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Howard B. Owens's blog

Friday, December 3, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Photos: Salvation Army Toy Drive

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Salvation Army, toy drive

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Today at Ken Barrett's car dealership, the Salvation Army held its annual Christmas Toy Drive with the help of WBTA and the City Fire Department.

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Friday, December 3, 2010 at 10:37 am

Police Beat: Depew girl accused of attacking person with a baseball bat

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien, Oakfield

Leandra Marie Kutas, 17, of Gould Avenue, Depew, is charged with attempted assault, 2nd, criminal mischief, 3rd, and menacing, 2nd. Kutas is accused of punching, biting and hitting another person with a baseball bat during an incident in Darien on Nov. 10. Kutas allegedly left the residence after the attack and then returned a short time later and keyed the victim's car. Kutas was arraigned and released under supervision.

Tyler M. Schroder, 18, of Oak Street, Oakfield, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, and unlawful possession of marijuana. Schroder was allegedly found in possession of pills and marijuana while being arrested on a warrant. He was jailed on $1,500 bail.

Friday, December 3, 2010 at 9:25 am

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Margarita's, Alex's, Center Street and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, NY: To me, Delavan's is one of those restaurants where you want to eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, 15 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: When you're looking for an authentic Mexican meal, Margarita's is the place to go. The food and atmosphere are perfect and the service is always outstanding. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Alex's Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY: People come from all over the region for a fine dining experience at Alex's. It's best known for its ribs, of course, but Alex's seafood is also a favorite of the restaurant's diners. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

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.

South Beach, 59 Main St., Batavia, NY: Try the new lunch buffet. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50 (must be used by Dec. 31, 2010).

T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. "If it happens in sports, it happens at Brown's." We have a $20 gift card for $10.

Red Osier, Route 5, Stafford, NY: Truly, one of the landmark restaurants of the area. Red Osier features prime rib carved table side. We have $25 gift certificates for $12.50.

Larry's Steakhouse, 60 Main St., Batavia, NY: The name says it all -- Larry's is a great place for steak. Larry's has a fine dining atmosphere with a great menu and outstanding service. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Main St. Pizza Company, 206 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Pizza, wings, subs and even hamburgers and hot dogs, Main St. Pizza makes everything deliciously. 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

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 11:48 pm

National firefighters organization presents award to The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Fire, thebatavian

A story published by The Batavian in August 2009 received a second-place award from the International Association Firefighters in the organization's 2010 media awards.

The story, about the local firefighters' union annual MDA "Fill the Boot" campaign while ambulance layoffs loomed, was picked for nomination by City Fighterfighter Bob Fix and other members of the department.

The award category was for news stories on the Web. First place went to 1strespondernews.com.

A total of 245 entries from throughout the United States and Canada were judged in the competition.

Along with the recognition, the IAFF presented The Batavian with a $250 check.

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Reader photos: Snow and flooding

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

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Lori Ann Santini sent in this picture of a mulberry tree and barn in Corfu today.

Below is a picture from Annmarie Dilaura of Kibbe Park.

One more picture each from Lori Ann and Annmarie after the jump.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Weather: Lake effect snow warning canceled

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

The lake effect snow warning for Genesee County has been canceled two hours ahead of schedule.

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Two-car accident reported at the main intersection of Village of Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Le Roy

A two-car accident has been reported at the intersection of Route 19 and Route 5, Village of Le Roy.

The original call said the cars are blocking and the caller didn't see anybody getting out of at least one of the cars. Now somebody says, "they might have driven down to McDonald's."

Le Roy Fire and Ambulance dispatched.

8:34 p.m.: Property damage only. The cars are in the Walgreens parking lot.


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Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Photos: Winter wonderland in Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in photos, weather

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The other day in looking at this picture of the Old Courthouse, I realized instead of trying to photograph the courthouse where it is just the building and not the trees -- an impossible task -- I need to work the trees appropriately into the picture. With all the snow on the branches, I thought today would be a good time to give that a try. After trying out nearly a dozen angles, this is what I settled on. About 10 minutes before snapping this picture, Mary Pat Hancock walked into the building, which gave me the idea of waiting until I could get a person walking up the stairs to add a little extra interest.

