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Friday, February 13, 2015 at 3:57 am

Serious injury accident reported on Thruway

post by Howard B. Owens in pembroke, thruway

An accident with possible serious injuries is reported on the Thruway in the area of mile marker 404. 

The call came from a tollbooth operator. 

A Thruway vehicle is involved; the injury is in the second vehicle. 

Pembroke and Indian Falls fire along with Mercy EMS responding. 

UPDATE 3:58 a.m.: Mercy Flight out of Batavia is only available for eastbound flights at this time. Dispatch on availability of Mercy Flight out of Buffalo. 

UPDATE 4:09 a.m.: All eastbound traffic being blocked. CPR in progress. 

UPDATE 4:18 a.m.: Mercy Flight can stand down. 

UPDATE 5:50 a.m.: We have no further information at this time. The accident is under investigation, according to State Police.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Closures and cancellations for Friday, Feb. 13

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Closures and cancellations announced so far for Friday, Feb. 13, due to weather:

  • Batavia City Schools
  • Pavilion Central Schools (not closed: two-hour delay)
  • Notre Dame
  • St. Joe's
  • Bingo tonight at St. Mary's is cancelled

E-mail closures and cancellations to [email protected]

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Teen accused of selling drugs on school grounds in Alexander

post by Howard B. Owens in alexander, crime

A 17-year-old has been charged with three felonies after being observed allegedly selling narcotics on school grounds in Alexander.

Nicholas David Frayne, of Chick Road, Darien, is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance on school grounds, criminal sale of a controlled substance, 3rd, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, and criminal possession of controlled substance as a Class A misdemeanor. 

The alleged sale was reported at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Alexander Central School.

Officials did not say who observed the alleged sale.

The case was investigated by Deputy Patrick Reeves and Sgt. Greg Walker.

Frayne was arraigned in Town of Alexander Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Photo: Plow truck pulls school bus from ditch in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy

Photo by Thomas Coveny, taken this morning. A plow truck pulls a school bus from a ditch on Bater Road near Route 5, Le Roy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Darien Lake rolls out two new rides for 2015

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park, tourism

Darien Lake Theme Park draws thousands upon thousands of visitors from all over Western New York each summer, but General Manager Chris Thorpe says Genesee County residents are going to be especially pleased with what they find at the park this season.

Two new massive rides are going to add a lot more value for season-pass holders, he said, and local season-pass holders are an important customer base.

"We are excited to present these two new attractions this year," Thorpe said. "We think it cements us as the best entertainment value in Western New York, particularly from a local perspective. For Batavia residents, local Genesee County residents, our season pass will offer so much more this year. We're excited to give them the opportunity to come out and visit the park frequently, over and over, to see what a great value we are."

The new rides are called Brain Drain and Rolling Thunder.

Brain Drain is a massive, seven-story waterslide that offers twin free-fall drops through tubes that loop and cross, with riders zooming through at 38 feet per second until they're blasted into a pool of water at the base.

Riders start in an enclosed launch capsule, with both riders dropping into the tube simultaneously when the floor beneath them gives way.

Roling Thunder is a compact steel loop that stands 73 feet at its apex and propels 24 riders at time through a closed loop on a high-speed train. The ride hangs passengers upside down and rockets back and forth through the loop.

Construction will begin soon and the rides are expected to be ready for opening day, May 9.

The expansion gives the park 47 rides for visitors to choose from, with enough variety to please all guests, Thorpe said.

"There's so much to do, but what's even better, is there's something for everybody in the family here," said Thorpe, who is originally from Buffalo and first started working at Darien Lake in 1995, rising to the level of general manager, transferring to other theme parks for the past couple of years and now returns home.

Noting how important Darien Lake is to the local economy in the jobs it creates and the tourism dollars it attracts, Chamber President Tom Turnbull said it was great to see the theme park adding rides.

