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Howard B. Owens's blog

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Wyoming man who had sex with a minor given three-year prison term

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Wyoming County

A man who admitted to raping a Genesee County girl will spend three years in state prison and 10 years on supervised probation, Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled this afternoon.

Thomas J. Preedom, 21, of Wyoming County, admitted to rape 2nd in November, as well as attempted escape 2nd.

Reference in court to the case today, indicates that Preedom engaged in consensual sex with an underage girl and the girl had a baby who may or may not have been fathered by Preedom.

Following his arrest, Preedom tried to escape from the State Police barracks in Batavia, where he fought with Troopers and damaged state property.

Defense Attorny Jerry Ader argued that a past probation violation notwithstanding, Preedom was a viable candidate for a probation sentence in this case.

"Despite his prior behavior, he deserves a chance at probation even given this serious charge," Ader said. "He readily admitted to police and to the court what he did and acknowledged that his behavior was wrong, even though it was consensual, it was wrong under the law."

Ader said Preedom has been studying for a career, spending more time hitting the books in jail then he ever has in his life, and that he's grown through the process. He is not the same person, Ader said, that he was as a youth when he was convicted of selling marijuana, and violated probation (which Ader characterized as a legitimate misunderstanding with the Town of Batavia court over the terms of his probation).

For his part, Preedom asked Noonan for probation.

"I'm not a bad kid," Preedom said. "I made some bad decisions in my past and I request a second chance. I'm just asking for a second chance. I think I can succeed on probation. If this child is mine or not, I will take care of it."

Noonan said he couldn't look past his prior probation violation.

"I think by your conduct, you violated your chance at probation," Noonan said.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm

It's time for farmers to rally to fight misinformation about industry, Bureau president says

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, NY Farm Bureau

The American Farm Bureau is putting PETA and other animal rights groups on notice -- they're not going to let these groups define their industry and spread misinformation about their farms any longer.

That was the message from Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman at the group's annual convention last week.

dean_norton_farm.jpgBatavian Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, was there and he said he agrees with Stallman's message.

At a time when New York farmers are facing dire economic consequences from lower commodity prices, high production costs, climate change legislation and proposed migrant worker reforms, the animal rights activists and others who would spread misinformation about farmers are going to face a more energized opposition, Norton said.

"In the current political environment, rallies and campaigns get more attention than just sitting down in a room and discussing issues," Norton said. "That's why we're going to get out and rally and campaign, so we can get our message out."

About 99 percent of America's farms are family owned, Norton said, so the idea that there are these large corporate farms engaged in factory farm is really a myth.

"Sure there are bad apples," Norton said. "There are bad apples in every bunch, but people never look at the good stuff. They only look at the bad stuff. Only the bad stuff makes the news."

Norton said he is particularly concerned about climate change treaties known as "cap and trade."

Cap and trade, Norton said, will drive up costs for American farmers by $5 billion, cost to consumers by $7 billion and reduce agriculture profits by $2 billion, based on a study commissioned by the American Farm Bureau.

"American farmers have fed and clothed American families for more than 200 years and we're the leaders in the world in providing food and fiber," Norton said. "We're not going to let people not part of our industry tell us how to raise our animals healthy. We're already doing that."

Photo: File photo of Dean Norton

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 9:56 am

Flu shots available from county in three upcoming clinics

post by Howard B. Owens in flu, h1n1, health

If you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, the Genesee County Health Department has scheduled three more clinics.

There is a clinic today for both seasonal and H1N1 vaccines from noon to 4 p.m. at County Building II.

Another clinic has been set for Jan. 21 from noon to 4 p.m., and an H1N1-only clinic is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 23 at Batavia City Centre. On Jan. 23, priority will be given to children under 9 who need a booster vaccine.

The clinics are open to everyone over 6-months old.

