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Howard B. Owens's blog

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:32 am

Map company clarifies position with chamber on local ad sales effort

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chamber of commerce

The co-owner of a company that makes an ad-supported map product said he wants to make it clear he takes seriously concerns that his sales reps may have left an impression with some local businesses that his company is working with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

"We are acknowledging that we are not affiliated with the chamber on this edition," said Matt Vonderhaar, of Cincinnati-based Universal Advertising Associates.

Yesterday, The Batavian reported that chamber officials were concerned that Universal was representing a tie with the chamber in its sales efforts for a map of Genesee County.  The chamber has its own map project, which The Batavian is providing support for on the upcoming edition.

Vonderhaar said his 35-year-old company has been doing business in Batavia for 20 years.

In fact, he said, from 1997 up until June 2008, the chamber had a free ad on the Genesee County map in exchange for distributing the map through the chamber office.

He said Universal produces maps in 42 states, and many of them are affiliated with local chambers. He suggested that perhaps some of his 35 sales reps are conditioned to talk about the chamber connection from those other sales calls.

He said if anyone has any concerns about his reps sales tactics, they should contact him directly through his company's website.

"This is a second-generation business," Vonderhaar said. "We put out a great product. We're very proud of what we do. If anybody has an issue with our business they should call me directly."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Juror in Scott Doll trial responds to verdict critics, discusses difficult deliberations

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

A juror in the Scott Doll murder trial contacted The Batavian today and after confirming the juror's identity, we agreed to anonymously publish this account of the juror's experience.

I just have a couple things to say about the Scott Doll trial. I was a  juror who sat in the front row. I would not like to give my name or my number as I am not trying to cause any problems with this statement, just  want to clear some things up, that have been on my mind since last Thursday.

I wanted to start off by saying that none of us in the jury chose to be in that box for the three weeks, we were chosen by both sides of the case as they felt we were the most impartial and non-biased individuals out of the pool they had to choose from. That being said, I would like to also tell everyone that none of us had preconceived notions as to the guilt or innocence of Mr. Doll. And for those of you who have comments such as "shame  on the Jury," you were not in that deliberation room discussing the facts/evidence so you have no idea what we went through.

No one but the 12 of us that were locked in that room for 12 hours knows what we discussed, and let me tell you there was quite a lot of discussion taking place. I do not like the fact that almost instantly people comment that we locked up an innocent man, that there is a "real" murderer on the streets. To you all, we all examined the evidence, and listened to all the testimonies. We all listened to the opinions and concerns that each of us had, and NO ONE was forced into making a guilty verdict when we took our  final vote.

We DID NOT rush things to get it over with. Anyone who had reservations on coming up with a verdict was allowed to voice their opinions. It all comes back to the evidence. Mr. Cambria told us to use our "common sense" when it came to deliberating on a verdict. We all felt that the evidence all pointed back to Mr. Doll, and to us that was "Common Sense" as that is what the evidence showed us. If there had been other evidence showing otherwise we would have considered it.

For the record, it's not the easiest thing to give a guilty verdict either. Knowing someone's life was in our hands weighed on our hearts and minds those final minutes of the trial. And it is definitely not easy to hear the cries and look at the faces of the family either, even when you know that the right thing was done according to the evidence that was presented to us. I'm sorry if that upsets some of you reading this, but trust me I have not nor will I ever forget this event. I have certainly not moved on with my life and left it behind. And I hope to never have to do something like this again.

My thoughts and prayers are with both the Doll family as well as the Benaquist family. I know that both families are now missing a member, and things will never be the same, and that is something that I will think about daily, for the rest of my life. If anyone thinks otherwise they are greatly mistaken.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Batavia Police announce results of May traffic enforcement efforts

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

Sixty-two drivers in Batavia received traffic citations in May as part of a joint Batavia PD and State Police effort to crack down on mobile phone use and seat belt violators.

The Batavia Police received a grant earlier to help fund increased enforcement of these laws as part of a statewide effort.

In May, checkpoints were set up on Law, Clinton and Oak streets.

The State Police cooperated in the last location, setting up its Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit. Nine tickets were issued to truck drivers at the checkpoint near the Thruway entrance.

The city will conduct future enforcement actions as part of the grant it received from the governor's Traffic Safety Committee.

