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Howard B. Owens's blog

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)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Accident with injuries reported on West Main Street Road, Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Le Roy

A motor-vehicle accident with injuries is reported in the area 6852 W. Main Street Road, Le Roy.

Le Roy fire and Le Roy ambulance dispatched.

UPDATE 9:08 p.m.: Mercy EMS also responding. Route 5 is being closed to eastbound traffic at Bater Road.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Storm-related calls for this evening

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, weather

A tree and wires are down at 5968 W. Sweden Road, Bergen. The roadway is blocked. Bergen fire dispatched.

A tree and wires are down at 45 Church St., Elba. Elba fire dispatched.

UPDATE 8:35 p.m.: A utility pole has snapped and power lines are down in the area of 6112 Byron Elba Road. Byron and South Byron fire departments dispatched.

UPDATE 8:43 p.m.: A tree and wires are down in the area of 1075 Ham Road, Alabama. Alabama fire dispatched. Also, on 6323 Warboys Road, a pole is down with wires in intact.

UPDATE 9:43 p.m.: Town of Batavia Fire Department is requested to 5025 Ellicott Street Road, Batavia, for water coming through an electrical panel.

UPDATE 10:02 p.m.: State Police have requested Pavilion fire police to shut down Route 63 at Route 19 because of a stuck railroad crossing gate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 11:24 am

Local entrepreneur has growing new business on Cedar Street

The way 29-year-old Curtis Gallagher sees it, he's finally found a niche in business that isn't already occupied by a hundred other guys doing the same thing.

He's tried blacktop sealing and for two years he ran his own detailing and tinting shop. Now he's selling everything you need to start and maintain your own hydroponic garden.

A week ago he opened Nature's Best Hydro-Garden Center on Cedar Street, Batavia.

Hydroponics is an increasingly popular way for people to grow fruits, vegetables and even flowers without soil. The main medium is water, supplemented with nutrients.

"It's really pretty simple," Gallagher said. "A lot of people are intimidated. They think there's a lot to it, but it's very simple, and the growth rate for the plants and vegetables is twice as fast with hydroponics than in soil."

Gallagher sells everything a hydroponic gardner needs -- the trays and bins, grow tents, grow lights, nutrients and other items gardeners might use.

He settled on hydroponics for his new business because he found that he had a hard time getting what he needed locally to support his own hobby.

So far, he's drawing customers from throughout the GLOW region.

"There's a lot of people who have to travel out of town, so instead of spending their money in the community, they're spending it in Rochester or Buffalo," Gallagher said. "I'm trying to keep it in the community."

His parents loaned him the money to get started, though they were skeptical at first.

 "My parents asked me, are you sure, and I'm like, 'the only way to find out is to try it,' " Gallagher said.

He got out of the detailing business when his lease expired on his building and the landlord wouldn't renew it. He decided it wasn't worth it to try and open a new location.

When he started thinking of a new career, he realized he already had one growing.

"I'm really the only person around here doing this kind of work, and I think around this area, Genesee County, you have to be more creative," Gallagher said. "You have to have something that's more unique to be able to succeed verus just opening up something that everybody else is doing already. Whoever has their foot in the door first is the one who stays with their foot in the door."

Now, Gallagher is looking forward to each new workday.

"It's almost like having a pet," Gallagher said. "Like my tomato plants over there, every day when I come in it's like another tomato and another tomato. It's growing so fast I can't believe it. It's fun. I'm into hunting and fishing. It's like another hobby. Now it's turned into a career, I guess."

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