"One of the things I've learned from our friends at Darien Lake -- they've kind of schooled me on the amusement park business -- is how important attractions are in driving attendance," Turnbull said. "To have not just one new attraction, but two new attractions means, I think, we can expect a banner year at Darien Lake."

Adding rides is a departure from last year's strategy to draw visitors to the park, using entertainment, such as the Harlem Globetrotters, a Latin music festival, and, of course, Nik Wallenda to draw in crowds.

To be sure, Wallenda brought guests to the park, but he's moving on to other venues this season and Thrope said the new rides are a good fit for what the park already offers.

"We'll still have our traditional entertainment in place, the magic shows and things like that, but last year's focus was Nik Wallenda, which was a very strong attraction," Thorpe said. "This year, we're going more with a hardware focus and looking at attractions that will peak people's interest."

The park will still work to maintain its identity as a destination with strong Western New York roots, Thorpe said, a branding effort begun by park management two seasons ago.

"It's important for us to be woven into the cultural fabric of Western New York and those things like the Anchor Bar and Tim Horton's and all the local vendors we work with are critically important to our success," Thorpe said.

Chris Thorpe explaining Rolling Thunder.

Tom Turnbull

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Law and Order: Man in trouble for pictures posted to social media site

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bergen, byron, crime

Stephen J. Turkasz, 24, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Turkasz is accused of posting photos of people who are the subject of a protective order on a social media Web site, in alleged violation of the order of protection.

Malcolm A. Kea, 27, Porter Avenue, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant related to a charge of operating while registration suspended or revoked. Kea was arrested at his residence for alleged failure to appear.

Curt Thomas Randall, 27, of Swamp Road, Bergen, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Randall was stopped for an alleged traffic violation at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday on Byron Holley Road, Bryon, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Benjamin G. Evans, 26, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Evans is accused of stealing from Tops Market, Batavia. Evans was arrested by State Police.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 9:07 am

Weather Report: Wind chill warning issued for this evening through Friday

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather

A little bit of snow fell on Batavia overnight and this morning, but that isn't the worst weather news you're going to get today.

It's going to get cold. Very cold.

A wind chill warning is in effect from 6 p.m. until noon Friday.

With winds of 10 to 20 mph, the wind chill value will be 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

The National Weather Service warns of the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia.

Stay warm.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Snow squall coming through area in next hour, could affect driving visibility

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

A band of lake effect snow is passing through Western New York and could come into Genesee County, affecting visibility for those on the roadways within the next hour.

There could also be unexpected slick spots on roads.

The Thruway area affected is between exits 48 and 60.

Caution is advised while driving.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Hawley, Ranzenhofer introduce bill to allow big game hunting with rifles in Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in Mike Ranzenhofer, outdoors, steve hawley

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley have introduced special legislation, S.1292/A.4367, in the New York State Legislature to allow the use of rifles for big game hunting in Genesee County.

“In several areas of New York State, sportsmen are allowed to hunt deer with rifles and this change in law would allow the use of rifles in Genesee County,” Ranzenhofer said. “As the this year’s session progresses, Assemblyman Hawley and I will be working together to get this bill signed into law.”

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley is sponsoring the bill in the State Assembly.

“Hunting is very popular in Western New York, and this legislation is being requested on behalf of the Genesee County Legislature. I am pleased to address concerns of local governing bodies from my district and will work with members of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Hawley said.

Last fall, the Genesee County Legislature and the Genesee County Federation of Sportsman Club requested the special legislation to be introduced at the beginning of the 2015 Legislative Session.

Existing environmental conservation law only authorizes the use of pistols, shotguns, crossbows, muzzle-loading firearms or long bows when hunting deer from the first Saturday after Nov. 15 through the first Sunday after Dec. 7.

The bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation in the Senate. If enacted into law, the bill would take effect immediately.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hawley says speaker flip-flopping on priorities

post by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley

Press release from Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“The election of Speaker Heastie last week brought hope that ethics reform would be ushered in with the changing of the guard in Albany. We are now beginning to realize that the priorities will likely remain the same despite the leadership change.

