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Howard B. Owens's blog

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Green Party candidate for governor campaigns in Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, Green Party, politics

Story by Sloane Martin, WBTA:

Howie Hawkins is running for governor for the second consecutive election on the Green Party tab.

A recent poll showed that a progressive candidate could cut significantly into the incumbent Democrat’s lead, giving that fresh option a chance.

Hawkins says he can be that candidate.

“We stand for progressive policies that benefit working people,” he said. “I think that’s what that poll says people are looking for. Those are the people who understand Cuomo’s been very conservative economically. He’s underfunded schools, he’s giving tax breaks to the rich and they’re looking for an alternative.

“Our problem is not that they don’t agree with us. It’s that they never heard of us.”

In Bergen Thursday afternoon before meeting with party members from the tri-county area, Hawkins outlined a six-point proposal to turn things around for the Empire State called the Green New Deal. It draws parallels to the Roosevelt domestic programs, but updates them for modern times seeking to bring jobs. For example, Hawkins supports giving unemployed people public jobs, similar to the WPA.

Hawkins says Cuomo’s problem is doing nothing about income inequality.

“The idea is: we give money to the rich and it trickles down; we have decades of evidence to show it doesn’t work. If we restored the progressive tax structure we had in the '70s, we’d have $30 billion more,” he said. “That’s about 21 percent more than we take in now and that would fund the Green New Deal.”

The other points as part of the Green New Deal include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensuring New Yorkers can make a living wage with single-payer health insurance, working to limit segregation in schools, providing affordable housing and mass transit and cultivating renewable energy.

Hawkins also had strong words about hydrofracking. He said the job impact estimates for the controversial natural gas drilling process are greatly exaggerated.

“No one denies the environmental dangers of fracking,” he said. “What’s not being communicated well is the economic benefits of going to 100-percent clean energy by 2030 far outweighs any economic benefits we could get from fracking. The most outlandish estimates I’ve seen from pro-fracking flacks from the industry is 200,000 jobs. We’re talking about 4.5 million jobs over the next 15 years (with clean energy). A lot of those are manufacturing, a lot of those are construction; those are good paying jobs. You want an economic boom? Go with clean energy.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Photo: Departed friends not forgotten

post by Howard B. Owens in byron

At the corner of Route 262 and Batavia Byron Road in February 2008, there was a horrible auto accident. Two children were killed -- Victoria Claus, 7, and Christopher Claus, 11. Friends erected a memorial to the children near the intersection. Today, three young ladies who were classmates in second grade with Victoria decided to return to the memorial to clean it up and add flowers and stuffed animals. Pictured are Morgan Fuller, left, Julia Menzie and Catherine Bumsted.

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 11:17 am

Attorney for John Robinson asks for dismissal of charge 'in the interest of justice'

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, crime

The attorney for John Robinson, the Bergen man arrested 15 months after he allegedly pointed a shotgun out a window at another person, has asked Justice Donald Kunego, Town of Bergen Court, to dismiss the case "in the interest of justice."

The motion, part of several otherwise standard defense motions filed yesterday by attorney Kevin DeCarolis, addresses all seven statutory points Kunego must consider before rendering a decision.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell filed an answering affidavit, but interestingly, did not use any sort of pointed or strong language opposing the dismissal motion.

In court yesterday, DeCarolis characterized Finnell's response as favorable to his client.

"There isn't a lot there that cuts against my client and his rights in the motion," DeCarolis told Kunego. "A lot of what he raises parrots my motion, quite frankly."

Finnell hardly disagreed, stating, "I laid out the facts as I believe them to be, but I don't know what way that cuts, but certainly it is what it is."

The facts Finnell and DeCarolis seem to agree on is that Brookport resident Michael Crooks went to Robinson's house under the belief that Robinson and Mrs. Crooks had some sort of relationship that Michael Crooks found objectionable.

Crooks banged on Robinson's front door, threatened him and called him a coward for not coming out. In the process, perhaps while trying to gain entry to the house, Crooks damaged the front door.

When he couldn't get Robinson to open the door, Crooks went to the side of the house and looked in a window. At that point, he found Robinson pointing a shotgun at him.

Crooks immediately fled the residence.

On that date, Jan. 13, 2013, Crooks never filed a complaint or even contacted law enforcement. In fact, according to DeCarolis, Crooks actively tried to evade State Police during their investigation.

Crooks was later arrested and charged with criminal mischief, 4th. A charge later dismissed on the condition Crooks not be re-arrested.

