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Howard B. Owens's blog

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Photos: Scenes along Lewiston Road

post by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, batavia, lewiston road, photos


There is great beauty to be found in Genesee County, but the best shots can't always be captured from public roads. Once in a while, I see a shot I want, but need to get permission to walk across private property. Today, I drove out to a house on Lewiston Road because I knew there was a barn I liked, also I've been interested in getting the best angle on the shot above. For both pictures, the best shot wouldn't come from the roadside. Fortunately, the landowner was home and kind enough to let me wander around on his property.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Four people reported fighting at laundromat on Ellicott Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

At least two Batavia Police units are responding to a laundromat on Ellicott Street where four individuals are reportedly fighting.

Police were at the same location earlier this evening for a reported argument between a woman and her boyfriend.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Man with previous thievery charges accused of burglary on Harvester Avenue

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

mug-michael_piasta.jpgA Batavia man previously accused of stealing from local stores is in trouble again -- this time for allegedly burglarizing a business on Harvester Avenue and forging checks from that business.

Michael J. Piasta, 30, of 415 East Main St., was arrested by Batavia Police following an investigation and charged with burglary, 3rd, and criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Piasta is accused of breaking into a business at 56 Harvester Ave. and stealing checks and credit cards.

He allegedly tried to cash two business checks at area banks and is accused of using the credit card at various locations.

Piasta was jailed without bail.

Previously, Piasta allegedly stole some DVDs from Pandora's Boxx and fled on foot. He was the subject of a short manhunt at St. Joseph Cemetery off of Buell Street. Also, he was previously accused of stealing beer from Wilson Farms on East Main Street. In that case, Piasta was apparently caught on camera at the store, and at the time of his arrest he was wanted on a warrant out of Niagara County.

Information on the court status of those cases is not immediately available.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Pole fire reported on Route 33 near Upton Road

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, pembroke

A pole fire has been reported in the area of Route 33 and Upton Road, Batavia.

East Pembroke Fire has responded.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Thunderstorm warning in place for parts of Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

For the next 30 minutes, parts of Genesee County are in the path of a thunderstorm that has prompted a warning from the National Weather Service.

The thunderstorm warning is effect until 7 p.m.

Winds may exceed 60 mph.

The line of storms were located 17 miles west of Medina and 13 miles west of Darien and moving east at 50 mph.

The weather service said that while these thunderstorms contain very little lightning, "do not wait for the sight of lightning or sound of thunder to seek shelter."

UPDATE: Warning cancelled. The Weather Service reports that doppler radar showed the storm weakening at 6:46 p.m.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm

City expects cost savings with restructured Youth Bureau staffing

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Youth Bureau

With a vacant $80,000-a-year position, the City of Batavia is moving forward to eliminate its own youth director position and share the top youth manager position with Genesee County.

By restructuring Youth Bureau staffing, the city hopes to save $15,600 a year while maintaining current programs -- some of which have been around since the 1950s -- at current levels.

"We really need this program to work," said Councilman Bill Cox. "What I like about this proposal is (it's) not only is a reduction in our budget, it's another step toward working together. Whether you call it consolidation or call it shared services, it's one more step toward working with the county."

sam_barone.jpgUnder terms of the proposal, the county's current youth director would become the top manager of the city's Youth Bureau. The shared director would work for the city one day a week and the county would provide an additional five hours of clerical support.

The total cost to the city will be $21,365.

Under the current budget, total compensation for the Youth Director position is $78,960, which is based on the salary, taxes and benefits paid out for the former youth director, who retired six months ago. Her base salary was $59,369. However, according to Jason Molino, she didn't use the city's health care plan, so replacing the director position could actually cost $12,000 more.

The projected $15,000 savings with the shared-services agreement is based on the current budget.

In the restructured Youth Bureau, the city would retain a youth coordinator position, raising the compensation from $56,676 to $60,853. A new position, youth program specialist, would be created with a compensation package of $50,000 (base salary of $29,457), and a part-time rec leader position would be retained at $9,453.