CORRECTION: Lt. Henning informed me that I got my enforcement grants mixed up. The grant for this particular set of checkpoints was for police to look for vehicle violations. You drive through a check point and the police check your registration and inspection, etc.  There is another grant, also still active in the city, for seat belt and mobile phone violations.  The May results of that enforcement effort have not been released yet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Trucker involved in fatal crash pleads guilty

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

A truck driver who was reportedly looking at porn on a laptop computer prior to slamming his truck into a disabled car on the Thruway in Pembroke pled guilty today to manslaughter.

The Dec. 12 accident took the life of a mother from Snyder, 33-year-old Julie Stratton.

Thomas M. Wallace, 45, of Brook Park, Ohio, could face up to 15 years in prison.

More from the Buffalo News, including video.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Reported fight in progress with dog involved

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A fight-in-progress has been reported at a residence near Pontillo's.

A dog was reportedly being used to attack a victim.

Police are on scene and have requested Mercy EMS for a person with cuts to the leg.

UPDATE 8:40 p.m.: A second ambulance has been requested to 516 E. Main St., where Mercy EMS reports a second victim needing transport to a hospital.


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Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Sheriff concerned about 'minimum force' bill in Assembly

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Gary Maha, new york

Sheriff Gary Maha calls a pending Assembly bill which would require cops to shoot a suspect only to wound him -- presumably aiming for an arm or a leg -- "ridiculous."

mug_gary_maha.jpgThe so-called "minimum force" bill says, "(a peace officer or police officer) uses such force with the intent to stop, rather than kill, the person who he or she reasonably believes is using unlawful force, and uses only the minimal amount of force necessary to effect such stop."

No shooting course teaches law enforcement officers to aim at limbs, Maha noted.

The first job of a cop in a dangerous situation is to protect himself and the people he's sworn to serve, Maha said.

"Deadly physical force, under the (current) law, can only be used as a last resort, under extreme circumstances," Maha told WBTA. "You're going to put more pressure on the officer if he has to shoot to wound. You're putting that officer in jeopardy."

Under provisions of the bill, any officer accused of shooting to kill another person in the line of duty would be charged with manslaughter.

The bill is sponsored by Annette Robinson (D-Bedford Stuyvesant) and Darryl Towns (D-East New York).

While the "minimum force" bill hasn't died, it is languishing in committee and is still drawing reaction from New York's law enforcement community.

A New York detective told the New York Post that the bill would create a situation where cops are expected to shoot the gun out of the hands of suspect, while the criminal would still be firing with the intent to kill. It's been called the "John Wayne" bill because it requires a level of accuracy only seen in Hollywood Westerns.

"These are split-second, spontaneous events -- and officers have to make a full assessment in a fraction of a second," said an angry Michael Paladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.

The bill was drafted in response to the shooting death of Sean Bell, a man who was killed by police following a fight at a strip club where he was celebrating his bachelor party. An undercover officer reportedly heard Bell say at some point that he had a gun. In the melee that followed, Bell reportedly slammed his Nissan into a police vehicle.

Photo: File photo of Sheriff Gary Maha.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Official believes GCEDC offered a better package for Brothers International to stay in Batavia

When it comes to tax incentive packages, Genesee County has a few advantages over Monroe County, because of programs available targeted specifically for rural counties, according to Chris Suozzi, VP of business development for the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

So when Brothers International announced it was abandoning Batavia, where it was founded in 2001, for Rochester, Souzzi concluded it wasn't purely a business decision.

"In my mind it was more of a personal decision on where they wanted to locate the company," Souzzi said.

We have a call into Travis Betters at Brothers International to get his take on the relocation decision.

Souzzi said he last met with Brothers six months ago and presented a side-by-side comparison of the Genesee County package with the Monroe County package. He said it "opened their eyes" about what Genesee County had to offer and was under the impression they would "stay put in Batavia."

He didn't learn of the decision by Brothers to move until Monroe County put out a press release about the location change.

While the current Brothers location is in an empire zone, to date the company has received no tax assistance through GCEDC, Souzzi said.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Chamber concerned map company leaving wrong impression on sales effort

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chamber of commerce

A company out of Ohio has been calling businesses in Genesee County selling ads on a map, and Chamber of Commerce officials are concerned that business owners are being left with the impression that the sales effort benefits the chamber.

