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Howard B. Owens's blog

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm

County budget also includes lower pay for legislators

post by Howard B. Owens in budget, county legislature

One of the spending cuts in the Genesee County budget that has been overlooked in coverage of other proposed cuts is that legislative members themselves are taking a pay cut.

For eight legislators, their 2010 pay of $11,468 is being cut to $10,895 in 2011. For the chair of the legislature, pay is being cut from $15,090 to $14,337.

Human Resources Director Karen Marchese said privacy laws prevent information from being released on health insurance compensation for legislators. Only three members are enrolled in the county coverage plan.

UPDATE: The expense for health insurance coverage for legislators, which included "buy back" (for coverage supplied by legislator's spouses) is $39,900.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Report: Don't sell the nursing home

post by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Nursing Home

Keep it. At least for now.

That's the recommendation of a consultant hired by Genesee County to study the legislature's options for dealing with the increasingly expense-draining county nursing home.

Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research turned over a report this week to the county that said it's not a good time to sell public facilities and the county may not achieve sufficient returns from such a sale.

Genesee County faces an aging population, continued rising expenses and an uncertain future of federal funding for the nursing home. Those same factors would likely keep down the price a private buyer would be willing to pay for the home.

And the county would lose control of the facility and have no recourse if a private owner no longer used the home as a "safety net" for disadvantaged seniors.

There are numerous problems for the home going forward, CGR concludes, and recommends a number of changes in operation of the home.

It also recommends establishing a Nursing Home Board to oversee the operations of the home.

The full 121-page report is available by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Support, history of Genesee Justice motivated director to ensure division saved

post by Howard B. Owens in budget, Genesee Justice

Ed Minardo will be out of a job come Jan. 1, but Genesee Justice will carry on.

"It was certainly in my mind, 'Not on my watch,'" Minardo said after learning that County Manager Jay Gsell would recommend to the legislature that Minardo's plan to cut staff hours and eliminate his own job be approved.

And the legislature did just that Monday evening.

"I didn't want to see Genesee Justice and the great history of Judge Call (former Sheriff Doug Call) and Dennis (Wittman, founding GJ director), and the love and caring they put into it, evaporate into a memory."

Minardo said he was also motivated by the firm support Genesee Justice received from the legal community, including defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.

"That's one of the things that made me fight so hard," Minardo said. "There was an unprecedented outpouring of support from what is supposed to be a formal legal community. The were going outside their comfort zones to express appreciation for the programs we run and the good work of our staff."

With approval of the labor union representing staff at Genesee Justice signing off on the plan to reduce work ours, Gsell was apparently able to find enough cost savings to make Minardo's plan "budget neutral," meaning it won't increase expenses for the county.

When Gsell first presented his draft budget to the legislature, it called for closing Genesee Justice as a division of the Sheriff's Office and moving many of its functions to the probation department.

At a public hearing, members of the legal community and crime victims assisted by Genesee Justice came forward and encouraged the legislature to protect the pioneering restorative justice program.

Next up for Minardo: Put together a non-profit foundation that will raise money to fill the budget gap for full Genesee Justice operations, including reinstating his job as director.

Previous Coverage.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Young woman says agreement reached with driver who allegedly hit her car

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, crime, Stafford

A driver who allegedly hit a young woman's car at Prole Road and Route 33, Stafford, on Oct. 10, has agreed to help pay for her new car, she said this morning.

Danielle Lovett, who used The Batavian to appeal to the community to help find the alleged hit-and-run driver, e-mailed us this morning and said the driver was apparently identified and he will pay her $500 deductible on her insurance. Her car was totalled in the accident, she said.

Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble confirmed that the Sheriff's Office arrested William Pitcher, 64, of Thomas Avenue, Batavia. He was charged on Oct. 24 with failure to yield the right-of-way at a stop sign and leaving the scene of a property damage accident. 

Pitcher's car was apparently spotted by a reader parked at a local auto body shop within 20 minutes of the post going up on The Batavian and notified Lovett of the location.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Weather: Lake effect snow advisory in place until 7 p.m.

post by Howard B. Owens in kibee park, weather


The National Weather Service says some lake effect snow should hit Genesee County between now and 7 p.m.

The chance of snow this afternoon is about 80 percent.

There's some chance of snow tomorrow, and it should be partly cloudy on Thursday.

Photo: Kibbe Park mid-morning today.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 11:09 am

Garage fire reported on Herkimer Road, Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in Darien, fire

A garage fire has been reported at 1210 Herkimer Road, Darien.

Darien Fire with mutual aid from Alexander Fire responding.