Much of the funding for youth programs in the city comes from state grants that have been in place for decades. Among the programs funded is a six-week summer youth program at all five city parks. The summer programs have been in place since the 1950s and are free to the public. They mostly serve youths 6 to 14. Without the grants, the programs wouldn't exist.

Grants also fund a youth/neighborhood technology center, open 2 to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Funded by Time Warner, the center provides seven computers and tutoring.

The Town of Batavia also makes a contribution toward the cost of the city's youth programs because some town children participate in the programs.

"It’s very important there are some opportunities for youths," said Councilman Sam Barone (pictured). "There’s an old saying, 'You can pay me now, or you pay me later,' but if we give our youths an opportunity to learn and grow it will pay off for us later."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Photo: Giant pumpkins on Walnut

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, Walnut Avenue


Paul Schlaggel stands with the giant pumpkins he's selling in front of his place on Walnut Avenue, Batavia.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 11:09 am

Sign carrying in front of South Beach not in Suzanne Corona's future

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Ken Mistler, South Beach, Suzanne Corona

South Beach owner Ken Mistler announced today that he won't require Suzanne Corona to carry a sign in front of the restaurant saying "I stole from South Beach."

"Her sincere apology was restitution enough for me," Mistler said.

Corona, already facing a public lewdness conviction for her part in a sex act at Farrall Park in June, could have been charged with a felony for trashing the South Beach lunch buffet one afternoon last month. To avoid the charge, she signed a contract with Mistler last week admitting her deed and agreeing to carry the sign for four hours.

Mistler said Corona's husband reached out to him through a mutual friend to ask if during the four-hour walk he could be their to protect his wife from public abuse.

"It was at that point that I realized that this affects more than Suzanne," Mistler said. "It affects her whole family. I can't punish her family for something she did."

Reached this afternoon, Corona said she was grateful to Mistler for his decision.

"That is very wonderful of him," Corona said. "I told this to the media before and it got cut out -- he's a very fair man, a nice man and I respect him very much. I can't thank him enough that he's chosen this direction for my family."

After Corona got out of the hospital following an eight-day stay, she immediately came to Mistler ready to sign the contract, Mistler said. He said he figured that was a hard eight days lying in a hospital bed thinking about what she had done and the anticipation of the walk was probably difficult to think about.

He said he didn't feel the need to ask any more of her.

"She never said she wouldn't do the walk," Mistler said.

While Corona is off the hook for the four-hour "walk of shame," Mistler said he is suggesting to her -- only a suggestion -- that she volunteer for four hours with a local agency such as the animal shelter or help with a charity event.

"I've done that before," Corona said. "I've volunteered in soup kitchens. I've volunteered at a hospice. I can certainly do something for him in that regard. I most certainly will."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 9:20 am

Selling Falleti Ice Arena won't come without a cost

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Falleti Ice Arena, sports

If the city were to sell the Falliti Ice Arena, it would have to get at least $450,000 for the 30-year-old facility according to City Manager Jason Molino.

That base price would cover current debt on recent improvements to the facility, the Zamboni ice resurfacer as well as the cost of separating the HVAC and sewer line, which is shared with the Batavia Fire Department headquarters.

Councilwoman Patti Pacino, for one, doesn't think any investor will pay as much as $450,000 for a facility that old and attached to a municipal building. What's more, she's worried that once the building has new owners, they will be under no obligation to provide community services, such as hosting local hockey leagues and high school programs.

What if some day they wanted to turn it into a discotheque, or something else, she mused.

"That (loss of community use of the facility) frightens me," Pacino said.

bill_cox.jpgCouncilman Bill Cox  (pictured) said he's pleased with how well things are going with the current management company, but doesn't think the city should own an ice arena.

"The ice arena is (a) great service and it’s enjoyed by people from throughout the county, but it’s not a vital service to the city," Cox said. "I believe we have to get out of areas that really aren't vital city services and involve private business."

Councilman Bob Bialkowski is all for selling the facility. He said he already received calls from local business people supporting the idea of selling it, wondering what the city was doing running an ice rink to begin with.

Technically, the city doesn't run it. For the past four seasons, a management company, Firland, has run the rink, and by all accounts, has done a good job. Firland has made all of its obligated payments to the city, totaling more than $160,000.

