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Howard B. Owens's blog

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Photo: Barn on Macomber Road, Oakfield

post by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, Oakfield, photos

barn_macumber_road.jpg

I was in Oakfield this evening chasing what turned out to be a story that didn't pan out, but I figured so long as I was out that way and the sun was setting, I should try to find a barn to photograph at sunset. This is what I came up with. It's on Macomber Road near Galloway.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Burglars grab items from house in Stafford, but leave dope behind

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Stafford

Burglars, supposedly, are out to steal things they can sell so they can buy drugs.

It doesn't seem too swift, then, to break into a house, steal several items, but leave your drugs behind, but that is precisely what seemed to happen yesterday in Stafford.

James Mitchell wrote us this evening to ask The Batavian to publicize the break-in at his parent's home on Sanders Road, hoping that the information might lead to the arrest of the burglers.

At the end of his e-mail, he wrote:

Oh yeah, the funny part of this story is that the stupid person(s) that did this were in such a hurry to leave, that they dropped a bag of marijuana on the floor on their way out.

He didn't say how much dope the burglars lost, but as a business proposition, they surely cut into their profits for that job.

The criminals did get away with a Wii, four Wii controllers, games, two digital cameras, a camcorder, a printer dock for a camera, a large suitcase and a shot gun.

The break-in occurred sometime between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Mitchell asks if anybody can offer information on the recovery of the items and/or the arrest of the suspects, please call the Sheriff's Office (345-3000).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Not all the smoke has cleared from Cristina's fire

christinas_vacant.jpg

At 230 Ellicott Street, there is a vacant lot, but it's more than just an unsightly gap between two commercial buildings. It also represents unfinished business.

Richard Borrell, owner of Borrell Fitness, right next door, figures the fire that destroyed Cristina's Restaurant on July 12, 2008, has cost or will cost him from $340,000 to $375,000.

So far, neither Charles Brumsted Jr., Cristina's owner, nor Brumsted's insurance company, Mid-State Mutual Insurance, have reimbursed Borrell for his losses.

Borrell said he's retained a lawyer out of Buffalo and said a lawsuit was filed last week on his behalf, but the suit is not on file with the Genesee County Clerk. The Batavian has called the law office of Eugene C. Tenney seven or eight times since last Thursday, where receptionists say Edward J. Schwendler, III, is handling the case, but Schwendler has returned none of the calls.

It's unclear if Brumsted -- we couldn't find contact information for him -- settled his claim against Mid-State.

An attorney for Brumsted, Charles Ritter, of Buffalo, filed a lawsuit May 18, 2009, against Mid-State, alleging that Mid-State had failed to honor the contractual terms of its insurance policy. Brumsted sought at least $1.5 million in damages, which included a $375,000 claim by Borrell.

In the filing, Brumsted claims that Mid-State representatives indicated he would have no trouble collecting on his insurance claim and that he would be able to reopen for business by Spring of 2008.

On Dec 3, 2009, Ritter and Mid-State's attorney, Joseph Rizzo, of Rochester, signed a "stipulation of discontinuance." The short document is ambiguous on whether this constituted a settlement of Brumsted's claims and contains no details on whether Brumsted received any payment from Mid-State. 

Neither Ritter nor Rizzo returned calls placed today.

Mid-State has also not returned a phone call seeking more information about Cristina's.

Borrell is unsure why Mid-State has not settled with him and preferred not to comment in detail about his legal situation. He said his building suffered extensive fire and water damage. The floors on the second floor are warped, the bricks and mortar on the outside of the building were heavily damaged, he suffered water damage to equipment and his HVAC system. 

The cause of the fire has never been determined. Captain Michael B. Drew of the City of Batavia Fire Department issued a report following a thorough investigation July 12, 2008.

While the investigation team was able to eliminate many accidental hazards, it was not able to eliminate all hazards, namely electrical wiring or equipment malfunction.

In addition, the investigation team was unable to eliminate the possibility that the fire cause may have been other than accidental and is therefore undetermined at this time.

Drew's report says the fire started in the area of the central stairway.