"Speaker Heastie stood tough on ethics reform merely a week ago and now we have learned his focus has shifted to rent control for New York City residents. I would like to say I am surprised, but the more things change the more they stay the same.

"As the legislature gavels out for its break, we have not heard a murmur of legislative ethics talk and cannot even discuss it until two weeks from now after the legislative break. It will have been almost two months since the opening day of session when we return to the chamber, and still no substantial legislation or ethics package has been voted on. That is unacceptable.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 8:57 am

Batavia man charged with sexual abuse in Warsaw

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime
Preston Ruble

After first providing her alcohol in April, a Batavia man allegedly subjected a 16-year-old girl to unwanted sexual contact according to state troopers in Warsaw.

Charged with sexual abuse, 1st, criminal sexual act, 3rd, and unlawful dealing with a child is 24-year-old Preston Matthew Ruble.

Ruble allegedly served alcohol to two teenage girls, one 16 and the other 17, on the night of April 12 and 13, then sexually abused the younger girl.

Ruble was arraigned in Village of Warsw court and jailed in Wyoming County on $20,000 bail or $40,000 bond.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Scouts host Pinewood Derby

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, annnouncements

Information and photo submitted by Marsha Geiger

Pack 112 of Batavia held it annual Pine Wood Derby on January 30th at John Kennedy School. First place was Brien Tyoe, Second place was Shawn Schwartzmeyer, and Third place was Nicholas Grover.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Photo: City fire clearing snow from around hydrant

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Fire

Firefighters clear snow from around a fire hydrant on Clifton Avenue, Batavia. There are some 640 hydrants in the city. A firefighter noted, "I know it's our job, but we can't get to them all." He said it would be great if residents would adopt the hydrants on their streets and help keep them clear of snow. "After all," he said, "it's their property we're trying to protect."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 2:33 pm

City Council mum on assistant city manager position during budget amendment meeting

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, budget

Notable during last night's City Council meeting were the words not spoken.

For all the talk in the community the past few weeks about eliminating the Batavia's assistant city manager position, not a single council member raised the issue when given the chance.

The council passed five budget amendments, all recommended by City Manager Jason Molino, eliminating $53,000 from the spending plan. But after those five motions passed and Council President Brooks Hawley asked if members of the council had any other amendments to offer, the panel was silent until Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian piped up.

"What's the use to raise an amendment if you won't compromise over here?" Christian asked.

After the meeting, Christian expressed frustration that she believes residents want more spending cuts but she doesn't feel anybody is listening to her pleas.

"It really bothers me," Christian said. "There are a lot of people out there who are having a difficult time living."

While there has also been a move afoot to eliminate spending for Vibrant Batavia, since that expenditure is not part of the budget, it will be addressed as a separate resolution at a future council meeting.

The assistant city manager position, however, is part of the budget.

Christian said she would certainly support eliminating the position, but she said she didn't make a motion because she believes only three other council members would vote with her, giving such a motion no chance of passing. 

"I didn't bring it up, you're right," Christian said. "What's the use?"

Councilman Eugene Jankowski said after the meeting he didn't bring it up because he's not ready to eliminate the job.

"I made the motion last year not to put it in the budget and it was voted down," Jankowski said. "This year I've seen some of the good work that she's done and I personally feel it's premature to just fire her after only a few months. I'm still keeping an eye on it to see how it's going to pan out."

Jankowski said he doesn't sense a strong sentiment from fellow council members for eliminating the assistant city manager position.

As for Vibrant Batavia, Jankowski said he intends to bring a motion reduce the proposed $45,000 allocation, but not cut it out completely.

He wants a compromise position, he said, because some constituents feel passionately that no more money should be spent on Vibrant Batavia and others are just as passionate in their support of Vibrant Batavia.