The Health Department can be reached at (585) 344-2580, extension 5000.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 9:01 am

Pair of Batavians in Haiti reportedly safe after 7.0 earthquake

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Haiti, religion

A group of Western New Yorkers, including at least two Batavians, on a mission to Haiti are safe according to a report on a blog following  a massive 7.0 earthquake that struck the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

WBTA reports that Sharon Wolf and Zack Ashley, both of Batavia, are on the mission and are safe. Both are with St. Paul Lutheran Church.

This post by Sue Steege lists all mission members and says Wolf and Ashley are on their first mission to Haiti, while some mission members have made the trip as many as five times.

The mission is being led by Pastor Chuck Whited of First Trinity Lutheran Church in Tonawanda. He wrote about his arrival in Haiti on Saturday in this blog post.

According to this post, the mission was scheduled to return home on Jan. 18. That return date is now uncertain, according to WBTA.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Google says flu concerns in region currently minimal

post by Howard B. Owens in flu, Google, h1n1, health, technology

flu_buffalo.gif

flu_rochester.gif

When people have flu-like symptoms, or a friend or relative does, the first thing they do is hop on Google to see if they can self-diagnose or learn more about the illness.

Those searches spike when there are a lot of people feeling sick.

Google has found that its search trends correlate to Center for Disease Control reports, but CDC lags Google's real-time results by about two weeks.

The current trends show minimal concern in the Buffalo and Rochester area (they don't break it down for Batavia specifically) about the flu this month. 

Learn more about how this works by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Today's Deals: Center Street, Sallome's, Main St., Mane Attraction and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Attorney in fatal accident case seeks mobile phone records from other car

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, alexander, crime, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt

The attorney for an Alexander man accused of driving drunk at the time of a fatal accident in Darien wants to see the mobile phone records for the occupants of the car carrying the Dansville teenager who was killed.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman says that Defense Attorney Thomas Burns is merely on a "fishing expedition" in his request for the records.

The request and Friedman 's response are in motions filed by the two attorneys in the case of 24-year-old Ronald J. Wendt.

ron_wendt_outside_court.jpgWendt faces a 12-count indictment in the case, including an enhancement charge that could lead to a 25-year prison sentence.

"The requested records are relevant and highly probative on the issue of the driver's attention to road conditions and other traffic immediately to the automobile accident," Burns writes. 

Burns goes on to note that distracted driving, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, accounts for 26 percent of motor vehicle accidents.

Friedman responded, "There has never been any indication that anyone in the victims' automobile was using a cell phone at or near the time of the collision ... Instead, the defense is simply attempting to engage in a "fishing expedition" ... The people are not in possession of, nor aware of, the existence of any such cell phone records. Furthermore, we fail to see the relevance of possible cell phone communications involving passengers in said vehicle. Finally, it is the People's position that there is no authority for the Defendant's baseless effort to obtain possible cell phone records of crime victims and that such discovery would be beyond the parameters of (evidence law)."

Katie M. Stanley was killed in the Aug. 14 accident. Stanley was a passenger in a Toyota driven by a friend from Dansville and there were two other passengers. The group was returning from Darien Lake on Route 5 when it entered Darien Center, where the speed limit quickly drops from 55 mph to 40 mph. Wendt was apparently the driver of a Dodge Ram pickup that turned left into the parking lot of My Saloon just ahead of the oncoming car.

The Toyota struck the rear of the pickup truck. There has been no evidence presented so far, nor reports of, skid marks or other evasive action by the driver of the Toyota.

Wendt reportedly told a Sheriff's deputy that he had been drinking beer that day while baling hay. Deputy Tim Wescott reported that Wendt demonstrated slurred speech, had the odor of alcohol and demonstrated poor coordination following the accident. He reportedly had a BAC of .08.

Judge Robert Noonan will hear oral arguments in the motions on Jan. 19.

Burns has also filed a standard number of motions to disclose evidence, open the Grand Jury minutes, dismiss the case on various grounds and suppress specific pieces of evidence on various legal grounds.

