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Howard Owens's blog

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:16 am

Reaction to Gov. Paterson's budget swift and negative

post by Howard Owens in budget, Gov. David Paterson, state

The howls of anger and indignation you heard last night echoing from the Bronx to Buffalo is the reaction from special interests throughout the state to Gov. David Paterson's proposed budget.

While raising taxes $1 billion, the plan also cuts spending $5.5 billion.

You don't cut spending that much without stepping on some toes.

Typical of the "cut everybody but us" reaction was captured by the Albany Times-Union:

"Gov. Paterson is to be commended for his leadership in making the tough choices necessary to address a significant budget gap for the upcoming state fiscal year," said Peter Baynes, executive director of the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials. " ... NYCOM, however, strongly objects to proposed cuts in AIM funding, as this program is a key element to controlling municipal property taxes."

Paterson has proposed a series of cuts to local governments, including a 2 to 5 percent cut in Aid and Incentives for Municipalities payments (AIM).  Paterson wants to totally eliminate AIM for New York City.

Locally, Assemblyman Steve Hawley got into the act and spoke up for snowmobilers.

"I was pleased to hear the governor call for a moratorium on land acquisition," Hawley said in a statement. "Yet, raiding one million dollars from the snowmobile fund to balance the budget is an unacceptable infringement on upstate sportsmen.  It was unacceptable last year when the governor proposed it, and it's unacceptable this year."

The Buffalo News reports that legislators, especially Democrats, are reacting harshly to the proposed budget, saying it's already dead.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been splitting more and more from fellow Democrat Paterson, rebuked the governor's cuts, saying they "go too far [and] make life more difficult" for New Yorkers, especially the "most vulnerable and least fortunate citizens."

...

"He's tried to politically pin everything that's wrong with government on us. I don't like it. I don't think any of my colleagues like it," said Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, D-Queens.

Besides local government and snowmobilers, the budget proposes cuts to education, health care and the environment.

Education spending would be cut from $21.6 billion to $20.5 billion.  The Times-Union got this reaction:

"This budget proposes the largest cut to our children's schools in the history of the state, and yet again asks our children to bear the unbearable burden of balancing the state budget," said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Turn to any news site in New York this morning, and you will find unhappy people talking about protecting their own interests.

It will be interesting to see what alternative the Legislature puts forward.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:32 am

Deal of the Day: Margarita's, T.F. Brown's, Enchanted Florist, Color Salon and more

post by Howard Owens in Deal of the Day

 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 happensin sports, it happens at Brown's." We have a $20 gift card for $10.

Jackson St. Grill/Belladessa's, 9 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and flowers are a great way to show love.  We have a $10 gift certificate for $5.

Blue Pearl Yoga, 200 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Exercise your soul as well as your body in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. We have a gift certificate for a seven-week  session (one class per week), which is a $56 value, for $28.

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.

The Color Salon, 35 Center St., Batavia, NY: Susan Francis, the owner and stylist at The Color Salon reminds women, "your hair is your greatest accessory." Francis has more than 20 years of experience helping women get the best hair color. We have a $50 gift certificate for $25.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $25 gift card for $12.50.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Now in stock: Of course, flowers are the perfect give for Valentine's Day. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 12:54 am

Not raising taxes might be tough, council learns in first budget session

post by Howard Owens in batavia, budget, city council

hyde_molino-budget.jpg

It's that time of year again -- when the City of Batavia officials sit down to look reality in the face and try and figure out how to balance tougher-to-get revenue with ever increasing expenses.

Sales tax is expected to be down, some longtime employees are coming up on retirement, the city's infrastructure is aging and some key pieces of equipment haven't been replaced in decades.

So what about that proposed 3-percent increase in property taxes?

Councilman Frank Ferrando asked City Manager Jason Molino if there is any way to cut it back and Molino said that would be hard, especially if the city wants to start replacing old equipment and start planning for the future.

"Rather than my trying to take apart a budget that's pretty complicated, I look at it as best I can," Ferrando said. "You know the budget and the staff better than all of us. I would rather give you a charge and say, here's what I think our taxpayers would take and you make the adjustments as opposed to me telling you what you should and shouldn't be doing."

chiefbaker_monlino-budget.jpgMolino explained that the city isn't looking at a tax increase just to raise revenue, but to put the city on a sounder financial footing.

"What we’re starting to look at is if we’re going to invest -- and I look at it as an investment -- you’re going to have to maintain certain levels of service," Molino said. "We're going to have to look at a marginal tax-rate increase. That’s what we’re starting to look at here. All right, if we’re going to have to increase the tax rate a marginal amount, what do we get in return?"