Lynn Freeman, president of the Genesee County Chamber, sent an e-mail to chamber members yesterday alerting them to the potential confusion.

"I spoke with the company and asked them to desist in tying their promotion to the chamber," Freeman wrote. "Their response was 'We can't control what our customers conclude.'"

The Batavian called the company, Universal Advertising Associates, which is based in Cincinnati, for comment and we have not received a call back.

There is an official map produced for the local chamber by a Rochester-based company, Mapworks, Inc. A portion of the proceeds from ads sold on this full-color map, benefits the chamber.

In the final quarter of 2009, The Batavian was the official sales representative for Mapworks on the chamber map project.

While release of the map is later than expected, it is in production now.

Freeman asks that any time a local business receives a solicitation from a third-party that purports to represent the chamber, business owners contact the chamber office to verify the affiliation.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Kid Rock driver admits to DWI after felony charge dropped

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, darien lake, Kid Rock, pembroke

mug-devlin.jpgA Florida man who was working as a driver on a Kid Rock tour bus last year when stopped by deputies on Route 77 in Pembroke admitted to a misdemeanor charge of DWI today.

Joseph S. Devlin, 38, of St. Augustine, Fla., was facing a felony DWI charge, but the felony was dismissed by Judge Robert C. Noonan because there was no "competent proof" as to the weight of the 2003 Prevost Tour Bus that Devlin was driving.

Under terms of the plea, Devlin will be given probation if his local probation department agrees to supervise the case.

If Florida probation refuses to accept supervision of Devlin, his plea will be withdrawn.

Under questioning from Noonan, Devlin admitted to driving the tour bus on July 15, 2009, and that he consumed alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel, and that his ability to operate the bus was impaired to a "substantial degree."

Sentencing is set for Sept. 1.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 10:34 am

Photo: Flowers in the City

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, photo

flowerhanging.jpg

City employee Brian Metz hangs a flower basket from one of the light standards in Downtown Batavia. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 9:50 am

Oakfield-Alabama on lock down in pre-planned drill

post by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools, schools

Parents who have heard that the Oakfield-Alabama school is on lock down need not be concerned, according to a school official.

Leanne Brogan, business administrator, said the lock down is a pre-planned drill.

"The children are not in any danger," she said. "It's just routine."

According to the O-A district website, there is also an emergency evacuation drill scheduled for Thursday.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 9:31 am

Today's Deals: Enchanted Florist, Adam Miller, South Main, Sallome's and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Give yourself the gift of flowers, or give to a friend. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

South Main Country Gifts, 3356 Main St. Road, Batavia, NY: Handcrafted items, gifts with a regional flair, candles, teas and spices -- South Main has a wide selection to please most any interest. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10. A great Valentine's gift!

Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, 8 Center St., Batavia, NY: Feel like a kid in a toy store again, or treat your kids to the greatest toy store they will ever see. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Sallome's Italian Deli, 40 Oak St., Batavia, NY: Wraps, subs, paninis and pasta as well as pizzas -- Sallome's offers a tasty variety of Italian deli items for eat-in or take-out. We have $10 gift certificates for $5 each.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

Herbly Wonderful, 3701 Pearl St., Batavia, NY: Unique specialties for your home and garden, from floral arrangements, to heirloom vegetables, herbs, teas and spices. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.

SOLD OUT

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 12:18 am

Photos: Skateboarders at skate park off Evans Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Evans Street, photos

skateboard07a.jpg

I often drive by the Skate park off Evans Street on my way home and think -- I should take some pictures there, but usually, the skaters just seem to be milling about. Today, they were doing some jumps, so I thought this might be a good photo opportunity.

I met Moosie Gard, Isaiah Munroe (above), Dimetrious Williams, Justin Barton and Mike Leon. 

Leon wasn't doing a lot of skating while I was there, but the other four are featured in the shots after the jump:

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Councilman suggests making foreclosed homes available to city employees

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council, foreclosures, landlords

Rather than auction away foreclosed homes, maybe the city should offer them first, at a minimal cost, to city employees, Councilman Tim Buckley suggested at Monday's Batavia City Council meeting.

tim_buckley.jpgHis idea met with some resistance, particularly Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, who said any such program should be open to the entire community.