For previous coverage, click here (all previous stories on this topic are now tagged "Ronald J. Wendt").

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

Woman released from hospital following Sunday night accident

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, byron, Stafford

A woman who was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital by ground ambulance following an accident on Clinton Street Road on Sunday night has been treated and released.

Margaret G. Foley, 86, of 6880 Lymon Road, Byron, reportedly lost control of her car on a snow-covered road, hit a mailbox and then a snow pile, causing her car to overturn onto the passenger side.

The accident occurred at 10:28 p.m. Sunday in the area of 5860 Clinton Street Road, Stafford.

The accident was investigated by Deputy Frank Bordonaro. No tickets were issued. No other vehicles were involved.

Here's our initial report.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 9:29 am

City budget includes 3-percent property tax increase

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, budget, taxes

Elimination of the ambulance service in 2009 means the city will be spending less money overall in 2010/11, according to City Manager Jason Molino's annual budget message.

The overall expense -- all budget lines -- for the city will be down $1.2 million, or 5.48 percent.

However, the General Fund expense will increase $183,116. The city must also continue to build its fund balance in order to be able to handle unanticipated events and put the city on a sound financial footing.

So a property tax increase of 3.07 percent is necessary, Molino wrote. It would raise the rate to $10.50 per $1,000. That works out to about $25 per year more for a home owner with an average valued house of $80,000.

Increased expenses for the city include:

  • New York State Retirement Costs: Up $200,000 because the state's pension fund losses have exceeded more than $44 billion. All municipalities in the state are being forced to make up the difference.
  • Police: The police department budget is up $74,000 following this summer's arbitration settlement.
  • Fire: The fire budget is up $412,000 following the severance/settlement agreement related to elimination of the ambulance service. Overtime is down $35,000, but a big part of the increase is making up for increased state retirement costs.
  • Contingency: Up $100,000 to plan for an unknown settlement with three of the city's unions currently in negotiations on new contracts.
  • Health Insurance Reserve: The city is self-funded for now, but there is no reserve for an unexpected critical expense. Add, $60,000.

There are also some notable cost reductions for the city:

  • DPW's budget is down $240,000, but there is still apparently money for required equipment replacements. The average age of DPW equipment is 24 years.
  • The city is no longer paying back prior years' deficits at a rate of $250,000.
  • The 2009/10 fiscal year was the first time in three years that the city wasn't engaged in temporary borrowing to pay bills. That means the city won't be making $33,000 in interest payments for a prior year's loans.

The proposed budget includes a 1.5-percent raise for 10 management employees.

Molino's budget notes that, "Over the course of the past three years the City has faced a lingering $2.2 million general fund deficit, significant cash flow deficiencies and deficits in all other operating funds."

This led the city to layoff 23 staff members and not fill 15 other staff positions. During those three years: there were no wage increases for union members or management; temporary borrowing was necessary to pay bills; and the ambulance service was eliminated, dispatch was consolidated and maintenance deferred.

"City staff has sharpened their pencils, adapted to crisis management and tapped into their creative and innovative minds to maintain service levels at reasonable costs," Molino writes. "As a result, the City of Batavia over the past three years has, by a slim margin, eliminated its prior fund balance deficits and begun to plan for what improvements and investments will be needed in order to maintain a sustainable community for our citizens."

Monday, January 11, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Consultant tells council aging water infrastructure can only be fixed with rate increase

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, water

water_coucnil.jpgIf the City of Batavia is going to maintain its aging water infrastructure, there  will need to be a series of rate increases over at least the next five years, the City Council was told tonight.

The city needs to make about a $4 million investment in the coming years, said Stephen C. Waldvogel, a consultant from Consestoga-Rovers & Associates out of Buffalo.