Council President Marianne Clattenburg, after noting how much more difficult the budget picture looks because of weaker-than-expected sales-tax projections, said making the cuts necessary to bring down the tax increase could be difficult.

"There’s always a possibility to cut things," Clattenburg said. "But this year we’re trying to bring back some equipment we’ve deferred and purchase things that we’re going to need if we’re going to fix the streets. We’ve really been budgeting conservatively for quite a number of years now, so when you get to the point we’re in now, with the economy the way it is and dropping revenues, it gets really tough to do."

About the only time the staff-council discussion became animated tonight was when Fire Chief Ralph Hyde tried to explain the need for his department to become ALS (Advanced Life Support) certified. It would allow firefighters to provide critical lifesaving care in those few instances when they are on scene before Mercy EMS. Fourteen firefighters are already trained as paramedics, in part because of current state firefighter hiring requirements.

"This will save a lot more lives than just fighting fires in a city this size," Hyde said, "because there are sometimes these four- and five- and six-minute gaps in response time."

The certification would allow trained and experienced paramedics on the Fire Department staff to provide lifesaving services that right now they cannot legally perform, even though they know how.

Some council members expressed concern about training costs and overtime, but Hyde and Molino said the process of getting and maintaining ALS certification can be cost neutral. That's because of state grants and how internal training programs can be set up --  using the City's on-staff trainer to train personnel from other fire companies.

The council also heard reports on the departments of finance, personnel, youth bureau, assessment, police, public works, and water and sewer.

The next budget workshop is at the Council's next regular Monday meeting.

councilbudgetsession.jpg

Pictures: Top, Chief Hyde, left, and Molino. Middle, Police Chief Randy Baker with Molino. Bottom, full council at session.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Minor injury rollover accident reported on the Thruway

post by Howard Owens in batavia, accident, thruway

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS are at the scene of a rollover accident on the Thruway near the Batavia exit.

Injuries are reportedly minor. One vehicle is on its roof.

A State Trooper has been requested to the scene.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm

State could lose federal funds over failure to OK new charter schools

post by Howard Owens in legislature, schools, state

A legislative roadblock could jeopardize New York’s ability to win a federal lottery of sorts – President Obama is ready to hand out $4.5 billion in education funding to select states that demonstrate a solid plan to improve education.

One of the criteria in Obama's "Race to the Top" competition is a commitment to increasing the number of a state's charter schools. That’s the biggest obstacle the New York Legislature faces in coming up with a winning application.

The state is heading toward a legislative package that increases the cap on charter schools from 200 to 400, but also makes it much harder to get a charter school approved. The Legislature refused to act last night on a compromise bill offered by Gov. David Paterson that would have made another 200 charter schools more likely.

Critics of the legislation – such as New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg – have blasted the Legislature for risking New York’s chance at hitting a $700 million jackpot.

Batavia City School District Superintendent Margaret Puzio is not among the critics.

First, she said, charter schools are just one of the criteria in the competition; second, charter schools are not necessarily a great thing for education.

“States may loose points (for not increasing the number of charter schools), but the bigger question is what has the state done in the past and what is it doing in the future to improve failing schools,” Puzio said. "If we have really effective public schools, we would have less need for 400 charter schools."

Charter schools, Puzio indicated, actually detract from the ability of public schools to improve.

“Charter schools are very controversial,” Puzio said. “People say that public schools are a monopoly, that they are controlled by the teachers' union, that they can’t be truly innovative. That’s just not true.”

There have been no attempts to start a charter school in Genesee County, at least as far as Puzio knows, and she's been in the area since 2002.

If there were such a school in the county, it might draw students from not only Batavia, but Elba, Pavilion, Corfu or any part of the county, and the federal dollars for each of those students would follow the students, Puzio said.

That puts public school districts at a disadvantage, Puzio said, because charter schools can be selective in their admission criteria while public schools must take all students.

“Unless they are held to the same standards, it seems unfair to take funds from public schools and give them to charter schools,” Puzio said.

The lack of interest in charter schools in Genesee County is one of the things that indicates local residents are largely satisfied with the quality of the area's public schools, Puzio said.

"My general takeaway is that what happens with school budget votes and what we see in surveys is that the people of Genesee County find our public schools are very responsive to their needs," Puzio said.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Motorcyclist flown to Strong yesterday out of hospital

post by Howard Owens in accident, alexander

An Alexander man who was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital by Mercy Flight yesterday following a motorcycle accident was treated and released, according to a patient information clerk at Strong.

Landen P. McCormick, 21, was northbound on Sandpit Road in Alexander when he reportedly failed to negotiate a curve and struck a guard rail, according to State Police.

McCormick was ejected from the motorcycle and according to reports yesterday, suffered a possible head injury.