A chief on scene reports the garage is fully involved.

The garage is not attached to any other structure.

UPDATE 10:23 p.m.: Fire knocked down.

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Monday, December 6, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Truck and car collide on Thruway

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, thruway

A tractor-trailer and another vehicle are reportedly involved in a traffic accident on the Thruway in the area of mile marker 394.1 in the westbound lane.

East Pembroke Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 10:51 p.m.: Everything's off the road. One minor injury. Responding units can proceed carefully.

Monday, December 6, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Stepmother sentenced to 20 years in death of Baby Andrew

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Andrew Cianfrini


UPDATED 6:39 p.m.

ELMIRA, N.Y. -- If Melissa Engelhardt spends the full 20 years in state prison that Chemung County Judge Peter C. Buckley sentenced her to today, her own two children will be young adults when she's released.

Kristen Cianfrini, the mother of Andrew Cianfrini, the 21-month-old killed by Engelhardt on Nov. 10, 2009, told Buckley -- the woman who once pretended to be her friend, but then tried to pin Andrew's death on her -- should spend the rest of her life in prison.

engelhardt_entering.jpgIn a statement to Buckley, Kristen called Engelhardt evil and heartless and said that Engelhardt planned the death of Andrew in order to end child support payments being taken from her husband's paycheck.

“Please don’t feel sorry for Melissa," Kristen said. "She has no sorrow, no heart, no nothing. She knew exactly what she was doing when she killed my baby boy. Melissa is a cold, heartless, selfish murderer.”

In October, in a non-jury trial, Buckley found Engelhardt guilty of manslaughter, but did not convict her of murder, saying that he didn't find enough evidence to indicate she intended to kill Andrew, only make him sick.

The Cianfrini family has expressed concern that Buckley, who has a reputation of being a liberal judge, would give Engelhardt far less than the maximum of 25 years prison time for the manslaughter conviction. The minimum sentence was five years.

After leading off with a lengthy mental history of Engelhardt -- 14 different foster homes, about a dozen different mental heath prescriptions over the years, several terms of hospitalized mental health care, a childhood of physical and sexual abuse, and years of untreated substance abuse -- it appeared Buckley was heading toward a lenient sentence.

judge.jpg"Your history shows that when you stop taking your medication, your behavior and decision making suffers, leading to a regression and poor judgment," Buckley said. "The crime of giving Andrew Cianfrini methanol in the form of windshield wiper fluid in his sippy cup was committed when you were not taking any medication and exercising a poor decision process causing the death of an innocent child."

When he told Engelhardt she would do 20 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised probation, the 24-year-old killer looked toward the ceiling (picture above) and supporters of the Cianfrini family -- more than a dozen people -- applauded.

After the courtroom cleared, Engelhardt could be heard in a back office of the court bawling and wailing.

During their statements, Chief Assistant District Attorney John R. Thweatt and defense attorney Nancy Eraca-Cornish re-argued their cases.

Thweatt tried to drive home the point that Engelhardt had to know that her actions would lead to Andrew's death.

"She knew enough to take the sippy cup and dump out the methanol and replace it with water," Thweatt said. "She knew enough afterward to try and shift the blame to Andrew’s mother. She knew enough to get her husband to try and reinstall the operating system on her computer in order to hide what was on it. All of that bespeaks some level of sophistication and intelligence and forethought and planning that can’t be explained adequately by saying she only had a GED or she wasn’t on her medication."

It was important, Thweatt said, for Judge Buckley to send a message to the community that she can't get away with her actions.

father.jpg“The message should be that here in Chemung County that you’re going to forfeit the balance of the rest of your life for the death that you have caused," Thweatt said. "We are very concerned that this message is getting lost in this case.”

Eraca-Cornish countered that the prosecution had every chance to make a case for a more serious charge and didn't. And as far as sending a message, she called out the DA's office for inconsistency, she said, in pleading out another case of a mother suffocating an infant and getting only six months in jail.

And as she did at trial, Eraca-Cornish pointed to Engelhardt's lack of education and low IQ -- saying it is only a 91.

“She is not now nor has she ever been high functioning, Eraca-Cornish said, adding later that evidence showed she researched online the effects of methanol on people. ”We don’t even know for how long she viewed those screens or whether she even understood what she saw on those computer screens.”

As for the idea that Engelhardt isn't remorseful, Eraca-Cornish, said she is remorseful. She didn't cry in court during the trial, she said, because that would be highly inappropriate. She expressed remorse to the judge in a letter, the attorney said.

“She has suffered," Eraca-Cornish said. "Has she suffered as much as the Cianfrini family? Absolutely not. But she has suffered.”