"Running a water and sewer utility in today's economic climate is growing increasingly difficult," Waldvogel said. "There are numerous challenges associated with running a water and/or with a sewer utility, particularly in the northeast. One of the prevalent problems throughout the northeast, which the city is facing right now, is aging infrastructure. Your water plant was constructed about 100 years ago. Your wastewater plant was about 30 years ago, and most of the pipes in the ground are 50 to 100 years old."

Failures are inevitable and residents face potential service outages without improvements.

Waldvogel suggested the city institute a five-year plan of rate increases -- the average rate would go up less than $1 per month each year (2.5 percent per year), plus institute a $1-per-quarter fee to pay for infrastructure improvements ($3 per quarter by the fifth year).

"This fee would be dedicated solely to making those improvements so that you can demonstrate more clearly to your residents, or your constituents, that you're getting value for this investment," Waldvogel said. "We're not going to take this money and move it somewhere else. You're going to pay this fee and we're going to put it right back into your infrastructure. You can talk to them about the projects that this fee is paying for."

If the council were to move forward on Waldvogel's suggestions, there would be a public hearing as part of the upcoming budget process. 

The city cannot enact a five-year fee increase plan, but it can start with a scheduled two-year increase in 2010, which then could be renewed every two years as needed.

Waldvogel stressed that over the course of five years, the need for the fee could change.

City Council President Marianne Clattenburg said after the meeting that a plan such as Waldvogel presented is probably necessary.

"This is exactly what I was talking about when I said we are going to have to start setting priorities and moving forward with future plans," Clattenburg said. "The city is in need of reconstruction in certain parts of our water and sewer system, so I think this was a very comprehensive, well-thought-out, reasonable study as to how we're going to go where we need to go in the future."

Waldvogel listed six challenges facing the city and its water service:

  • Aging infrastructure
  • Potential declining service levels
  • Escalating operations and maintenance costs
  • Declining consumption
  • Reduced funding options
  • Previous large rate increases

Part of Waldvogel's gradual rate increase plan is to avoid the sticker shock on consumers of a spike in rates, such as the 2008 rate increase. Prior to 2007, the city hadn't increased rates in four years.

As for declining consumption -- that's largely a result of people buying more efficient washers, toilets and other water devices. The city saw an 8-percent decrease in water usage last year and an 13-percent decrease over the past four years. Waldvogel's study didn't go back further, but he said he's confident that's a long-term trend.

Declining consumption means less in water fees collected.

At the current rate of rising costs and decreased revenue, he expects operational deficits beginning this year to reach $600,000 a year by 2014, unless something is done.

As for sewer, Waldvogel said that system is in better shape financially and he sees no reason for sewer-rate increases over the next five years.

Some of the charts from tonight's presentation after the jump:

Monday, January 11, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Truck fire reported at scrap yard in Corfu

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

East Pembroke Fire is being dispatched to a reported dump trailer fire at Ed Arnold's Scrap Yard on Angling Road in Corfu.

UPDATE 10:17 p.m.: First responder reports metal shaving burning inside of a dump container. Units asked to respond non-emergency.

UPDATE 10:21 p.m.: East Pembroke Fire picking up. "It's just metal shavings. It's not going to go anywhere."


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Monday, January 11, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Band teacher accused of sexual abuse plans to take case to trial

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Oakfield

hoffman_court.jpg

Kerry Hoffmann, the 27-year-old former band teacher from Oakfield-Alabama accused of sexually abusing a student, will take his case to trial, according to his attorney.

Hoffman appeared in Oakfield Town Court this evening to set a trial date.

"People will be surprised," said his attorney, Thomas D. Calandra. "We will be bringing up issues that will surprise people."

Hoffman turned down a plea offer this evening, according to Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell.

"We talked about a plea, but it didn't come to fruition," Finnell said. "I don't know how close it was, but it was being considered up until tonight and then it was rejected."

Hoffman has until 24 hours before the scheduled trial date, 9:30 a.m. March 23, to accept any plea offer.