Trooper Eric Daigler, who handled the investigation, consulted with other members of his department and the District Attorney's Office on whether to charge Robinson along with Crooks, and concluded that Robinson should not be arrested.

Crooks lobbied the State Police to arrest Robinson in November 2013. When that didn't work, he contacted the Sheriff's Office, which had no prior involvement with the case, in March 2014.

Robinson was arrested by a deputy in April and charged with menacing in the second degree.

"Significantly, the New York State Police, to this day, believe that Mr. Robinson should not have been charged and are not supportive of his prosecution," DeCarolis wrote in his motion.

Finnell wrote in his motion that for basic facts -- the facts contained in the DA's own files -- he agrees. He does not agree with statements by DeCarolis that go to the state of mind or thoughts of Robinson or other parties involved.

These would include the assertion by DeCarolis that Mrs. Crooks often initiated the contact with Robinson and was a "willing participant in their communication."

DeCarolis also stated that "Due to Mr. Crook's relentless and persistent actions, aggressive demeanor and verbal threats, Mr. Robinson felt threatened in his own home."

Finnell said that Robinson's actions rose to the level of probable cause for his arrest.

In addressing one of the points Kunego is asked to consider in the motion for dismissal, Finnell wrote, "The events that led to the conflict are somewhat unique and are not likely to be repeated by this defendant. The typical societal justifications for punishment, rehabilitation, retribution and deterrence are perhaps less applicable to this fact pattern. However, the defendant here might have employed other, less inherently dangerous methods in his claimed defense of his person and property, which methods would not subject him to the possibility of criminal prosecution."

One of the key factors Kunego must consider is whether dismissal would cause the public to loose confidence in the justice system.

DeCarolis argued that public sentiment is clearly behind Robinson already, citing comments left on news media accounts of Robinson's arrest (The Batavian has provided nearly exclusive coverage of Robinson's arrest).

"People expect to be able to protect their 'castle' from attack," DeCarolis wrote. "Mr. Robinson's castle was under attack by Mr. Crooks and public opinion in form of comments on the reporting of this story in the news are overwhelmingly supportive of Mr. Robinson and his actions to thwart an uninvited and threatening presence on his property."

Finnell used an analogy of about speeding tickets in his answer and concluded, "The decision of whether or not to charge in the above scenario (or dismiss in the interests of justice in this case) requires the decision maker (the court) to look beyond what is literal and do what is right. The public's confidence in the criminal justice system will be bolstered with the just decision here, no matter what that decision ultimately is."

If the case isn't dismissed, it will likely go to trial, at which point, DeCarolis is likely to raise the defense -- also a part of his dismissal motion -- that state law allows a person to defend his person and property.

"... a person may be legally justified in his actions when he acts not only to protect himself but also to prevent a criminal trespass or even prevent damage to premises," DeCarolis wrote. "In these instances the law allows for a person to go so far as to use physical force in order to defend against these various threats."

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 10:19 am

A year of private trash service in the city marked by one company with picnic

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Trash Away

It's been a year since the city went to a new garbage collection system that allows residents to hire their own trash hauler.

One of our local vendors, Trash Away, owned by David and Jeff Pero, celebrated their first year in business over the weekend with a picnic for their customers.

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 10:09 am

Shuknechts thank community for suppport

post by Howard B. Owens in elba

Dave, Peggy, Brian and Dan Shuknecht asked that we share this thank you:

The Benefit for Brian was a monumental success. We are grateful and appreciative for the contributions of so many people and businesses. When we were informed by our friends that they wanted to throw a benefit to help with our extensive bills from the accident, it deeply touched our hearts. Thank you doesn’t seem enough but thank you to all who helped from the planners, those who donated, helped with the raffles and in the kitchen, the bands, those who attended and to those who prayed! Thank God and the power of prayer as our prayers were answered and Brian is healing amazingly well. We are proud to live in such an incredibly generous and supportive community.

Previously:Benefit Saturday at Elba Firemen's Rec Hall to aid young burn victim and family

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Photos: A tractor and a barn on Townline Road, Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, bergen

On the drive back from Bergen this afternoon, I stopped for a couple of pictures on Townline Road.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Jim Maxwell named NYS Fire Chief of the Year

post by Howard B. Owens in City Fire, Jim Maxwell

Press release:

The City of Batavia Fire Chief Jim Maxwell has been selected by the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC) as the 2014 Career Fire Chief of the Year. Chief Maxwell received this award at the NYSAFC annual conference held on June 12th.

