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Howard B. Owens's blog

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 1:56 pm

More than two dozen power outages reported in Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in genesee county

According to the map of power outages from National Grid, there are more than two dozen power outages in Genesee County at the moment.

None, individually, effect more than 20 customers.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Groundhog on Maple Street

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

groundhog.jpg

A groundhog spotted on Maple Street this afternoon.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Possible structure fire reported on Swan Street, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire

A possible structure fire has been reported at 33 Swan St., Batavia.

Batavia Fire is responding.

UPDATE 2:08 p.m.: There has been a good deal of scanner traffic and any response to this did not come across.  We just drove by the location and no fire is on scene, so they must have cleared.

UPDATE 3:24 p.m.: There was a fire. A small one.  In one of the old Wiard Plow buildings.  The fire trucks were (duh) behind the building.  A separate post on the fire, with pictures, later.


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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Wires down, possibly on fire on Bloomingdale Road

post by Howard B. Owens in Basom, Alabama, fire

Wires are down and on fire, possibly igniting a grass fire at 1305 Bloomingdale Road, Basom.

Genesee County dispatch has received several calls.

Alabama Fire is responding.

UPDATE 3:33 p.m.: This call was cleared some time ago.  Alabama Fire just dispatched for a new report of a grass fire at the same location.


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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 11:55 am

Tree down, reportedly blocking West Bergen Road

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, West Bergen Road

A large tree has reportedly fallen and is blocking he roadway in the area of 8626 West Bergen Road, Le Roy.

Le Roy Fire is responding to cut up the tree and remove it from the roadway.


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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 11:52 am

Electrical fires reportedly on fire on South Main Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, South Main Street

Electric lines are reportedly down and on fire in the vicinity of 65 South Main St., Batavia.

Batavia Fire is responding.


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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

State and CSX at odds over high-speed rail line agreement

post by Howard B. Owens in byron, high-speed rail, transportation

When New York reached an agreement with CSX for a high-speed rail line from Albany to Buffalo, it signed off on two provisions officials now seem to regret, according to the Buffalo News.

Rather than a rail line with trains reaching top speeds of 110 mph, the state's agreement only calls for speeds of 90 mph.

Also, the state agreed to a 30-foot gap between rail line along the CSX right-of-way.

The problem is, there are portions of the right-of-way that aren't even 30-feet wide, which means property will need to be bought (or seized through eminent domain) or overpasses will need to be reconstructed.

The resulting dispute between the state and CSX threatens to derail the entire upstate high-speed rail project — but to prevent that, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday assigned a top federal rail official to try to resolve the issue.

“I promised Congresswoman Slaughter that FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae will work with the state and do whatever it takes to make high-speed rail happen for New York,” LaHood said after the meeting.

Slaughter, meanwhile, said she was thrilled that Rae — who was the state’s top rail official before moving to Washington — would be devoted full time to resolving the disagreement.

The rail line will pass through Genesee County, with a demonstration project already funded for a line between Byron and Riga.

Friday, May 7, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Severe thunderstorm watch now in effect

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

The latest forecast for tonight's weather from the National Weather Service uses stronger language than earlier warnings to let residents know the thunder, lightning and wind hitting the area will be severe.

Doppler radar shows a severe thunderstorm, that could produce winds in excess of 60 mph, is heading toward Genesee County. The storm is currently 21 miles west of Grand Island and moving northeast at 65 mph.

"This is a dangerous storm," the Weather Service states. "If you are in the path, prepare immediately for damaging winds, destructive hail and deadly cloud-to-ground lightning. People outside should move to a shelter."

The severe thunderstorm watch remains in effect until 3 a.m.

UPDATE 11:55 p.m.: The NWS declared the warning over at 11:45, saying the storm front had weakened.

Friday, May 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Winds expected to blow hard tonight and tomorrow

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Some pretty nasty weather is going to hit the Genesee County region over night, according to a National Weather Service forecast.

Around 2 a.m., thunderstorms are expected, followed by a cold front that will push through with high winds.

With foliage already on trees, the high winds could cause a good deal of damage.

A high-wind warning as been issued.

Sustained speeds of 25 to 40 mph are expected, with gusts up to 60 mph.

The wind warning is effect from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday.

Some of the strongest winds are expected from 4 to 5 a.m.

Friday, May 7, 2010 at 10:09 am

Neither attorney saying whether Scott Doll's son will be called as a witness in murder trial

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

BATAVIA , NY -- In a brief conversation this morning, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he wasn't surprised yesterday when the attorney for Scott Doll, accused of murder, implied that maybe it was Doll's son who killed Joseph Benaquist on Feb. 16, 2009 in Pembroke.