Below is a picture of a landscape you've seen before -- off Lewiston Road heading toward Oakfield. And there are more pictures after the jump.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Local CSEA open-minded about Genesee Justice proposal, president says

post by Howard B. Owens in CSEA, Genesee Justice

Debbie Long, president of the union that represents county workers, will meet with county officials tomorrow to get details about a proposal to cut employee hours at Genesee Justice.

The proposal by GJ Director Ed Minardo would eliminate his own job and cut the remaining staff's hours, saving more than $100,000 and cutting the budget gap substantially -- though not completely -- thereby potentially saving the pioneering restorative justice agency.

"We're going in with an open mind," Long said. "We're willing to listen to anything that would save county employee jobs. We want to see the details. We obviously don't want to set a precedent for the whole union."

Legislators heard Minardo's plan for the first time Wednesday night and reacted with caution. There was the issue of whether CSEA would sign off on it, but also the plan needs to be "budget neutral," members said. That means another $12,000 in savings must be found so that there's no increase in county spending.

If the plan is approved -- which the legislature will meet again at 5 p.m., Monday -- Minardo plans to work on forming a foundation that could receive donations in order to cover future funding gaps.

For previous coverage of Genesee Justice, click here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Photo: Clearing snow from hydrants in Oakfield

post by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, photos

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Tom Monnier clears snow from around a fire hydrant on Drake Street in Oakfield. Monnier is a volunteer firefighter. He said it helps firefighters and other emergency response personnel a whole bunch when people shovel the walks of their homes and businesses.

Monnier said that if any elderly residents in Oakfield see him out and about today, to flag him down and he'll gladly shovel their walks.

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 9:13 am

Police Beat: Batavia man accused of imitating girl's father to get her released from school early

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

An 18-year-old Batavia man allegedly called a Byron-Bergen School and imitated a girl's father to get her released from school early.

There was reportedly a court order in place requiring the man not contact the girl.

Arrested by the Sheriff's Office was Michael Aaron Witkop of Ross Street.

He is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd, and criminal impersonation, 2nd.

Witkop was jailed on $250 bail.

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 8:39 am

Weather: Lake effect snow warning extended

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

For a couple of days, the National Weather Service has been telling us that the lake effect snow warning covering most of Western New York would expire in the early evening today.

Now, they say, expect lake effect snow until at least 11 p.m.

The heaviest bands of lake effect snow should move north (meaning, possibly into Batavia) by early afternoon.

The southwestern parts of the county could see 1 to 2 inches of snowfall per hour, much less in the northern parts of the county.

The weather service also notes:

IN LAKE EFFECT SNOW THE WEATHER CAN VARY FROM LOCALLY HEAVY SNOW IN NARROW BANDS TO CLEAR SKIES JUST A FEW MILES AWAY. IF YOU WILL BE TRAVELING ACROSS THE REGION BE PREPARED FOR RAPID CHANGES IN ROAD AND VISIBILITY CONDITIONS.

IF YOU LOSE POWER AND PLAN ON RUNNING A GENERATOR...MAKE SURE THE GENERATOR IS LOCATED OUTDOORS AND PROPERLY VENTILATED. SPACE HEATERS SHOULD ALSO BE PROPERLY VENTILATED...AND ONLY USE THEM IF THEY ARE OPERATING PROPERLY.

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 12:45 am

Photos: More photos from Wednesday's snow showers

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, weather

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This afternoon, just about anywhere I looked I could see a possible picture. I would have been out longer, but 4 p.m. rolled around and it was time to cover the Genesee County Legislature, which also explains why I'm just now getting the afternoon's photos posted.

Above, a tree on the grounds of the VA Center. Below, Vincent DiRisio helps his grandfather Harry Wortzman shovel his driveway. More pictures after the jump.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Should the Genesee County Legislature consider a tax-rate hike?

post by Howard B. Owens in budget, genesee county

Legislator Bob Bausch was a brave soul this evening during the county's budget discussion.