A possible accidental cause that was not ruled out was a malfunction in a electrical junction box on the east wall of the basement. Damage to the box, which included a hole burnt through the cover, could not have been done by an external fire source, Drew wrote.

At the same time, given the location of the box and the location of the fire origin, that junction box could not conclusively be ruled as causing the fire.

In interviews with investigators, Brumsted said he had electrical problems with a fan and was bringing an electrician to fix it. "Fire damage to this unit was noted to be inconclusive with its direct involvement in the fire's ignition," Drew wrote.

Brumsted said the building had been up for sale since 2001. He also said he was seeking a demolition permit for the restaurant portion of the building. 

In 2000, news reports said Brumsted was planning to convert the building into office space.

Cristina's was named after Brumsted's aunt, Cristina Meleca, who crafted some Italian recipes for the restaurant. Cristina Meleca died in 1995 at age 95. Brumsted purchased the restaurant from his uncle, Frank Meleca, in 1985.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Batavia Police seat belt detail leads to 37 tickets

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

As part of a statewide program to concentrate police enforcement on seat belt and mobile phone laws, Batavia Police wrote 37 tickets over a 44-hour enforcement period that began March 9, according to Sgt. John Peck.

Twenty-two of the tickets were for failure to wear a safety belt. The rest were mostly for mobile phone violations, but some were also for things such as uninspected motor vehicle  or suspended license.

The increased enforcement effort was paid for with a state grant that allowed patrols to concentrate strictly traffic enforcement and not handle routine calls.

"We were able to get out and concentrate on enforcement, which is something we don't get much time for with our call volume," Peck said.

Officers on the detail worked in four-hour blocks, Peck said. 

The next enforcement detail window is in May, when officers will be scheduled for an extra 120 hours of enforcement.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 7:45 am

Police Beat: Man accused of violating court order

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Christopher P. Ball, 27, of 4902 Ellicott St. Road, Batavia, is charged with two counts of criminal contempt, 2nd. Ball is accused of contacting an ex-girlfriend he was previously ordered to stay away from. Ball was jailed on $2,000 bail.

Susan Marie Devault, 40, 11 N. Main St., Apt. A, Holley, is charged with petit larceny. Devault is accused of shoplifting $111.94 in merchandise from Target.

Accidents from the State Police blotter:

12:45 p.m., March 28, Thruway, mile marker 398, westbound, Pembroke, one vehicle; Driver 1: Lori C. Pittman, 52, of Niagara Falls. No injuries reported.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 7:20 am

Ever bigger processors and large retail chains hurting dairy farmers, anti-trust attorney told

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, Dairy Farms

Bigness is killing New York dairy farmers.

Big and ever-growing milk processors and retail chains are controlling the market and driving down the prices paid to farmers, but not passing on the cost savings to consumers.

That was the message of a meeting yesterday at GCC of dairy farmers and the Assistant U.S. Attorney General Christine A. Varney, who is in charge of the Antitrust Division.

From the Buffalo News:

"Our farmers are getting paid less and consumers are paying more," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who invited Varney to the meeting. "Someone's walking away with all the money."

Schumer said processors are making record profits at a time when farmers are on the brink of losing their family businesses. He wants the Justice Department to investigate anti-competitive practices in the dairy industry.

Consolidation among milk processors is one of the chief reasons prices paid to farmers has gone down, Varney was told. There are simply fewer outlets for farmers to sell their product to, meaning less competition, and without the competition it's easier for the buyer to set ever lower prices.

In some states, Dean Foods controls as much as 90 percent of the market, and about 70 percent in New York.

From the D&C: 

Bill Cook, who milks 1,800 cows near Aurora, Cayuga County, said he used to deal with five different milk buyers who were willing to pay a premium for the high-quality milk his cows produced. Premiums can mean the difference between just paying the bills and actually making a profit.

Meanwhile, Cook said none of those buyers is still operating because they went out of business or were consolidated into larger operations, such as Dean Foods, a giant among dairy processors. Cook had to borrow $500,000 to cover his losses last year.

The Buffalo News quoted a sixth-generation Wyoming County Farmer who used USDA figures to point out that the dairy farm share of retail dollars have dropped from 37 percent to 25 percent in the past three years.