As for whether Josh Doll will be called as a witness in the case, Friedman at first said, "You'll have to ask them," motioning toward the defense table. 

Asked if Josh Doll was already on his witness list, Friedman said Judge Robert Noonan doesn't really like attorneys to specify who is on what list.  He then said, "I just don't know (if he will be called)."

Doll's attorney, Paul Cambria, said he never discusses beforehand who he plans to call as a witness.

Of course, under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, people have the right not to make statements that implicate themselves in crimes. If Josh Doll took the stand, he could refuse to answer any questions that might implicate him in a crime.

Of course, if he wasn't involved in the crime, he would be compelled to testify truthfully to anything he knew.

An attorney we spoke to said that under court rules, neither the prosecution nor defense can call a witness they know in advance will take the 5th.

In yesterday's opening remarks, Cambria said that according to Scott Doll, Benaquist's dying words were, "The boy. The boy."  Some minutes later, Cambria said, Doll began to wonder if those words meant that Josh Doll was the killer.

Cambria used the concern of Scott Doll over the possible involvement of his son to suggest that Doll's state of mind may explain some of his actions and statements to Sheriff's deputies.

The trial restarted this morning shortly after 9:45 a.m.

Because of a prior commitment for Judge Noonan, today's trial session will end at 12:30 and resume Monday morning at 9:30.

Friday, May 7, 2010 at 9:59 am

Le Roy man admits to breaking into Pavilion business

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

A Le Roy resident admitted in Genesee County Court today that in September he broke into a Pavilion business and damaged property there.

Bryan M Hargrave, 23, of 61 Myrtle St., Apt. B2, Le Roy, was charged with three counts each of: burglary; burglary 3rd; criminal mischief; and petit larceny.

As part of a plea bargain this morning, Hargrave agreed to admit to one count of burglary, 3rd, and one count of criminal mischief.

As part of the plea arrangement, he faces a maximum of six months in jail and five years probation.

That sentence cap could be lost if he violates the terms of his release under supervision -- an issue that apparently had him in court for a review of his bail status this morning after he allegedly violated terms of his RUS recently.

“You understand that if you do the same thing tomorrow that you did last week, you could end up going to state prison," Judge Robert Noonan said.

"Yes, your honor," Hargrave replied.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell opened the hearing by noting that Hargrave had allegedly violated his RUS terms and, after consulting with his defense attorney Gary Horton, was now ready to accept a plea offer.

Hargarve admitted to breaking into Pavilion Drainage, 6630 Route 63, Pavilion. He was also accused of breaking into B.W.'s Bar, 11070 Perry Road, Pavilion, and Willow Bend Inn, 3489 W. Main St. Road, Batavia.

As part of his plea, Hargrave agreed to pay whatever restitution is required for all charged break-ins.

Friday, May 7, 2010 at 9:28 am

Hawley likes his seahorse friends, but votes against protection bill

post by Howard B. Owens in budget, new york, steve hawley

With a state budget five weeks late and a $9.5 billion budget gap, Assemblyman Steve Hawley found a debate on seahorse protection legislation just a bit ridiculous.

Hawley voted no on the bill just as a matter of protest.

“The dysfunction in Albany has reached a breaking point, and today’s debate on seahorse legislation is a prime example of that," Hawley said in a news release. "Despite the fact I want to save my seahorse friends, I voted no on this bill in protest because of the sheer lunacy of its timing during this fiscal crisis. Over the last four weeks, the Assembly Majority has introduced trivial legislation, while continuing to send the rank-and-file members home after only a couple days of work.”

WGRB out of Albany spoke to the bill's sponsor:

The sponsor of the seahorse bill, Steve Englebright of Long Island, says this is important legislation to protect seahorses off Long Island that are collected for the aquarium industry, and that it would be malpractice for the Assembly not to work on other bills while waiting for a budget deal.

Hawley said he's frustrated with the lack of progress on a budget.

"Since April 1, four emergency budget extenders have been put in place, and there are no concrete plans for a budget to be passed anytime soon," Hawley said.

Friday, May 7, 2010 at 8:03 am

Police Beat: Stafford man accused of harassment

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

James Daniel Pontillo, 43, of Stafford, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Pontillo was arrested for an incident that allegedly occurred Feb. 17 at 5122 Clinton St. Road in Batavia. The Sheriff's Office news release says Pontillo allegedly "subjected a female to physical contact." No further details were released.

Aaron J. Allen, 21, of Batavia, is charged with trespass. Allen was arrested by State Police for an alleged incident on April 7. No further details were provided.