He wants to see Vibrant Batavia stand on its own and would like to find a mechanism to make that possible.

He said he doesn't know what the timetable would be to wean Vibrant Batavia off of city support.

"If it's impossible in 12 months, then I want to see what the plan is," Jankowski said. "If it's a reasonable plan and it looks viable and everybody in the community knows what it is and knows when that time is going to end, then it's up to them to decide whether they accept it or not."

He also said that partial funding wouldn't close the door to the council providing more assistance if Vibrant Batavia found it needed more time to stand on its own after making a verifiable and honest effort to be self-sufficient.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Attorney files motion arguing Scott Doll didn't get a fair trial for 2009 murder

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

An attorney representing Scott F. Doll has filed a motion to vacate the former Corfu resident's 2010 murder conviction on the grounds that Doll's rights were violated the night of his arrest and his trial counsel's failure to raise the issue of specific rights being violated constituted inadequate representation.

Timothy Murphy is also asking for DNA testing on fingernail scrapings from the victim, Joseph Benaquist, a former coworker of Doll's and occasional partner in a used car business.

Murphy argues in a 22-page motion that there was no probable cause to detain Doll for more than three hours the night of the murder and then later transport him to the Sheriff's Office for further questioning.

Doll previously lost an appeal over the police interrogation, despite the fact he was never read his Miranda warnings, under a legal theory known as the "emergency doctrine," which allows police questioning if they believe a person's life may be in danger.

The night of Feb. 19, 2009, emergency dispatchers received a call about a suspicious condition on North Lake Road, Pembroke. 

Deputy James Diehl responded to the scene and located Doll walking on North Lake Road in overalls and carrying a tire jack in one hand.  

When Diehl approached, he noticed that Doll's overalls were covered in blood.

At one point, Doll claimed it was blood from a deer he had recently butchered.

At the time, there was no missing person report on Benaquist and his body wouldn't be found for another four and a half hours.

In arguing for the emergency doctrine exception for questioning Doll on North Lake Road and later at the Sheriff's Office, the prosecution contended that deputies and investigators found the blood suspicious and Doll's inconsistent statements troubling.

They suspected a crime had been committed and that perhaps a victim was still alive and in need of assistance, thereby justifying trying to get information out of Doll that might lead them to a victim.

Murphy argues that in rejecting Doll's appeal on those grounds, the Appeals Court found that there was no probable cause for taking Doll into custody and then transporting Doll to the Sheriff's Office.

There is prior case law that prohibits both actions without probable cause, according to Murphy's motion.

Detaining Doll for three hours at the scene exceeds the police's authority to "stop and frisk" a person under suspicious circumstances, Murphy argues.

The failure of Doll's defense counsel, led by nationally renowned defense attorney Paul Cambria, and assisted by Daniel Killelea, to object during the trial stage to the custody and transport of Doll constitutes a procedural error that compromised Doll's right to a fair trial.

Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl has written a response, but it has not yet been filed with the court, so it's not yet a public document. 

A hearing on the motion was scheduled for this morning, but was postponed to March 10 to give Murphy more time to read and respond to Zickl's answer.

For previous coverage of Scott Doll, click here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 11:52 am

City crews begin massive task of downtown snow removal

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown

In a winter of unrelenting cold and regular, periodic snowstorms, the snow keeps piling higher and the frustration of Downtown merchants has been mounting.

While merchants might be expected to shovel their own walks, there's nothing they can do, realistically, about the mounds of snow that gets piled up between parking spaces and sidewalks. It takes the city's heavy equipment to move that much snow.

At Monday's City Council meeting, Director of Public Works Sally Kuzon addressed the issue.

"We certainly understand (the complaints)," Kuzon said. "We would love to have a 24-hour operation, but we just can't do it."

This season so far, 90 inches of snow has fallen, including 52 inches in the past 13 days.

That has kept public works staff busy plowing and salting, often in 10-hour, overnight shifts.