Perhaps, he ventured, the legislature should consider raising taxes.

His reason: This may be the last chance.

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has said he wants to cap property tax increases at 2 percent. That may apply to the total levy (in Genesee County, that's about $24 million), and it may just apply to school districts.

Or it may not.

And Bausch wondered aloud if maybe the county should raise the property tax rate by as much as $1 to establish a higher levy and avoid having its hands tied for the 2012 budget.

The suggestion hit the floor like an anvil.

No other legislator was willing to pick up the idea, though County Manager Jay Gsell did note briefly that Cuomo's proposal just seems like an attempt by Albany to further restrict what little control local governments have over local budgets.

Next year, Gsell said, the county may have to grapple with a $9 million deficit.

During the Genesee Justice discussion, Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock said, "We must shrink the size of government because we're a burden to our constituents. We can't go back on that now."

But is there really a hue and cry from Genesee County residents of "don't raise our taxes no matter what the consequences"?

Isn't the government that's a real burden on taxpayers sitting in Albany or Washington, not 15 Main St., Batavia?

As we were leaving tonight, I mentioned to Legislator Ray Cianfrini that this is the most fascinating budget process I've covered in my journalism career. He said wryly, "wait until next year."

Here's a very interesting article about the property tax cap from LoHud.com. Well researched and well worth reading.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Soil and Water district will avoid budget cut for 2011

post by Howard B. Owens in Soil and Water Conservation District

In one of the other budget stories we've been tracking -- besides Genesee Justice -- funding for the Soil and Water Conservation District will remain level.

The 15-percent expenditure cut which local farm leaders said would cripple the district will be covered by a fund balance (money in the bank) the district has available.

With the fund balance transfer, the district's 2011 funding will be the same as 2010, County Manager Jay Gsell told the legislature this evening.

The proposal must still be approved by the legislature when it meets Dec. 8.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Genesee Justice gets a five-day reprieve

post by Howard B. Owens in budget, Genesee Justice

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Genesee County's world-renowned restorative justice agency is spared the budget ax for at least five more days.

A proposal by Genesee Justice Director Ed Minardo to cut staff hours and eliminate his own job deserves further study, all nine legislators agreed during a budget discussion meeting at the Old Courthouse this evening.

While the proposal comes close to eliminating all of the expense necessary to keep the county budget balanced, more savings must be found.

But the big unresolved question is will the county's employee union, the Civil Service Employees Association, allow Genesee Justice staff to cut their own hours.

If CSEA blocks the reduction in hours, Minardo's entire plan to save Genesee Justice could collapse.

"The unions have to agree," said County Manager Jay Gsell. "We tried something similar to this with Job Development Bureau when we lost some grant funding and they said, 'don't come near here.' They don't want to make changes to the work force that create different tiers of employees."

Minardo said he hopes that by giving Genesee Justice at least one more year of life, new funding sources can be found, primarily through the creation of a charitable foundation.

"What I'm saying is take a leap of faith and take me out of the picture for right now," Minardo said. "Let us look and see if in the next year we can find more concrete funding streams. Let us see if the community will support Genesee Justice."

There are a couple of leaders in the justice community who have already offered to serve on a foundation board, Minardo said.

The idea of eliminating Genesee Justice -- a pioneering restorative justice program founded with grant money 30 years ago -- first arose in Gsell's preliminary budget proposal a few weeks ago. Gsell was under orders from the legislature to cut spending and not raise taxes.

The Criminal Justice Advisory Council -- a group of leaders in the local community justice system  that is currently chaired by Minardo -- has been working to find ways to reduce expenses to save the program. The Sheriff's Department offered more cuts to its own budget and according to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, as of yesterday, the budget gap had been closed by less than $100,000.

Then late today, Minardo presented his proposal to the legislature, closing the budget gap to less than $12,000.

Genesee Justice's programs include handling Release Under Supervision (RUS) for pre-trial offenders, DWI conditional discharges, community service for offenders, advocacy for abused children and victims' assistance.