Scott M. Felong, 22, of Rochester, is charged with DWI and with driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Felong was arrested at 3 a.m., Thursday by State Police on the Thruway in Pembroke following a single-car property damage accident.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 11:33 pm

County Clerk pushing to get EZPass sold at DMV

post by Howard B. Owens in Don Read, genesee county, thruway

don_read.jpgSoon, Gensee County residents could have another convenient location -- and perhaps one of the more logical places -- to buy EZPass for Thruway tolls -- the local DMV office.

On Wednesday, County Clerk Don Read received approval from the Ways and Means Committee (the proposal must also be approved by the full Legislature) to establish a funding mechanism to buy EZPass stickers to resell at the DMV and County Clerk's office.

"We’d like to be the first one in the county where somebody could come in, know they’re traveling this weekend and pick up an EZPass and they can use it immediately," Read said.

The idea started at a meeting of the state's county clerks in Albany, Read said, when the Thruway Authority met with the clerks and offered to allow them to start selling the automatic toll passes.

Getting started takes some effort, according to Read, from getting funding approval -- the passes must be paid for in advance -- to filling out a tightly spaced eight-page application.

If the program doesn't work, though, Read said, the County won't be out any money. Any unsold EZpasses can be returned to the Thruway Authority for a full refund.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Rare Wiard Plow up for auction

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business

bontrager_wiardplow.jpg

I was at the Bontrager auction house today talking with Todd Jantzi and looking at all the farm and other equipment being set out for this Saturday's auction when he said, "Come here. I want to show you something."  He said, "I'm really proud of this." and he opened a storage shed and said, "We have a Wiard Plow."

Todd said an Amish gentleman brought it in to be sold at auction, but he doesn't know where the Amish farmer got it from.

As you can see from the picture above, it's in pretty good shape.

Wiard Plows were manufactured in Batavia from the 1800s some time until well into the 20th Century.  You can still find a "Wiard Plow" sign painted on a red building off of Swan Street, behind the Harvester complex.

George Wiard was one of the leading citizens of Batavia in the 19th Century.  This biography says:

Mr. Wiard is one of the progressive men of this town. He has always been foremost in promoting enterprises that tended to the advancement of the educational, moral and religious interests of Batavia. He was for many years a member of the board of education and served five years as its president. He was chairman of the building committee that erected the Baptist church and was one of the committee having in charge the construction of the city water-works. He has been a director of the Genesee County Permanent Loan and Building Association since its organization in 1878 and for the last eighteen years has been the president. Politically he has always been a Republican.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Bergen woman accused of stealing $35,000 from elderly woman's bank accounts

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

NOTE: This case was dimissed in July or August of 2010.

A Bergen woman is under investigation by State Police for allegedly fraudulently gaining access to an elderly woman's bank accounts and stealing thousands of dollars.

Michele Case, 45, of 7100 N. Bergen Road, has already been indicted on two counts of grand larceny by a Genesee County grand jury and faces a grand jury hearing in Orleans County.

Investigator Leo Hunter of the New York State Police said Case allegedly stole more than $35,000 from Alfreda May, a former Rochester resident who moved to Holley before her death.

Hunter said the case started when the mother of Case's boyfriend was found late one night wandering a residential street in Rochester in nothing but her nightgown looking through trash cans.

May was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with dementia, a diagnosis later confirmed by her personal physician.

Case then took May to her attorney -- "not Alfreda May's attorney, not the family's attorney," Hunter said -- and had herself made power of attorney for Alfreda May.

After becoming power of attorney, Hunter said, Case broke up with her boyfriend and began allegedly accessing May's bank accounts for her personal use.

On Dec. 6, in Genesee County, Case was indicted on two counts of grand larceny, 3rd.

The indictment alleged that between July 2004 and September 2005, Case wrote checks and made e-check withdrawals from the woman's account for a total of $10,799.

The second count alleges that while in the City of Batavia, on the same dates, Case made ATM withdrawals from May's account for $3,697.20.

Hunter is unsure when the case will be submitted to the Orleans County grand jury.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Condition improves for hunter accidentally shot

post by Howard B. Owens in hunting, Oakfield, outdoors

Scott Hartman, the Oakfield man accidently shot by his father while turkey hunting, is out of the intensive care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital.

His condition is now listed as "satisfactory."

The 46-year-old Lockport Road resident was struck in the face by shotgun pellets Monday morning after his father apparently mistook him for a turkey.

Hartman was able call 9-1-1 and walk out of the woods on his own, but was listed in "guarded" condition at Strong for a couple of days following the accident.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 11:16 am

Attorney suggests Benaquist may have been killed by Scott Doll's son

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke

BATAVIA, NY -- Joseph Benaquist's dying words, according to Scott Doll's attorney, were, "The boy. The boy."