When offered a chance to speak, Engelhardt told Buckley that she will never forgive herself.

“I was not fully medicated and stable enough to see my errors," she said.

When Jean Cianfrini, Andrew's grandmother, spoke to Buckley, she recalled in detail the reaction of the family to news of Andrew's death. As she spoke, supporters in the gallery began to sob.

She spoke at length about how Kristen's 7-year-old son has been devestated by his baby brother's death.

"'Sometimes he irritated me, but I miss him,'" Jean recalled the boy saying once.

She said a day doesn't go by, more than a year later, that the boy doesn't talk about Andrew.

"He questions if there are children in heaven and if God plays with them, and if Andrew is not in heaven, will God send him back?” Jean said.

Outside court, Kristen had nothing good to say about Melissa Engelhardt, but indicated she was satisfied with the sentence.

"It's not 25 years. It's not life," said Kristen. "At least she will be in long enough that her children won't know her and hopefully when they get older they won't want anything to do with her."

Asked what she would say to Engelhardt, if she could, "I hope you rot and burn in hell," Kristen said. "I know my boy is haunting you every day of your life."

George Engelhardt, Andrew's father and Melissa's now estranged husband, also made a brief statement to the media.

"I don't think 20 years is enough," he said. "I'm just glad she will never see her children, my children, again. Her name is Melissa Miller. It's not Engelhardt, so, that's going to switch here quickly."


Photos: Top, Melissa Engelhardt reacts to the verdict. First inset, Engelhardt entering the court room. Second inset, Judge Peter Buckley. Third, George Engelhard. Bottom, John (grandfather) and Kristen (mother of Andrew) Cianfrini.

Monday, December 6, 2010 at 10:24 am

Police Beat: Trio of youths accused of breaking into cars in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, elba, Le Roy

A 17-year-old from Le Roy and a 16-year-old from Stafford are charged with petit larceny, trespass and conspiracy, 6th. The two youths were allegedly observed by officers Robert Tygart and Emily Clark of the Le Roy Police Department running through backyards on Hilltop Drive. The two youths were allegedly going through vehicles in the area and taking items from the cars. The suspects were located by following footprints in the snow. A 15-year-old was also involved and he was referred to Family Court. (Note: In most cases The Batavian does not release the names of youths under 18 involved in minor crimes. In this case, the Le Roy Police Department did not release the names.)

Alissa A. Fodge, 21, 7705 W. Bergen Road, Bergen, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and speeding. Fodge was stopped at 3:25 a.m., Saturday, on Ellicott Street by Officer Kevin DeFelice.

Martin F. Jones, 39, of 10 S. Main St., Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Jones is accused of striking a woman at her residence on Spencer Court.

Jamie Marie Hamill, 33, of Lockport Road, Elba, is charged with grand larceny, 4th, and offering a false instrument for filing, 1st. Hamill was arrested following an investigation by Genesee County Social Services stemming from an incident first reported in June 2009.

Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Fire police volunteer calls in alleged hit-and-run

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A Fire Police volunteer called in an alleged hit-and-run accident somewhere in the vicinity of West Saile Drive and Bank Street Road.

The volunteer pursued the vehicle, described as a Chevy Blazer, and the Blazer stopped outside of the city on Bank Street Road in a church parking lot.

A Sheriff's Deputy is in route.

The volunteer says the Blazer suffered heavy front-end damage.

Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Photos: Holiday lights in Stafford

post by Howard B. Owens in Christmas lights, photos, Stafford


Brian Hillabush started the "tradition" two years ago, and I did my best to continue it last December -- that is, posting pictures of local homes bedecked in Christmas lights.

As time permits between now and Christmas, I'll head out in the evenings in search of Christmas light pictures of homes and businesses (because of the time factor, probably, primarily in Batavia).

Above, a home on Route 5 in Stafford and below, Red Osier, in Stafford.


Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Hit-and-run accident reported on South Main near roundabout

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, roundabout

A hit-and-run accident with injuries has been reported in the area of South Main and the roundabout, Batavia.

Police are on scene and Mercy EMS is arriving.

No description provided of the suspect vehicle.

UPDATE 5:24 p.m.: A second ambulance requested to the scene. Still no description available on the suspect vehicle. It sounds like there might have been a total of three vehicles involved.

UPDATE 5:48 p.m.: It sounds like a Monte Carlo is being impounded.

Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Truck reportedly on fire on Tonawanda reservation

post by Howard B. Owens in Basom, Alabama, fire, Tonawanda Indian Reservation

A truck fire has been reported in the area of 271 Council House Road, Basom.