If the agreement were renewed -- which Firland wants to do -- the city could expect $400,000 from Firland over the next 11 years, enough to cover debt service, including the $75,000 still owed on the Zamboni machine.

If the city were to sell the facility, Molino said in a report, the sale price might only be four or five times current revenue, or between $300,000 and $400,000.

That's just a guess at this point. If the city were to get serious about selling the arena, a request for proposal would need to be written and an appraisal done -- a process that would cost the city thousands of dollars.

That cost scared off some council members from supporting the RFP process and by consensus, the council went along with a suggestion by Molino that the city generate a request for interest statement and float it around to potential buyers -- just to see if there is a market for the facility.

"It’s not every day that an ice rink goes on the market that’s 30 years old in a rural market like this," Molino said.

City Attorney George Van Nest also cautioned council members that finding a buyer could be difficult.

"There are going to be several strings attached, which is going to make it less attractive to a purchaser," Van Nest said.

Councilman Frank Ferrando said the currant arrangement with Firland seems to be working out well and from what he hears, hockey and ice skating are "booming" at Falleti.

"We need more booming kind of things happening in Batavia," Ferrando said. "I would hate to see us lose that just because we want to get rid of (the building)."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

Police Beat: City officer makes DWI arrest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Alabama, alexander, crime

Michelle Richmond, 41, of 207 Washington Ave., Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater and speeding. Richmond was stopped at 2:52 a.m. on West Main Street, Batavia, by Officer Darryle Streeter.

William L. Verney, 29, of Alexander, is charged with conspiracy, 6th. Verney was arrested by State Police on Monday for an alleged incident reported on Oct. 10 on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. No further details were released.

Jeffery A. Fitzsimmons, 18, of Medina, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Fitzsimmons was arrested by State Police at 1:05 a.m., Saturday, on Route 63 in the Town of Alabama.

Harold Miles, 52, of Batavia, is charged with introduction of prison contraband, 2nd, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th. Miles was arrested by State Police on Saturday for an alleged incident reported on Oct. 19. No further details were released.

Monday, October 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Democrats pack Larry's to hear campaign speech by Cuomo

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Andrew Cuomo, Democrats, politics


Attorney General Andrew Cuomo made a campaign stop -- he's running for governor -- in Batavia this afternoon at Larry's Steakhouse on East Main Street.

The room was packed with local Democrats and several members of the media.

We'll have more coverage later.

UPDATE:  My digital recorder failed me. I was planning to post an audio of Cuomo's speech, but the file didn't save right.  All I have is his meeting with reporters (audio starts just after a TV reporter asked about his plans for the lieutenant governor). There are more pictures after the jump.


Monday, October 25, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Police Beat: Man jailed without bail after allegedly violating order of protection

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield, Pavilion

Andrei P. Sliker, 19, of 15 Thorpe St., Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd, and criminal contempt. Sliker alleged grabbed and pushed a woman who had a court order of protection against Sliker. Sliker was jailed without bail.

Matthew R. Hinze, 19, of Batavia, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs, loud/inadequate muffler, a license plate violation and unlawful possession of marijuana. Hinze was stopped at 11:09 p.m., Friday, on Route 63 in the Town of Batavia, by Deputy Patrick Reeves.

Jennifer Pearl Hepp, 28, of Walker Avenue, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or higher, aggravated unlicensed operation and driving left of the pavement markings. Hepp was stopped at 2:42 a.m. on Route 238 in Alexander by Deputy Jason Saile.

A 17-year-old from Walker Road, Pavilion, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Walker was charged after a drug-sniffing K-9 reportedly alerted on his vehicle.

A 17-year-old from Big Tree Road, Pavilion, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Walker was charged after a drug-sniffing K-9 reportedly alerted on his vehicle.

Michele Marie Davis, 27, of Wyoming Road, Pavilion, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and speeding. Davis was stopped at 1:48 a.m., Sunday, on Perry Road in Pavilion by Sgt. Brian Frieday.

Charles William Wilder, 27, of Crane Raod, Oakfield, is charged with felony DWI, aggravated DWI with a BAC of .18 or greater and improper left turn. Wilder was stopped at 2:29 a.m., Sunday, on South Main Street, Oakfield, by Deputy Jason Saile.