Bigger and bigger retail chains were also blamed for downward prices on milk products.  Walmart's outsized pressure for lower and lower prices isn't helping farmers.

"Walmart's 'everyday low prices' applies constant downward pressure on all commodities, squeezing the supply chain while demanding more," said Ed Schoen of Shoe-Acres farm in Phelps, Ontario County. Pricing at Wegmans, on the other hand, is sensitive to the prices farmers are getting, he said.

Barbara Brown, a county legislator in Oswego County, said her district once had 26 dairy farms. Now it has three. She recently sold off her cows and closed her farm.

Varney offered the farmers hope.

"We will not let you down," she said, according to the Buffalo News. "We know the problem you're facing."

Sen. Schumer has called on the federal government to take several steps to help dairy farmers:

  • Deal with the consolidation of milk processors and the lack of competition.
  • A program called MILC provides aid to farmers when milk prices fall to a certain level. That target price needs to be raised.
  • Raise MILC reimbursement from 45 percent of the price difference.
  • Reform the milk marketing order system, which helps set commodity prices, used by the USDA. The current system doesn't adequately measure the cost of milk production in the Northeast.
  • Return to a dairy compact system that helps New York farmers set prices.
  • Pass a Milk Import Tariff act to ensure that milk producers and processors in other countries are playing by the same rules as the United States.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 7:11 am

Today's Deals: Adam Miller, T.F. Brown's, Center Street, South Main and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, 8 Center St., Batavia, NY: Feel like a kid in a toy store again, or treat your kids to the greatest toy store they will ever see. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Spring colors aren't quite yet here, unless you go to The Enchanted Florist! Brighten up your home or office today. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

South Main Country Gifts, 3356 Main St. Road, Batavia, NY: Handcrafted items, gifts with a regional flair, candles, teas and spices -- South Main has a wide selection to please most any interest. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

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.

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.

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, March 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Photos: Two old barns

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

barn_sprague_road.jpg

Slow news day. That's not entirely bad, because it gives me a chance to catch up on other work, especially the work related to revenue. Though, I'm sure on any given day, you would rather have the stories.

After all day in the office doing business stuff, I went out and searched around for something to take a picture of, hoping, really, for a good sunset shot. None was forthcoming, so these are the two pictures I did get.

Top barn is on Sprague Road, and bottom is on Upton Road. I think both are still in the Town of Batavia.

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Monday, March 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Police on the look out for selling and buying of alcohol involving minors

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

After receiving a Tip Line report that youths under the legal drinking age were using fake IDs to buy alcohol at local businesses, Batavia Police investigators ran a series of compliance checks on Friday.

No problems were found at the locations in the Tip Line report, but undercover agents did continue an investigation looking for adults buying alcohol and giving it to teens.

Police say when a person was seen getting into a car with a teen in it after purchasing alcohol, the car was stopped "to determine the circumstances."  The results of the stop were not released by police.

There was alcohol that was confiscated on Friday night, according to police, and one case was referred to Genesee County Probation.

The press release states:

The Batavia Police will continue to be proactive in the attempt to deter underage access to alcohol with these types of programs with the assistance of funding from the Drug Free Communities.

Monday, March 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Elba Teen wins New York's Junior Miss competition

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, Notre Dame

A 17-year-old Notre Dame student from Elba will represent New York in the 2010 Junior Miss competition June 27 in Mobile, Ala.

Alex Sandra Morgan won the state title for Junior Miss on Saturday at the competition at Buffalo State College, according to the Buffalo News.

Morgan plans on attending Princeton University.

Monday, March 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Police Beat: Man allegedly found with three needles

post by Howard B. Owens in crime

Carla L. Spikes, 19, of 16 1/2 Hutchins Place, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Spikes is accused of shoplifting from the Family Dollar Store, 577 E. Main St., Batavia, at 4:20 p.m., Sunday.

Frankie J. McQueen, 19, of 115 Woodstock Gardens, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. McQueen is accused of pushing another person at about 3:50 p.m., Sunday.

