karen's Yarn, Paper, Scissors, at 39 Jackson St., Batavia, won this year's window decorating contest sponsored by the Business Improvement District. The business receives a $250 cash prize.

Second place was WBTA, 113 Main St., and The Insurance Center, 50 Main St.

The judges were impressed not only with the creativity of Karen's display, but the use of paper, which is, of course, related to her business.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Photo: A snowy owl

post by Howard B. Owens in animals, batavia, birds, Genesee County Airport, outdoors

Here's one of the snowy owls out at the airport in a photo by Dylan Brew, of Schoen Productions.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Red Kettle campaign needs $3,500 by Dec. 30 to meet goal

post by Howard B. Owens in charity, Red Cross

Press release:

The Salvation Army’s 2014 Red Kettle Campaign came to an end on December 24th $3,500 short of its $69,000 goal. Major Robert Kurtz, Corps Commanding Officer, stated, “The people in Genesee County have been very generous with their time and money; individuals, groups, and organizations have donated over 5,000 volunteer hours this season. The campaign was impacted by a short fund-raising season plus the snowstorm in November. The snowstorm affected many families in a variety of ways.”

Red Kettle donations will be accepted until Dec. 30 at 4 p.m., at which time the campaign will close for the year. Monetary donations can be mailed to: The Salvation Army ATTN: KETTLE CAMPAIGN 529 E. Main St., Batavia, New York 14020. Please note in the check memo “Red Kettle Campaign."

Money raised during this campaign is used to support the year-round mission of The Salvation Army in meeting basic needs of food and shelter, crisis financial assistance, programs serving youth and seniors, and life-skill programs.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Flu outbreak prompts new visitation rules at UMMC

post by Howard B. Owens in health, UMMC

Press release:

With the continued increase in the number of influenza cases at the Hospital and in the community, United Memorial Medical Center will be strictly following established visitor guidelines and implementing restrictions in order to safeguard the health of our patients.

• Effective immediately, patients in our facility will be allowed only two (2) visitors at one time between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., except where more specific hours are posted for the care unit.

• No visitors under the age of 14 years will be allowed.

• Maternity patients may have visits from their spouse/birthing partner, grandparents of the baby, and others with no more than two visitors at a time. Siblings of the infant, under the age of 14 will not be allowed to visit.

• Individuals with a sore throat, runny nose, fever, or other influenza-type symptoms should NOT visit patients.

• A visitor, who is coughing persistently or showing signs of infectious disease such as influenza, will be given a mask and asked to leave the facility.

As an organization we understand the importance of loved ones and friends in the healing process. Exceptions to the visitor policy must be approved by the unit manager or nursing supervisor prior to the visitor’s arrival at the hospital. These restrictions have been put into place to protect those with weakened or fragile immune systems, and those who care for them, from harm during the influenza outbreak.

Everyone should remember to use appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to prevent the spread of influenza. Symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, sore throat, cough or nasal congestion. Individuals with fever over 100˚F and any of the symptoms listed are urged to stay home, seek medical advice as necessary and limit the number of people exposed. Individuals with influenza are contagious for 24 hours prior to exhibiting symptoms.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Photos: Boxing Day hockey at Williams Park

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, hockey, sports, Williams Park

As they have done for who knows how many years -- the couple of guys I talked to didn't seem to know -- a group of friends met in Williams Park this morning for their annual Boxing Day street hockey match.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 10:06 am

Photo: Wind-damaged silo in Elba

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

A reader sent in this picture of a wind-toppled silo on his property on Transit Road, Elba. He said it came down overnight.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 7:54 am

Law and Order: Perry man accused of selling drugs in Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Eric N. Ayers, 30, of Covington Street, Perry, is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, 4th, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 5th. Ayers is accused of selling buprenorphine (suboxone) to an agent of the Local Drug Task Force in October in the City of Batavia. Ayers was arraigned and jailed without bail.

Adam W. McGill, 36, of Oak Street, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and speeding. McGill was stopped at 1:37 a.m. Saturday on Cedar Street, Batavia, by Officer Devon Pahuta. 

Tiffany A. Reed, 20, of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Reed allegedly sent a threatening message to another person through Facebook.

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