Angela A. Snyder, 32, of 432 E. Main St., Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Snyder is accused of shoplifting from the Dollar General.

Monday, October 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Andrew Cuomo planning campaign stop in Batavia today

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


Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat running for governor, is reportedly going to make a campaign stop in Downtown Batavia this afternoon. He's scheduled to stop at Larry's Steakhouse, but that could be moved to the Homestead conference facility inside the mall, and he will appear either at 4:30 or 5 p.m. (we've heard different accounts).

One protester is already outside of Larry's. His name is Jay D. Fuller and he's from Medina. His sign reads, "Healthcare is about caring, not $$$" and "Paladino is right." When I spoke to him, he talked about some land-use/political issue in Medina. The connection, I gather is that Cuomo authorized state grants to the family Fuller has a dispute with. "I think he should know who the money is going to," Fuller said.

Meanwhile, as I left Larry's, Joe DioGuardi's tour bus drove by. DioGuardi is a Republican running for Senate. I'm not sure if he was just passing through or if he made an appearance. The bus turned off of Jackson Street, which is where the local GOP has set up shop.


Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Driver reportedly fails to see truck on Route 63 before accident

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, pavillion

A 35-year-old driver from Honeoye Falls said she didn't see the tractor-trailer barreling down Route 63 before it plowed into her 2001 Volkswagen sedan.

The woman was sent to UMMC with non-life-threatening injuries and issued a citation for allegedly failing to yield the right of way.

The accident occurred at 6:27 p.m. (initial report)

Brandy M. Temple said she stopped at the intersection of Route 246 (Perry Road) and Route 63, and then proceeded southeast when her car was struck by a 2008 International driven by Dumitru Ban, 36, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Ban was not injured.

There is a stop sign on Perry Road at that intersection, but Route 63 is designated for through traffic.

The accident was investigated by Sgt. Greg Walker.


Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Photos: 14th Annual John Gardner reading at the Pok-A-Dot

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, John Gardner, Literature, Pok-A-Dot


It's been said that the Pok-A-Dot was John Gardner's favorite eatery. In "The Sunlight Dialogues," Gardner mentions the 56-year-old diner in one passage.

For 14 years, the John Gardner Society has gathered at The Dot to remember the man and read from his work.

Saturday, nine people took turns reading from a variety of his works, including novels, poems, short stories and nonfiction.

Pictured above, Erica Caldwell, owner of Present Tense Books on Washington Avenue.

After the jump are more pictures from the event.


Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 6:01 pm

CSX to shut down crossing at Seven Springs Road for more than a day

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, CRX, railroads, Seven Springs Road, Stafford

CSX is planning to shut down the railroad crossing at Seven Springs Road from Monday at 9 a.m. through Tuesday afternoon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Genesee ARC dedicates new community center in Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee ARC


Supporters of Genesee ARC were on hand Saturday evening for a dedication ceremony at its new community center, 38 Woodrow Road, Batavia.

Tom Houseknecht, center above, also announced that Genesee ARC's fundraising campaign for the facility exceeded goals. A total of $761,307 was raised. The goal was $750,000.

The center was also officially named the Edward S. Houseknecht building. Edward, who died at age 3, was the first child of Ralph Houseknecht Sr. and his wife. The tot inspired the entire Houseknecht family to aid other families with children with disabilities.

Pictured with Tom Houseknecht are his sisters, Katie Houseknecht and Mary Kay Barton.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Driver said he was 'playing with radio' prior to accident

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A driver said he was "playing with the radio" just before his car crossed into oncoming traffic on Lewiston Road, leading to a two-car accident at 6:42 p.m., Saturday.

The driver, Matthew J. Zon, 29, of East Main Street, Bryon, was transported to UMMC with non-life-threatening injuries. He was also cited for allegedly moving from lane and unlicensed operation of a vehicle.

Thomas Oliver, 34, of Iris Avenue, West Seneca, who was driving the other car, was not injured.

Neither driver had passengers.

The accident was investigated by Deputy Cory Mower.

(initial report)

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