Timothy A. Corner, 20, of 786 Edgewater Drive, Amherst, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd, and criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument. Corner was stopped at 12:50 a.m., Saturday, on Oak Street by Officer Darryle Streeter for an alleged traffic violation. Corner was allegedly found in possession of a small quantity of marijuana and three hypodermic needles.

Robert J. Talbot, Jr., 34, of 3517 Pratt Road, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Talbot is accused of sending several e-mails to a woman that police say were "harassing in nature."

Kelli Marie Viehdeffer, 22, of 5 College View Drive, Batavia, is charged with aggravated DWI, DWI and moving from lane unsafely. Viehdeffer was stopped at 2:52 a.m., Sunday, by Sgt. Brian Frieday, in Batavia.

Kristopher Aaron Fisher, 36, of 168 W. Academy St., Albion, was jailed without bail following a traffic stop after it was discovered there was an outstanding warrant for Fisher out of Genesee County Court for an alleged failure to pay a fine.

Brandi Marie Smith, 29, of 108 Vine St., Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Smith is accused of shoplifting from Kmart on Saturday afternoon.

David Paul Neibert, 23, of 151 Heritage St., Albion, is charged with petit larceny. Neibert is accused of stealing $250.97 in merchandise from Target at 4:44 p.m., Saturday.

Matthew N. Johnson, 23, of 3328 Pratt Road, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to keep right, driving left of pavement markings in a no-passing zone, and moving from lane unsafely. Johnson was stopped 12:27 a.m., Sunday, on Route 63, Town of Batavia, by Deputy Jason Saile.

Cory C. Beardsley, 28, of 21 Summit St., Le Roy, is charged with DWI, aggravated DWI (driving with a BAC of .08 or greater), aggravated unlicensed operation, speeding, consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle, driving left of pavement markings and unregistered vehicle. Beardsley was stopped at 1:30 a.m., Sunday, on Route 19, Town of Le Roy by Deputy Howard Carlson.

John Dino Annechino, 40, of 598 Ridge Road, Webster, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd, and disorderly conduct. Annechino is accused of yelling at his girlfriend in the parking lot of Batavia Downs at 1:10 a.m., Saturday. There was reportedly a "refrain from offensive conduct" order against Annechino in regard to his girlfriend.

Todd Charles Mortellaro, 39, of 2 Walnut Place in Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, speeding and unregistered motor vehicle. Mortellaro was stopped on Route 262 in the Town of Byron at 12:23 a.m., Saturday, by Deputy Jason Saile.

Christopher M. Gray, 24, of 29 Washington St., Attica, is charged unlawful possession of marijuana. Gray was stopped on Route 33, Stafford, 3:37 p.m., Friday, by Deputy Matthew Butler.

Timothy D. Tooley, 48, of Medina, is charged with DWI and refusal to take breath test. Tooley was stopped by State Police in the Village of Oakfield at 9:23 p.m., Thursday.

Billy J. Johnson, 32, of Oakfield, is charged with petit larceny. Johnson is charged by State Police for an incident at 11:13 a.m., Jan. 8, in the Town of Darien. No further details available.

Thomas L. Murray, 27, of Alabama, is charged with menacing, 3rd. Murray was arrested by State Police at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday. No further details available.

Accidents from the State Police blotter:

9:17 a.m., March 26, Route 63 and Route 5, City of Batavia, one vehicle; Driver 1: Anthony L. Sipes, 49, of Onalaska, Wis. No injuries reported.

4:18 p.m., March 26, Reuen Road and Ledge Road, Town of Alabama, one vehicle; Driver 1: Clark Triftshauser, 72, of Medina. One injury reported.

9:30 p.m., March 24, Thruway, mile marker 376.3, Town of Le Roy, one vehicle; Driver 1: Amanda M. Brower, 21, of North Chili. No injuries reported.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Accident reported at Law and Walnut, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A rollover accident has been reported at the intersection of Walnut and Law streets in the City of Batavia.

City Fire and Mercy EMS have been dispatched.


View Larger Map

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Stoddards marking 10th year as proprietors of American Home Remodeling

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After 15 years of working for other people in the home-improvement business -- both as a hired hand and in sales -- Tim Stoddard began to get the itch to do it himself.