Chief Maxwell started working for the City in August 2010 as a 23-year veteran of the Kodak Fire Department (KFD) Eastman Kodak Company. During his career with the Kodak Fire Department, he is credited as serving as a HazMat resource tech, senior firefighter/EMT, lieutenant, captain and battalion chief. Chief Maxwell has also been a volunteer firefighter with Lakeshore Fire Department and North Greece Fire Department for more than 30 years.

City Manager Jason Molino said, "Chief Maxwell is an exemplary leader who has always been focused on putting needs of the City of Batavia residents above all else. He is forever committed to making the Batavia Fire Department the best it can be, and continues to dedicate himself to the men and women he serves with. It has been an absolute privilege working with such a professional and accomplished leader like Jim, and I congratulate him on being honored with this award."

This award is presented to association members for demonstration of exemplary leadership that has not only benefited an individual fire department, but also the emergency services of New York State. Honorees are chosen each year based upon their exemplary leadership, innovation, professional development, integrity, service to the public, and contributions to the fire service as a whole.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Alleged owners of 420 Emporium face federal charges two years after raids

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bath salts, crime, synthetic drugs, The 420 Emporium

It's been nearly two years since multiple law enforcement agencies raided The 420 Emporium, the erstwhile head shop once located at 400 Ellicott St., Batavia, but today authorities announced federal indictments against two alleged owners of the business.

Charles Darwin Fitzgerald, 39, and Amber Lynn Snover, 23, both of Rochester, have been charged with conspiracy to distribute, and distribution of, Schedule I controlled-substance analogues and maintaining drug-related premises. 

They face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a possible $1 million fine.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western New York, the defendants are accused of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute alpha-PVP, pentedrone and AM2201, which are all Schedule I controlled-substance analogues. The indictment also charges the defendants with maintaining four drug-related premises in New York for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing and using alpha-PVP, pentedrone and AM2201:

  • 21 West Hills Estate, Rochester;
  • 420 Emporium Store, 14 Market St., Brockport;
  • 420 Emporium Store, 400 Ellicott St., Batavia;
  • 420 Emporium Store, 1475 E. Henrietta Road, Rochester. 

Federal authorities are also seeking forfeiture of more than $770,000 in cash seized July 25 from the Fiztgerald-Snover residence in Greece as well as the property.

The 420 Emporium in Batavia was an infamous business for the 10 or so months it was open. The operators were suspected of selling various kinds of synthetic drugs, known generically as bath salts, and synthetic marijuana. 

Usage of the drugs was suspected in several bizarre and odd incidents locally.

Previously:

The sudden prevalence of bath salts in the community led to citizen protests.

After the 420 shut down, bath salt-related incidents became much less common (though did not completely go away) in Genesee County.

At the time the 420 was open, its ownership seemed murky.

Fitzgerald is listed in Monroe County documents as the owner of 420 Emporium, Inc. Snover once claimed on Facebook to own the 420 Emporium locations in Brockport, Fulton, Henrietta and Syracuse, but not Batavia. When contacted in 2012 by The Batavian, she denied ownership and then filed a harassment complaint with Greece PD against the reporter working on the story. State and local records showed Joshua Denise owned the 420 Store, LLC, at 400 Ellicott St., Batavia.

The 39-year-old Denise was arrested, along with Michelle Condidorio, during the July 25, 2012, raid. Both entered guilty pleas to possession of a controlled-substance analogue. Denise will be sentenced Aug. 21 and Condidorio on Sept. 18.

The 420 Emporium also operated a store in Fulton. That store is not listed in the indictment, but it is outside the jurisdiction of the WNY U.S. Attorney's Office. We don't know at this time if there is a separate indictment in the Central New York jurisdiction.

The July 2012 raid in Batavia was part of a one-day, nationwide effort to crack down on alleged bath salt distributors.

See also: From China White to bath salts, designer drugs ongoing public safety challenge

All photos are file photos from previous coverage.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Gillibrand announces $125K in funding for Habitat for Humanity affiliates in rural counties

Press release:

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced a $125,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Community Development Initiative Grant Program for Habitat for Humanity New York State, Inc. (HFH-NYS). The organization’s nine local affiliates throughout Upstate New York will use the funding to get training and technical assistance on board development, family selection and mortgage compliance, finance management, fundraising and resource development as well as energy efficient construction and improvements.

“Access to stable housing is essential for the health of our families and the economic strength of our communities,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Funding for Habitat for Humanity of New York will provide their Upstate New York affiliates with training and technical assistance to better serve those in need of quality housing.”

Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 and has built quality housing throughout 70 countries for those in need. The New York chapter was chartered in 2007 and works through 53 affiliates throughout New York who have produced more than 1,700 homes and created more than 300 jobs. Habitat for Humanity New York State will use the funding to provide technical assistance and training to nine Habitat affiliates in Upstate New York to help eliminate substandard housing.

The federal funding will be used by the Chautauqua Area Habitat for Humanity in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region; the Columbia County Habitat for Humanity in the Capital region; the Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity in Watertown; the Habitat for Humanity of Otsego County in Central New York; the Ulster County Habitat for Humanity in the Hudson Valley; as well as the Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County, Habitat for Humanity Livingston, Orleans County Habitat for Humanity, and Southeastern Steuben Habitat for Humanity, which are located in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.

USDA Rural Community Development Initiative grants were developed to assist community-based organizations and low-income rural communities in improving housing, community facilities and economic development projects in rural areas.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:22 am

Hawleys give Rotary members a sneak peek at new malt house

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, business, New York Craft Malt

Ted and Patty Hawley have been working for three years to open a malting house in Batavia. The process is almost done, and Tuesday, the Hawleys provided a tour of their new facility on their farm on Bank Street Road to members of the Batavia Rotary Club.

Ted Hawley spoke for about 20 minutes about the history of malting and beer brewing in New York, why he decided to get into malting and how the process works.

Rotary members were able to sample the taste of about a half dozen different barley grains.

At one time, New York was number one in barley and hops, but the emergence of better growing areas and prohibition killed the industries in the state.

In Batavia, decades ago, there was a malt house off Elm Street owned by Charles Fisher, and Genesee Brewery made malt in a facility on Lyons Street.

Even though there are no commercial breweries in Genesee County now, microbreweries are popping up all over the state, even in WNY.  The growing demand for malt is what got the Hawleys interested in starting their own operation. 

Once the new malt house is fully up and running, Hawley said there's already enough demand from microbreweries in WNY that he doubts any of his malt will be sold to downstate markets.

Before a resurgence in microbreweries in New York (there are now 128), it had been generations since malting barley was grown locally.  

It's a challenge to grow in New York because of moist air. Fungus can wipe out whole crops and at harvest time, there's a short window of opportunity to combine the stocks before the grain starts to germinate.  

Last year, the Hawley's lost 40 acres of grain because of a day or two of rain right when the barley should have been harvested.

Hawley said the grain looked good in the field. It looked good after the straw was cut and the grain was brought to the malt house, but when he did a pre-germination test, he found that at a microscopic level, it had already germinated, killing all of the enzymes. 

Some of that barley went to area distilleries, which can still use barley at that stage, but most of it became livestock feed.

In order to grow enough barley for his three-tons-a-day malting operation, Hawley needs to partner with local farms to grow his barley (and Hawley is still running experiments with Cornell Cooperative Extension to find the right variety of barley to grow locally -- a four to five year process).

It can be daunting to introduce the idea to a farmer who has no experience with malt varieties of barely (which are higher in enzymes and lower in protein than feed barely).

"It's a real challenge to grow it," Hawley said. "When I talk with a farmer about growing it for me, it's hard not to deter them."

To grow it, a farmer must use about half as much nitrate fertilizer as he would for feed or wheat. There's a limited five-day window to spray for fungus, which if missed means the crop is lost. And at harvest, the combine must be run at about half speed so the grain heads aren't scabbed.

For all that, Hawley said, it's still a worthwhile crop for the right farmers.

"It's a very good gamble," Hawley said. "I'll pay them twice what it's worth as feed. It could be very lucrative to somebody who takes good care of the crop."

Previously:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 9:27 am

Law and Order: Man accused of trying to run over Corfu resident

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

Justin Robert Swift, 35, of Guildhall Road, Henrietta, is charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and harassment, 2nd. Swift is accused of fighting with another person, then after the initial confrontation, driving his vehicle through the lawn of the Village of Corfu resident's home and attempting to strike him with the vehicle. Swift was jailed on $15,000 cash bail or $30,000 bond.

