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Howard B. Owens's blog

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Video: Post-ammonia leak interviews

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, Torrey Farms

I shot this video around 2:15 p.m. following the ammonia leak at Torrey Farms today.  It was a busy afternoon and evening, so it's only now ready for posting. The original breaking news post is here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Online Exclusive: Roll top desk from Max Pies at $300 off

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Deal of the Day, Max Pies Furniture

maxpies_rolltop250x250.jpgThrough a special arrangement with Max Pies Furniture, 400 South Jackson St., Batavia, The Batavian is able to extend this special, online-only offer to its readers:

We are able to offer a solid oak roll top desk to readers of The Batavian at a $300 savings. This desk normally retails for $795.  You can use the PayPal button below to buy it online now for $495. (Sales tax and a $12 PayPal service fee will be added)

You can't buy this desk in the store at that price.

The winner of this exclusive item will be able to choose from an in-stock desk or custom order in one of the three available finishes: harvest distressed, glazed medium distressed or light distressed..

If you've ever dreamed of owning a roll top desk, here is your chance to acquire a quality piece of furniture at a substantial savings.

There is only one item available at this price and it is exclusive through
The Batavian. The winning purchaser will need to arrange to stop by The Batavian office to pick up a purchase voucher. Final arrangements to take delivery of the chair are made at the Max Pies location at 400 South Jackson St. This item will be available until it sells and only one at this price is available.

The voucher has no cash value, but can be used toward an upgrade purchase on another item.

Deliver is free in Genesee County.

To purchase this online exclusive from The Batavian and Max Pies Furniture, click the PayPal button below (this is the only way you can make this purchase -- this price is NOT available in the store).

If you're a local business owner and would like to offer The Batavian readers great deals either as part of The Deal of the Day or as an Online Exclusive, call me at 585-260-6970.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Batavia council asks manager to prepare report on switching Fire Department to volunteer force

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

The City of Batavia should seriously consider replacing the Batavia Fire Department with either an all volunteer, or partial volunteer force, Council President Charlie Mallow suggested during tonight's City Council meeting.

UPDATE: Audio of Mallow's speech provided by WBTA.

His call to have Jason Molino prepare a report on the idea before the council's next conference meeting met with broad support from the other council members, with at least five members backing his thinking and none of the rest raising an objection.

"We live in a city of 16,000 people with a fully funded fire department," Mallow said. "That is probably the most unusual thing you can come across. Our taxpayers are taking a pounding for $3.5 million that 16,000 people have to pay for every year. Can you imagine what we can do -- the town fire department is a little over $1 million -- what we could do with $2.5 million? We could fix their sidewalks in this city. Maybe we could fix our roads without begging for more from the state.

"It's going to take real leadership, because I tell ya, we all know what it took to get rid of that ambulance service and there's still people with signs up even though that issue has long since passed

"Speaking as somebody who is about the fly the coup, it's going to take somebody on this council or the next council to step up and do the right thing no matter how many signs people put up or how many phone calls they make."

Council woman Marianne Clattenburg immediately followed with a "Here, here."

Bill Cox, Bob Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian all expressed support for Mallow's call for Molino to study up on the issue and prepare a report.

The discussion came in the middle of an agenda item about the car allowance for the city's fire chief, which was an issue put on the agenda by Cox.

"I don't want to argue about $4,000," Mallow said. "I want to argue about $2.5 million."

Cox said now is the time to act on the proposal, while the city's fire department is being run by an interim chief, so that the position wouldn't be changed in the middle of the term of a permanent chief.

The fire fighters union is already claiming a Taylor Law violation because the city voted to eliminate the city's ambulance service, and asked after the meeting if this latest proposal might really run afoul of the Taylor Law, Mallow said, "I've found that your best thing to do is just do the right thing. We did the right thing with the ambulance service and we got complaints because we did the right thing."

As for the car allowance, Molino said he is going to recommend to both the police and fire chiefs that they forgo the city's stipend and use a city vehicle for official business.

Molino explained that the city's employee handbook gives the chiefs the option of an allowance or a city-provided vehicle or a stipend, but after talking with an insurance carrier, the idea of chiefs using personal vehicles for official business should be a grave concern.

If the chiefs were in an accident, even though on official duty, while driving a personal vehicle, their personal insurance company would be the first line of liability. In a serious scenario, the mount of damages could greatly exceed the personal liability coverage.

"I don't think it's good policy to have our city employees at risk of losing everything they've worked their whole lives earning," Molino said.

Both departments have vehicles available -- especially for the fire department once the ambulance service is terminated -- that the chiefs could use and take home to be available in emergencies.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Tractor pushes car sideways down Main Street into the city

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia


A tractor from My-T Acres pushed a car with two people in it sideways eastbound down Main Street this evening.

The tractor struck at least two other vehicles and caused at least one minor injury.

Incredibly, neither of the two people in the car pushed by the tractor were injured.

"If it (the car) had flipped over, we would both be dead," said driver Gene Laney. "There is no way we could get out."

The tractor only stopped after a passerby jumped up on the driver-side running board, according to Laney and a police officer, and banged on the glass and yelled at the driver, who eventually heeded the message and turned the tractor off.

The tractor finally stopped in the vicinity of 355 W. Main St.