"My wife Lisa was a big instigator of it," Stoddard said. "She kept telling me I could do it.”

So he enrolled in free classes from the Small Business Administration at Geneseo College and began planning what would become American Home Remodeling.

Ten years ago, Tim and Lisa launched their company with a vision for a firm that would be known for its quality and its personal attention to customer care.

"We didn't need to be a big fish," Stoddard said. "We didn't need to be the biggest company out there. We wanted to be a company known for honesty, doing the right thing and having the right people in place."

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Rollover accident reported on Prentice Road

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Le Roy, Stafford

A rollover accident has been reported on Prentice Road in the area of Buckley Road.

Stafford Fire and Mercy EMS are being dispatched.

Very minor injuries are reported.


View Larger Map
Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Vehicle fire reported on the Thruway

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

A car is reportedly on fire in the eastbound lane of the Thruway around mile marker 388.

Town of Batavia fire is being dispatched.

The dispatch center has received multiple calls.

UPDATE 3:39 p.m.: A firefighter responding said the smoke can be seen from Bank Street. "It must be going pretty good," he said.

UPDATE 4:12 p.m.: Fire crews are picking up and the Thruway is being reopened.

UPDATE 4:19 p.m.: Town of Batavia Fire back in service.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 10:34 am

Photos: A cabin, a barn, a hotel

post by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, batavia, pembroke, photos

mogadorehillton.jpg

When I'm out and about in the county, I usually try to find roads I've never driven down before. In coming back from the two accidents this morning, I came across three photo opportunities.

Above, the Magadore Hillton and Pembroke Hotel, at the intersection of North Pembroke and Beckwith roads. The spelling on the sign is "Hillton." That's not  a typo. The proprietor, according to the sign, is Linda Smith. It's hard to tell if this is an active business. There is a sign next to the building that advertises fish fry and beef on weck, but it also looked like it might be vacant, except for a possible residence on the side.

UPDATE: We just got this e-mail:

"Hi, my name is Linda Smith I have owned the bar for 30 years. It was built in 1850 and has been a working bar for a very long time. I have a little restaurant that serves fish frys every friday. We are open 6 days a week."

Below is what looks like an old hunter's cabin along Stegman Road, across from the Tonawanda Creek. 

The last picture is of a yellow barn -- don't see too many of those. It was on Powers Road.

oldcabin.jpg

yellowbarn.jpg

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 9:58 am

Man transported by Mercy Flight after horse accident

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Mercy Flight, pembroke

mercy_horseaccident.jpg

A man who has not been identified at this time was transported to an area hospital this morning after reportedly being kicked in the head by a horse.

The accident occurred shortly after 8 a.m. at 8170 North Pembroke Road, the location of D.J. Stables.

There is no further information about the accident available at this time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 9:45 am

Driver hits pole and keeps driving across open pasture in East Pembroke

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

readroadaccident02.jpg

A 37-year-old Batavia man was taken by Mercy Flight to ECMC this morning after he apparently drove into a telephone pole and across a field into a brush line.

His car travel another 150 yards after shearing the pole off at its base, leaving behind pieces of his minivan as he continued rolling across the cow pasture.

Luis Gomez was reportedly driving southbound on Read Road when he reached the intersection at Route 33 and allegedly failed to stop for a stop sign and continued straight across Route 33, striking the pole on the other side of the T intersection.

The possibility of drinking and driving has not been ruled out, according to Deputy Ron Meides. (See update below.)

There was a partially consumed 12-pack of beer in the back seating area, though no open cans were visible.

No other people were in the minivan at the time of the accident. No other cars were involved. 

Meides said Gomez was semiconscious as he was being prepared for Mercy Flight transport and was taken to ECMC "for evaluation."

East Pembroke Fire and Mercy EMS answered the initial call, which came in before 8 a.m.

UPDATE10:53 p.m.: Deputy Meides report was just released.  Luis Gomez had a BAC of only .04.  No citations were issued in the accident.  The minivan traveled 329 feet after striking the the utility pole. The home address for Gomez was listed at 20 Thomas Ave., left apartment.

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