No tickets were issued.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 8:51 am

Batavia woman reportedly tries suicide while in Erie County jail

post by Howard Owens in batavia

A Batavia woman awaiting trial in Erie County jail for allegedly trying to suffocate her baby tried to commit suicide, the Buffalo News reports.

Even though she was on suicide watch and reportedly under constant supervision, Marcia Mitchell, 29, somehow managed to swallow the entire contents of a bottle of aspirin.

The News reports Mitchell is in critical but stable condition at a hospital in the Buffalo area.

Mitchell is accused of trying to suffocate her baby in May 2008 while in a Buffalo-area hospital following a fire at her family's home.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 8:30 am

Today's Deals: Belladessa's, Sallome's, Mane Attraction

post by Howard Owens in Deal of the Day

Belladessa's Pizzeria/Jackson St. Grill, 9 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: Here's a deal -- half off on a Family Meal Deal from Belladessa's, which is a large 1 topping pizza, 24 wings and 2-liter bottle of soda. It's a $25 value 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.

The Mane Attraction, 99 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: The Mane Attraction is a spa and salon offering pedicures, manicures, hair styling and massage. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

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

The Mane Attraction

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 8:20 am

Advisory: Roads could be slick this morning

post by Howard Owens in weather

Expect slick roads this morning.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for much of Western New York.

A freezing drizzle over night is expect to continue and keep roads icy until 11 a.m.

The weather service advises caution on untreated roads and urges commuters to allow extra time to get to work.

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Audio: Interviews with three Genesee County Chamber winners

post by Howard Owens in business, chamber of commerce

WBTA has interviewed three of the winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce annual awards.

Listen to the MP3s:

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Motorcyclist reportedly suffers head injury on Sandpit Road, Alexander

post by Howard Owens in accident, alexander

A motorcycle accident has been reported at the intersection of Sandpit and Dry Bridge roads, Alexander.

The driver reportedly suffered a head injury.

Mercy Flight is being put in the air.

Alexander Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 4:04 p.m.: Mercy Flight in the air. Four minute ETA

UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: Mercy Flight 5 in the air, transporting to Strong Memorial.


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Monday, January 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Bonarigo & McCutcheon welcomes new staff member

jenna_engle.jpgJenna Engel has joined the law office of Bonarigo & McCutcheon as a paralegal.

Born and raised in Batavia, New York, Ms. Engel is a 2005 graduate of Batavia High School and a 2009 Graduate of Hilbert College with a degree in Legal Studies.  Her previous employment was as a litigation secretary with Nixon Peabody, LLP in Buffalo, NY. A resident of the City of Batavia, Jenna is a volunteer assistant volleyball coach at her alma mater, Batavia High School as well as for The Batavia Club Volleyball team.  She is an active member of the WNY paralegal Association having received its 2008 scholarship. 

Ms. Engel is assigned to the real estate department at Bonarigo & McCutcheon however, she will be available to assist clients in all aspects of the services provided.  Bonarigo & McCutcheon is a successful law firm, established in the City of Batavia with and has provided legal assistance for over two decades.  The firm’s specialty areas are: business and corporate; criminal; family; matrimonial; municipal; DWI; custody; visitation; civil litigation; real estate; vehicle and traffic; wills and estate planning. 

Bonarigo & McCutcheon is located at 18 Ellicott St., Batavia. Phone is (585) 344-1994.

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm

YWCA hosts luncheon in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

post by Howard Owens in batavia, holiday, Martin Luther King Jr., YWCA

mlk_lunch_ywca.jpg

Elisa Dipietro, left, and Lynn McKeown prepare a lunch in the YWCA kitchen for a special meal in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. today while Gordo Gonyo works in the background.

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm

New Today: Fastec Automotive Service

post by Howard Owens in Deal of the Day

Fastec, 7184 West Main Road, Le Roy. Fast, friendly service, specializing in foreign cars, but Fastec can service any make and model. We have a $22 gift certificate for $11 that is valid for up to six months from date of purchase. It's good for an oil change or state safety/emissions inspection.

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.

Jackson St. Grill/Belladessa's, 9 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and flowers are a great way to show love.  We have a $10 gift certificate for $5.

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.

Carlson's Studio, 39 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: Family photos are more than just photographs. When you need photos for that special occasion, Carlson's is a great choice in Genesee County. This is a great Valentine's gift. We have a $100 gift card for $50 (+$2 PayPal Service fee). The card expires in April.

Oliver's Candies, 211 W. Main St., Batavia, NY. Oliver's, a Batavia landmark, offers the finest chocolate and confections in the area. We have a $20 gift card for $10. Just in time for Valentine's!