That leaves at most two public works employees on the clock during the day.

"That's a little scary if something happens," Kuzon said.

Crews that are plowing and salting aren't available for the tedious, time-consuming, manpower-intensive task of snow removal.

Snow removal needs to be done at night when there is less traffic, fewer parked cars and no pedestrians to interfere with the operation. The project takes from 10 to 12 public works employees at a time.

And it ties up all of the city's loaders and trucks.

It so happened that crews started working on snow removal for the first time this winter last night.

The project was scheduled to start at 10 p.m., but before the workers could hit the streets, the plows and salters from the trucks needed to be removed. It also turned out two trucks had flat tires.

The work started just before midnight.

Crews cleared the south side of Main Street, Court Street and the parking lot near Jackson Street (where we caught up with them for photos at 5:30 a.m.).

Tonight, they will work on the north side of Main Street.

Weather permitting, they will work on Ellicott Street the night after that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 9:12 am

National Grid awards $350K in grants for Yancey's Fancy expansion

post by Howard B. Owens in business, National Grid, pembroke, Yancey's Fancy

Press release: 

National Grid has awarded grants of up to $350,000 to support improvements in Yancey’s Fancy current manufacturing operations, and the construction of a new, 112,000-square-foot cheese manufacturing, packaging, warehousing and distribution facility. The new site will be built on 12 acres in the Buffalo East Technology Park in Pembroke.

The new facility has a capital investment of $20.6 million, will create approximately 50 new jobs, and retain 100 existing jobs. It is expected to officially open next month. National Grid will provide up to $250,000 toward electric infrastructure costs.

A second grant of up to $100,000 is available to assist with the design of advanced technology to manage the whey by-product that is generated through the cheese-making process. That will be part of a 3,500-square-foot expansion of its current operations at 857 Main Road in Corfu. The new system will allow for more efficient processing of the whey, which is used as a common food additive and for animal feed production. The project requires an upgrade of the current electric service to meet new demand. The $2.64 million project will create 17 new jobs and retain 30 jobs.

“Yancey’s Fancy is a thriving local company that is creating jobs and a strong brand here in Western New York and across the country,” said Dennis Elsenbeck, regional executive for National Grid in Western New York. “Genesee County continues to be a model for economic development through its collaborative approach to creating a positive climate for businesses to grow and expand, like Yancey’s Fancy.”

“National Grid has been a great partner through the years in our economic development efforts,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). “In this instance, National Grid is providing critically important grants to sustain and grow the operations of one the largest employers in our region. It’s another example of the public and private sector collaboration that is resulting in the creation of new jobs and investment.”

The grants to Yancey’s Fancy are from National Grid’s Electric Capital Investment Incentive Program, which assists growing customers with costs of upgrading utility infrastructure to accommodate a business expansion or new construction that creates and retains jobs.

Information about National Grid’s suite of economic programs is available at www.shovelready.com.

Monday, February 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Hawley announces funding to protect local farms

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that grant money will be distributed by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund directly to localities in Genesee County for agriculture and farm protection. Hawley said he is proud to announce that this funding is being delivered directly to his district and that agriculture remains one of his top priorities due to its prevalence and economic strength in Western New York.  

“I am proud to announce that $25,000 awards will be given to the towns of Alabama and Oakfield in Genesee County as well as a $50,000 award for the county as a whole,” Hawley said. “The funding will be used for farmland protection plans and I am confident that our region will continue to lead the way in farming and agricultural development.

"I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle during my time in office to advocate on behalf of our farms here in Western New York, many of which are family owned, and it continues to be one of my top priorities as we progress through this year’s legislative session.”

Towns are required to fund at least 25 percent of the cost to develop an agriculture protection plan and county funding will be used to either update the plans or create new ones. Local government and farm collaboration is necessary to ensure that each plan promotes the local agriculture industry. Municipalities that have agriculture and farmland protection boards are eligible for these funds and applications can be accessed at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.

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