Alabama Fire is responding.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: An Akron firefighter on scene reports the truck is fully involved. He also says the correct address is 7003 Council House Road. An Alabama chief arriving on scene confirms the address.

UPDATE 5:02 p.m.: Alabama chief says units can respond non-emergency. The truck isn't near a building.

UPDATE 5:11 p.m.: All Alabama units are clear.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Weather Watch: Dec. 5, 2010

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

We'll update this post periodically with anything we hear that seems related to the weather.

First, it's in Monroe County, but about 20 minutes ago Le Roy Fire and Bergen Fire responded to an accident on the 490. It was a non-injury rollover accident in the median. Fire units are clearing the scene.

Now, a property damage accident is reportedly blocking Route 33 at Dublin Road.

UPDATE 5:12 p.m.: A highway man on Bank Street Road reports, "It's a little wild out this way."

UPDATE 5:43 p.m.: It appears that the worst of it hit the Byron-Bergen area and that band of snow is now passing to the east. The radar map show no new bands hitting Genesee County in the next five or six hours. We'll see.

UPDATE 6 p.m.: A car has hit a utility pole on Asbury Road, Le Roy. No injuries, no wires down, but the pole is snapped. National Grid requested to the scene.

UPDATE 7:05 p.m.: Vehicle off the road on the 490 near mile marker 1.

UPDATE 7:32 p.m.: Tree down on Bethany Center Road, just south of Ellicott Street Road.

Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Weather: Lake effect snow warning through midnight tomorrow

post by Howard B. Owens in Elmwood Cemetery, weather


Between six to 12 inches of snow could fall on Genesee County over the next 30 hours, the National Weather Service reports.

But the Buffalo office has issued a lake effect snow warning that covers Genesee, Niagara and Orleans counties.

Winds are expected to blow at 15 to 30 mph.

In places, visibility will be cut to a half mile at times.

Difficult driving conditions are expected with blowing and drifting snow.

This evening, highway workers have been heard on the radio discussing the possibility of roadways icing over quickly as the sun sets.

PHOTOS: Snowy conditions late this afternoon at Elmwood Cemetery, Batavia.


Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Batavia Pontillo's announces name change

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Pontillo's


There are lots of bright lights in Batavia this time of year, but a legendary one has been turned off.

When you drive down Main Street tonight, the familiar green and red neon sign of Pontillo's will be dark.

The restaurant will be open, but under a new name: Batavia's Original.

Earlier this year, the location's new owner, Batavia Pizza, LLC, a creation of Thomas Masaschi, Jeffrey Reddish and Jason Teller out of Rochester, were served with a lawsuit charging trademark infringement by the Pontillo family in Rochester.

No word on the status of the suit.

For our previous coverage of issues related to this Pontillo's location, click here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Ron Burroughs named Health and Humanitarian of the Year

post by Howard B. Owens in awards, batavia, Habitat for Humanity, Jerome Foundation

PC050005.JPGRon Burroughs, one of Genesee County's most tireless volunteers, especially when it comes to his work with Habitat for Humanity, was honored Friday for his efforts.

Burroughs was given the 2010 Health and Humanitarian Award by the Jerome Foundation.

"I can't put it into words," Burroughs chuckled during his acceptance speech. "It's just...I have a hard time comprehending it, really. It seems like there's so many other people out there who deserve it, but they named me...it just floored me."

Ron is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Batavia, and is directing the construction of a new addition there as well.

(WBTA contributed to this report)

Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm

DiSalvo home on Fargo Road once again brightly lit for the holidays

post by Howard B. Owens in Christmas lights, Fargo Road, Jim DiSalvo, Stafford


Jim and Connie DiSalvo have once again lit up their property on Fargo Road for the holidays.

The home is also on today's Holiday Home Tour to benefit Genesee Cancer Assistance (if you want to try and make it out before it ends at 4 p.m., tickets are $10 and still available at Go Art!, corner of Main and Bank).

As for the Christmas lights, Jim said this is the 14th year for the all-out effort to bring some Christmas cheer to local residents who might stop by. He said there are more than one million lights lit on his property and some 400 Christmas-related characters on display.

He's been adding to the number of displays every year, but said this might be as big as it gets.

Many visitors simply drive by (and as usual, there was a long line of cars coming down Fargo last night), but Jim said people are welcome to pull up his driveway and ramble around the new turning circle he's installed. People are also welcome to park, get out and walk around the property (which is really the only way to take in all of the displays and the full splendor of the lights).

Picture of Jim (and Annabella) in front of his house below, and then more pictures after the jump.


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