Under Gsell's initial proposal, the Probation Department would have assumed all of those duties except for child advocacy and victims' assistance. Child advocacy, which is entirely funded by grants, would have remained with the Sheriff's Office.

In Gsell's revised proposal, presented today along with Minardo's proposal, most functions still move to probation, but the District Attorney's Office would take over the victims' assistance program.

Friedman said the district attorney's offices in 38 counties in the state handle victims' assistance, so it's not an unusual thought, yet he's uncomfortable with the idea.

"This is not the ideal solution to say the least," said Friedman in response to a question from Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock. "I certainly don't want to be in a position of competing with Ed (Minardo) to provide these services.

"This is not something I want to do. My position is that Genesee Justice should remain intact. That is best for the county in the long run and the best way to keep costs down."

Legislators balked at acting on Minardo's proposal with key questions still unanswered. And more than one person said they couldn't support it unless it could be made "budget neutral," meaning Minardo's plan needs to eliminate as much expense as Gsell's proposal.

Hancock expressed both support for the idea and admiration for Minardo's self-sacrifice, but also said she felt obligated to support the directive given to Gsell in the first place.

"The people who have come forth on this particular issue are people I respect," Hancock said. "These are people who don't usually take such strong stands on issues. I know they like us. They're not against us, but they're wondering why we're doing this. They must be right, but strangely I think I'm right."

There is no way, Hancock said, the legislature can consider a tax increase.

"We must shrink the size of government because we're a burden to our constituents," Hancock said. "We can't go back on that now."

Legislator Jay Grasso questioned the validity of the Genesee Justice program based on Minardo's proposal, saying that all of its supporters had argued that the level of service provided by Genesee Justice couldn't be diminished, but it seemed like Minardo's proposal would do just that.

"I'm concerned that the director's position never really was necessary," Grasso said. "At the 11th hour, this is a lot to digest and I wonder why we were even paying for it in the first place."

Friedman immediately jumped back into the conversation and made the point that Minardo's offer to eliminate his own job was being made not because it isn't a necessary role, but it's the only way to continue the good work of Genesse Justice and see if a long-term solution for financial support could be found.

"This is the next best possible solution," Friedman said. "Ed would rather lose his job than see the agency disappear and I respect him for that. I don't think it should be looked on as saying his position is unnecessary."

As for diminishing the services, Friedman said moving Genesee Justice's functions to probation would do just that. In comparing the two plans, he said, the original proposal would result in even fewer man hours devoted to the functions of Genesee Justice than in Minardo's plan to reduce staff hours.

As for cutting hours and needing CSEA's approval to do so, Minardo made the point that while recently employees have been authorized for 37 1/2-hour work weeks, Genesee Justice has also been staffed at times by employees who worked 30 and 35 hours a week.

The discussion ended with Legislator Hollis Upson saying there was a lot to consider in Minardo's proposal, that he certainly respects the recommendation of CJAC, but that before the legislature can approve Minardo's idea it must be proven that it is budget neutral.

"It’s a very unusual move to offer the sacrifice that Ed has offered and I think he deserves for us to give it some real time and consideration."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Quick Post: At the county budget conference

post by Howard B. Owens in budget, Genesee Justice

County Manager's revised budget proposal moves the duties of Genesee Justice to probation, with victims' advocacy becoming a division of the District Attorney's office.

Genesee Justice Director Ed Minardo has offered a counter proposal that keeps Genesee Justice in place, but reduces hours of staff and Ed himself would resign his position.

Gsell characterized his proposal as a reduction in service, but District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said Ed's proposal is by far preferable to eliminating Genesee Justice.

The legislature is discussing the options now.

UPDATE 5:08 p.m.: Genesee Justice is not dead yet. Ed Minardo's proposal will receive a week's worth of study to find out if some issues can be resolved (more later). The legislature will meet on this topic next Monday at 5:05 p.m.

MORE TK

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Photos: Heavy snow hits Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, wather

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