William R. Sturgeon Jr., 38, of South Main Street, Oakfield, is charged with two counts of forgery, 2nd. Sturgeon allegedly used another person's credit card on two separate occasions in April, 2013, to make purchases without the cardholder's knowledge or consent.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 9:17 am

Summit Street closed for water line replacement

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, infrastructure

Press release:

A water service replacement is scheduled for Thursday June 19 on Summit Street. This work will require Summit to be closed to traffic from Ellsworth Avenue to North Street until the repair is completed. The road will be closed at approximately 8:30 a.m. This work should not impact water service to customers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Photo: New water tower branded OAKFIELD

post by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield

Village of Oakfield Mayor Jason Armbrewster submitted this picture of "OAKFIELD" being painted on the community's new water tower. He said the picture was taken Saturday by Dave Drexel, the project inspector from Clark Patterson Lee. Armbrewster said the old water tower will come down some time this summer and there will also be a ribbon cutting at a later date for the new water tower.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Public hearing scheduled on proposed tax incentives for U.S. Gypsum expansion

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, Oakfield, U.S. Gypsum

The public is invited to weigh in during a public hearing at 4 p.m. Monday Tuesday, June 24, on a proposal to provide U.S. Gypsum with tax incentives for a major upgrade to its Oakfield plant.

The proposed tax abatements total $375,748.

U.S. Gypsum is considering investing $23.6 million in the plant, adding production capabilities that would create 12 new production jobs within three years after the project is completed.

Project description:

The United States Gypsum Corporation (USG) is considering upgrading its Oakfield, NY, paper mill, which currently supplies USG wallboard plants with the back paper "newsline" for sheetrock wallboard, to include face paper "manila" production capacity.

The Project includes replacing and relocating the hydropulper and detrashing equipment, stock cleaning, and manila production. Management has been considering upgrades to the facility as it is more efficient to produce the back as well as the front paper applications. Completing this Project will improve safety, quality, and efficiency to ensure the longevity of the facility as well as the retention and creation of manufacturing jobs.

The investment for the Project is expected to be approximately $23 million and will be implemented in three separate phases. Phase I activities, which are expected to commence approximately in the second quarter of 2014, will include replacing and relocating the filler pulper. Phase II will require stock cleaning which will commence in 2015. During Phase III, the facility will begin manila production which will commence in 2016.

If completed, the project is expected to retain 98 jobs at the Oakfield plant.

The proposed tax relief package includes $132,960 in sales tax exemption and $242,788 in property tax abatements on an 18,400-square-foot addition, creating an increased assessed value.

U.S. Gypsum would save $242,788 in taxes on the increase assessed value (while continuing to pay current property taxes) over 10 years.

The public hearing is scheduled to be held at the Oakfield Town Hall, 3219 Drake St., Oakfield.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Accident reported at Bank and Ross, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A motor-vehicle accident with injuries is reported at Bank and Ross streets, Batavia.

Head and face injuries are reported.

City fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

Law enforcement on location.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Bill introduced by Hawley to assist military families passes Assembly

post by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced movement of legislation, A.9216, to a floor vote which assists military families who have to relocate to New York because of a change in their duty stations and veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life. It allows children of these military families flexibility in course requirements when transferring to new schools because of the move. It also allows veterans who are new to the state to receive in-state tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools. The bill makes the family members of men and women who died from combat wounds eligible for supplemental burial allowance, and allows the Department of State to let out-of-state licensed real estate brokers in military families practice in New York.

“As the ranking member on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I considered this bill a high priority because it addresses issues unique to military families. This legislation will make the transition for military families into New York easier. This is one small way we can show our appreciation for the men and women who serve our country,” Hawley said.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Hawley announces summer reading challenge

post by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced the beginning of his annual Summer Reading Challenge for elementary and middle school students. The challenge requires students to read at least 15 minutes each day for 40 days in the months of July and August. The children who complete the challenge will receive an official certificate from Hawley recognizing their achievement.

“Helping young people develop reading skills is critical to their education. I encourage every parent who wants their child to have a productive summer to get a Summer Reading Challenge from my office,” Hawley said. “My hope for this challenge is that it helps develop a lifelong love of reading that benefits them for the rest of their lives.”

Parents who want their kids to participate in the Summer Reading Challenge can contact Hawley’s office at 585-589-5780 to obtain a Summer Reading Challenge brochure, which has the list of recommended readings and a calendar to track progress.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Ghost Riders (both bands) bringing a free music show to Downtown on Friday

The Ghost Riders and The Ghost Riders Drum and Bugle Corps team up again for another free concert in Downtown Batavia at 7 p.m., Friday.

The venue this time is Larry's Steakhouse -- well, the concert is outside on the sidewalk and Ghost Rider Bill McDonald encourages music fans to bring their lawn chairs.

Larry's will be serving drink and food specials for the event.

(File Photos)

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