All six charges against Hoffman, five counts of sexual abuse and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, are misdemeanors.

UPDATE: 13WHAM reporter Sean Carroll says that Finnell told him Hoffman faces a 7th charge -- this one, official misconduct.

Photo: Kerry Hoffman outside of court this evening. Photo courtesy 13WHAM.

Monday, January 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Bus driver from Kid Rock tour pleads not guilty to DWI charges

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, darien lake, Kid Rock, pembroke

mug-devlin.jpgThe man accused of driving Kid Rock's tour bus while drunk entered a not guilty plea to three DWI charges during an arraignment this morning in Genesee County Court.

Joseph S. Devlin, 37, St. Augustine, Fla., was arrested July 15 after Sheriff's deputies spotted the bus on Route 77 in Pembroke, they say, operating erratically.

Devlin was employed at the time by a company contracted to provide transportation for Kid Rock and his entourage.

He faces two felony counts of DWI.

Devlin posted the $10,000 bail set in the case immediately.

Previously:


Monday, January 11, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Adam Miller, Margarita's, T.F. Brown's, Kravings

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.

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.

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.

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.

Kravings Kafe, Valu Plaza, W. Main Street, Batavia, NY: Recently opened, it offers soups, salads and sandwiches, fresh and flavorful; Monday through Saturday. We have $10 gift certificates for $5.

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

SOLD OUT

Monday, January 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Employee accused of stealing items from a Le Roy restaurant

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy

mug_bucky_mccumisky.jpgAn employee of a restaurant in the Village of Le Roy is accused of stealing food and possibly other items over a period of time from his employer.

Arrested was Shawn D. "Bucky" McCumiskey, 38, of 24 North Genesee St., Fillmore.

He is charged with one count of petit larceny.

McCumiskey was allegedly caught by another employee at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 23 removing product from the restaurant.

Det. John Condidorio investigated the alleged crime.

Monday, January 11, 2010 at 10:57 am

Batavia City Council meeting on money issues tonight

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council

The Batavia City Council meets at 7 tonight.

There will be a regular business meeting followed by a budget workshop.

City Manager Jason Molino's proposed budget calls for a 3-percent tax increase.

Tonight's budget session will focus on sewer and water, and address some of the challenges associated with aging infrastructure.

On the business meeting agenda, there is a resolution to increase spending on legal fees by $35,000, to help pay for ongoing litigation.

Monday, January 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

Police Beat: Two alleged DWI-related accidents

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, elba

Stuart P. Newbould, 43, of 15959 Bridge Road, Kent, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and failure to stop for a stop sign. Newbould was arrested by Deputy John Weis after he was allegedly involved in a property damage accident on Friday at the intersection of South Holley and North Bergen roads. Newbould was also accused of driving at an unreasonable speed.

David W. Pape Jr., 22, of 32 Alpine Lane, Caledonia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and aggravated unlicensed operation. Pape was arrested after his car reportedly went off the edge of the road on Route 19 in Bergen at 2:42 a.m. Saturday. Deputy John Weis also issued Pape a ticket for alleged unlawful possession of marijuana.

Corey Jamed Hemmer, 23, of 91 S. Main St., Apt. B, Elba, is charged with failure to pay a fine. Hemmer was arrested following a NYS parole check, when parole officers realized there was an outstanding Genesee County warrant for his arrest.

Monday, January 11, 2010 at 10:07 am

Wanted by Sheriff's Office: Corey A. Johnson

post by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, Sheriff's Office, Wanted

mug-cory_johnson.jpg

The Sheriff's Office is looking for Corey A. Johnson, who is wanted for an alleged violation of probation.

Johnson is 22 with a last known address in Silver Lake. Johnson was convicted of larceny and was on supervised probation.

Anybody who might have information on her whereabouts is asked to call (585) 343-3000.

UDPATE Jan. 13, 9:10 a.m.: The Sheriff's Office reports Corey Johnson is in custody.

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