But the gist of Buckley's proposal got some support -- rather than auction off homes that the city has seized for unpaid taxes, the city should create a program to turn them into owner-occupied residences. Instead of taking a chance that through the auction process they become rentals, find buyers who want to fix them up as their own homes.

"We should set up some type of committee to look into taking foreclosures and selling the property at a minimum cost to employees with some guarantees, and one of the guarantees would be that would agree to live in the property or five years," Buckley said.

In Buckley's plan, city employees would get the property a low cost, giving them instant equity that they could borrow against and invest $20,000 to $30,000 in home restoration.

There are 130 people employed by the city.

“When I was a young patrolman, I know I would have jumped at a program like this,“ Buckley said.

Christian said she was totally against the idea of making such a program available only to city employees.

"I would rather offer it to the whole community than just one single group," Christian said.

Councilman Frank Ferrando struck a middle ground, saying opening such a program to the whole community at first might pose too many complications.

"I think what Tim is saying will give us better control, and if the program works, we can expand later," Ferrando said.

City Manager Jason Molino agree to research a similar program Buckley said was once in place in Rochester, as well as what other cities might be doing along similar lines, and report back to the council.

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Need for emergency holding area at jail raises questions on Batavia council

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee County Jail

jaileasementarea.jpg

Batavia City Council members have some concerns about a Sheriff's Office proposal to build an emergency holding area for prisoners north of the Genesee County Jail in a current parking area and driveway immediately off Porter Avenue.

The need for the emergency evacuation area is being mandated by the state -- the jail needs a place to put detainees in an emergency situation where they must leave the jailhouse.

The holding area would be surrounded by a chainlink fence, and the county requires an easement from the city to install it.

Councilman Bill Cox raised the concern that in a few years the jail may very well move -- perhaps to a joint facility with Orleans County -- and the proposed evacuation area wouldn't be needed. But if the city grants a permanent easement, it may not be able to get the land back.

He wants the county to agree to remove any structures at its own expense should the need for the facility change.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski raised an issue about limited parking. Currently, the county has 11 parking spaces in the proposed holding area. That parking, apparently, would be pushed into space now used by the Batavia Police Department.

The council asked for more information before voting on the easement proposal at its next business meeting.

Photo Illustration: Satellite image from Google Maps of the jail and police building. The highlighted area is approximately where the holding area would be. This is not an official government document or actual representation of the fence line.

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Car fire reported on Ellicott Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Ellicott Street, fire

City Fire is being dispatched to 466 Ellicott St., Time Bomb Tattoo, for a car fire behind the building.


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Monday, May 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Man who allegedly resisted arrest gets hit with Taser

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Holland Avenue

Batavia Police used a Taser last night to subdue a man wanted for allegedly getting in a fight earlier.

In all, police made three arrests at 17 Holland Ave.

Officers arrived on scene at 11:09 p.m. looking for 24-year-old Steven Hirsch, intending to arrest him on a charge of harassment, 2nd.

Timothy Hirsch, 24, allegedly attempted to obstruct police officers and placed his hands on one of the officers.

Steven Hirsch, according to a police report, refused to comply with police officers' orders and physically resisted their attempt to arrest him. He got Tasered.

During the incident, Jennifer Stack, 24, of 12 Oak St., Batavia, was allegedly on the street yelling obscenities at police officers.

Steven Hirsch was jailed on $2,000 bail, charged with harassment and resisting arrest.

Timothy Hirsch was jailed on $1,000 bail and charged with obstructing governmental administration.

Stack was issued an appearance ticket for alleged disorderly conduct.

Responding to the call were officers Darryle Streeter, Frank Klimjack, E.E. Bolles, Chris Camp and Sgt. Mullen.

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Driver surprised by turn in Cleveland Road, slams into house

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, Cleveland Road

A house on Cleveland Road was seriously damaged after a driver failed to negotiate the sharp bend in the roadway.

The accident occurred at 5:21 p.m., Sunday.

The house, at 2047 Cleveland Road, suffered a cracked foundation, cracked walls and extensive interior damage.

The driver, James C. Emerson, 48, of State Street, Batavia, complained of injuries but was not transported to a hospital.

No citations are reported on the investigation report by Deputy Patrick Reeves.

Emerson told Reeves that he wasn't expecting Cleveland Road to suddenly have a turn where it did.

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