Jackson St. Grill/Belladessa's, 9 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: When it's time for a great hamburger, Jackson St. Grill will serve you among the best around. We have a $10 gift certificate for $5.

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.

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

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 9:53 am

Police Beat: Woman accused of stealing prescription pain killers

post by Howard Owens in batavia, alexander, crime, Pavilion, pembroke

Diane G. Geary, 44, of 4036 West Main St., Apt. #8, Batavia, is charged with two counts of petit larceny and possession of stolen property. Geary was arrested by Det. Kevin Czora following an investigation into the theft of prescription hydrocodone (pain pills) and a social services check from another individual. Geary was jailed on $1,000 bail.

David W. Wells, 21, of 6962 Townline Road, Bergen, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle, unlicensed operation, improper left turn and failure to stop. Wells was stopped at 1:44 a.m. Saturday by Deputy Jason Saile on Route 19 in Bergen.

Gene Robert Schmidt, 42, of 3150 Dodgeson Road, Alexander, was picked up on a warrant for an alleged violation of probation. Schmidt was stopped for an alleged traffic violation on Dodgeson Road by Deputy Jason Saile and it was discovered there was a warrant for his arrest. Schmidt was jailed on $5,000 bail.

Rebecca Jo Cornell, 35, of 439 Sandhill Road, Caledonia, is charged with petit larceny. Cornell allegedly left the Target store in Batavia without paying for $101 worth of merchandise.

Robert M. Hopkins, 27, of 234 North Spruce St., Batavia, and Jason W. Lebar, 24, of 8170 Batavia-Stafford Townline Road, Batavia, are charged with trespass. Hopkins and Lebar were reportedly on the grounds of the New York State Veterans Home without permission. They were jailed on $250 each.

Kimberly A. Brodsky, 18, of 4 Elm St., Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or more, operating with one headlight, operating with one headlamp and unlawful possession of marijuana. Brodsky was stopped by Officer Dan Coffey at 2:44 a.m. Sunday on Jackson Street.

Joshua R. Gebhard, 22, of 279 Palmer Road, Churchville, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Officer Dan Coffey reported finding a small quantity of marijuana during a traffic stop.

Reported accidents from the State Police blotter:

4:34 p.m., Jan. 10, Route 98, Batavia, one vehicle; Driver 1: Susan A. Haight, 20, of Albion. No injuries. No citations.

4:00 a.m., Jan. 11, Route 5, Indian Falls, one vehicle: Driver 1: C.C. Bennett, 23, of Corfu. No injuries. No citations.

1:40 p.m., Jan 15, T/A Truck Stop, Route 77, Pembroke, two vehicles; Driver 1: John R. Stellingwerf, 41, Fulton; Driver 2: Murphy Maurice, 44, of Denver, Colo. No injuries. No citations.

5:41 p.m., Jan. 15, Roanoke Road, Stafford, one vehicle; Driver 1: Kevin P. Heiman, 27, of Pavilion. No injuries. No citations.

6:34 p.m., Jan. 15, Shanks Road, Alabama, one vehicle: Driver 1: Cody L. Pahuta, 18, of Corfu. No injuries. No citations.

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 9:03 am

Missionaries return home from earthquake-ravaged Haiti

post by Howard Owens in Churches, Haiti, religion, St. Paul Lutheran Church

haitia.jpgTwo members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Batavia who were on a mission in Haiti when Port-au-Prince was struck by an earthquake returned home yesterday.

WBTA's Dan Fischer was at the Buffalo airport when Zach Ashley and Sharon Wolf returned safely with the rest of the missionaries. He spoke with Wolf at the airport (mp3).

More coverage.

Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Oakfield family finds out about sister in Kentucky they didn't know they had

post by Howard Owens in Oakfield

Six Oakfield residents found out recently that they have a sister in Bowling Green, Ky., whom they never knew anything about until the woman's daughter connected the siblings through Facebook.

The Bowling Green Daily News has a story.

Philip Semar, Sandy Berrios and Cindy Kline all made the drive this week from Oakfield to Bowling Green to meet 61-year-old Linda Richardson.

Richardson never knew her real father, William Semar, and didn't find out about him until she was 15. She then spent the following decades searching for him and hoping she would find out she had brothers and sisters.

On the day her mother died, her daughter told her about finding the Semar family in Oakfield.

Her other three half brothers are John, David and Willy Semar, all of Oakfield, but they couldn't make the trip to Bowling Green.

“It’s pretty neat,” said Richardson’s son, Teddy Freeman, of Bowling Green, “I had two aunts and now I have four.”

After warm embraces all around, the new family stood misty-eyed and chatting together for the first time in Walker’s front yard, the resemblance unmistakable.

“You all look so much alike, each in a different way,” Walker said, “the eyes especially.”

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