Doll is accused of murdering Benaquist -- beating him to death and leaving his body in a pool of blood in his own driveway in Pembroke on Feb. 16, 2009.

But Paul Cambria, Doll's attorney, said this morning in opening arguments of Doll's murder trial that it wasn't Doll who killed Benaquist.

But if not Doll, then, who? 

Cambria said it crossed the mind of Scott Doll within minutes of hearing Benaquist utter, "The Boy. The Boy" just before he died in Doll's arms, that it was his own son, Joshua Doll.

Joshua Doll was the one who was supposed to meet Benaquist earlier that night and drive with him to the car auction in Adesa, and Joshua Doll who regularly dealt with Benaquist on auto transactions.

Scott Doll only went to Benaquist's home after the former corrections officer failed to show for an appointment at the Adesa auction. He arrived while his longtime business partner and friend was struggling for his life, Cambria said.

There was blood everywhere -- on the ground and splattered and smeared on nearby cars, and Doll was shocked at what he found and what he heard, Cambria said.

"Mr. Benaquist weighed 220 pounds," Cambria said. "The evidence will show he struggled and fought for his life. Yet, there's not one injury on my client, because he did not have a fight with Mr. Benaquist."

Equally adamant on the other side that Scott Doll is the murderer is District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.

"When this trial is over," Friedman said, "when you connect the dots you will find beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is responsible for the murder of Joseph Benaquist and is guilty as charged of murder in the second degree."

Friedman opened his statement by outlining the facts of the case -- that Benaquist was found dead in a pool of his own blood, the victim of multiple blows to the head, outside his Pembroke home on a cold Monday night. That Doll was found returning to the scene with his clothes and face covered in the victim's blood, and that the van Doll was driving had blood on the outside and the interior.

Friedman also said that during the course of the trial he will present evidence related to auto transactions that went wrong and that Doll was having increasing financial trouble.

While the prosecution is not required to provide proof of a motive for the murder of Benaquist, Friedman said the evidence will show that Doll and Benaquist were in conflict over some auto deals.

Doll and Benaquist cooperated in a used car business that was licensed to Doll. Benaquist also apparently used Doll's registration at the Adesa auto auction house to purchase vehicles for his own use.

Besides suggesting that Josh Doll may have killed Benaquist, Cambria also noted that despite extensive efforts by local law enforcement to find a murder weapon, none was ever located.

He suggested that if juror's apply common sense, they will conclude that Doll had no opportunity to dispose of the murder weapon.

He also said that any statements Doll made where intended to just buy him time, while he tried to figure out where his son was and whether he was involved. Doll's repeated requests to consult with an attorney were "ignored," according to Cambria, and also intended to buy time to find out if his son was involved.

He called the Sheriff's Office arrest of Doll a "rush to judgment."

The first witness called was James Waff, a second assistant chief in the Pembroke Fire Department. Waff first called emergency dispatch after spotting a suspicious person at the gas station on the corner of Main Road and Lake Road in Pembroke. Waff was returning from the Fire Hall at the time.

He described seeing Doll in a winter camouflage jumpsuit with his face covered with a firefighter's hood -- Doll was also a volunteer firefighter -- and then going to a friend's house nearby to see if he had also seen the person at the gas station.

When they returned, Doll was walking on Lake Road and they observed him until deputies arrived to question him.

The Batavian will have additional coverage of today's proceedings late in the afternoon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 9:44 am

Annual crime statistics show mixed picture for Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, genesee county

While the crime rate in New York went down from 2000 to 2009, both for violent and for property crime, in Genesee County, the crime data is more of a mixed bag.

In Genesee County, from 2000 to 2009, the crime rate dropped 8.4 percent, with 1,634 crimes reported in 2000 and 1,496 reported in 2009.

But violent crime increased during the same period, going from 85 violent crimes in 2000 to 92 in 2009, an 8.2-percent increase. All of the increase is in the category of rape, which jumped from 9 reported rapes in 2000 to 17 in 2009.

Property crimes dropped from 1,549 reported crimes in 2000 to 1,404 in 2009, a 9.4-percent decrease. Motor vehicle thefts saw the biggest drop, going from 51 to 37, a 27.5-percent drop.

From 2008 to 2009, crime in Genesee County increased 3.7 percent, with total reported crimes increasing from 1,443 to 1,496. 

Violent crime, year-over-year, however, was down 18.6 percent, with 92 reported crimes in 2009 compared to 113 in 2008.

Property crime in Genesee County rose 5.6 percent last year, over the 1,330 crimes reported in 2008.

Statewide, from 2000 to 2009, violent crime dropped 30 percent and property crime fell 24 percent.

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