The hero who helped get the tractor stopped was apparently no longer on scene five or 10 minutes later and police on scene did not know who he was.

Witnesses describe the unidentified tractor driver as in a daze.  It is not known why he drove the vehicle in this manner from Lewiston Road onto Main Street.

County Emergency Coordinator Tim Yaeger happened to be in the area at the time the call went out and tried to get the tractor driver to stop, even pulling in front of the tractor with lights and sirens to draw the driver's attention.

No further information is available at this time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm

GCEDC garners award from NYS EDC

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center received Honorable Mention for its Annual Report and its quarterly newsletter at the New York State Economic Development Council’s annual meeting, held last week in Cooperstown, NY.  The annual report named “Helping Genesee County Grow for 30 Years,” was produced in house and printed locally by Hodgins Printing of Batavia.  The report recognizes the agency’s 30th anniversary. 
“We wanted to highlight this milestone and thought the annual report was a great way to get started,” said Chad Zambito, VP of Marketing and Community Development.  “It is always great to be recognized by your peers, especially in the field of marketing which can be somewhat subjective.” 
The GCEDC was established in 1971 but reorganized into its current form in 1979 with a seven member, non-compensated, Board of Directors that serves at the pleasure of the Genesee County Legislature.  The agency will celebrate its 30th Anniversary this summer with at its semi-annual dinner scheduled to in August.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Two Batavia PD check points lead to 47 tickets and five DWI arrests

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

Twenty-nine license suspensions. Can you imagine?

That person was among of several alleged violators and potential law breakers nabbed at two Batavia Police Department check points set up Friday, according a press release issued this afternoon.

The person with the 29 suspensions isn't identified, and neither is another person with 10 violations who was also tripped up in the one of the check points.

The check points were conducted on Bank Street and Clinton Street Road.

In total, there were 47 traffic summons issues, four people were arrested for DWI and one for aggravated DWI. One person was cited for unlawful possession of marijuana.

We already reported the case of the alleged illegal immigrants getting caught on Bank Street, and the apparent warning sign taped up near the Bank Street check point.

The DWI arrests, all from Batavia, are: James Kempisty, 48; Richard M. Potwora, 50; Todd M. Kemp, 36; Donald W. Gavenda, 51; Ryan M. Shrauger, 39.

Personnel from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and the Genesee County Drug Task Force assisted in the operation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 10:16 am

Ammonia leak reported at Torrey Farms

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, Torrey Farms

UPDATE 12:45 p.m.: Tim Yaeger, emergency coordinator, just informed dispatch that the leak was closed 7 minutes ago.

Original report continues below ...

A "major" ammonia leak has been reported at Torrey Farms, 7170 Norton Road and hazmat has been dispatched.

A first-responder said, "Two valves on this tank that need to be shut off, but no way can we get near it."

He also reported it's a 15 ton cylinder "just going wild."

The wind is 16 m.p.h. out of the east. 

Norton Road has been closed.

UPDATE 11:55 a.m.  There's no new information at this time. Emergency teams are on scene. No report yet on the status of the leak. No indication of the situation getting worse.

UPDATE:  The media isn't being let into the scene, which isn't surprising. I'm not planning on going out there unless and until there is a press conference.

UPDATE: Here's what the State's health department site says about Ammonia:

How is ammonia used?
About 80% of the ammonia produced by industry is used in agriculture as fertilizer. Ammonia is also used as a refrigerant gas, for purification of water supplies, and in the manufacture of plastics, explosives, textiles, pesticides, dyes and other chemicals. It is found in many household and industrial-strength cleaning solutions. Household ammonia cleaning solutions are manufactured by adding ammonia gas to water and can be between 5 and 10% ammonia. Ammonia solutions for industrial use may be concentrations of 25% or higher and are corrosive.

How can people be exposed to ammonia?
Most people are exposed to ammonia from inhalation of the gas or vapors. Since ammonia exists naturally and is also present in cleaning products, exposure may occur from these sources. The widespread use of ammonia on farms and in industrial and commercial locations also means that exposure can occur from an accidental release or from a deliberate terrorist attack.

Anhydrous ammonia gas is lighter than air and will rise, so that generally it dissipates and does not settle in low-lying areas. However, in the presence of moisture (such as high relative humidity), the liquefied anhydrous ammonia gas forms vapors that are heavier than air. These vapors may spread along the ground or into low-lying areas with poor airflow where people may become exposed.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 9:57 am

Deals of the Day: Batavia Downs, Adam Miller and South Main Country Gifts

Among today's deal is the introduction of a new sponsor to the program: South Main Country Gifts.

South Main Country Gifts is located at 3356 S. Main St. Road and is a well-stocked, interesting gift shop with a large variety of items. When we visited Saturday, my wife commented on how reasonable the prices are.

Today's gift certificate is for $20 available through The Batavian for $10 (plus $1 service fee).

Also today, the ever-popular Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, 8 Center St., where you can find toys for kids of all ages. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50 (plus $1 service fee).

And our third deal today is Batavia Downs Grandstand Bar & Grille, one of Genesee County's more popular restaurants. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50 (plus $1 service fee).

Rules: The gift certificate must be used by within 30 days of purchase. It is not valid with other offers and has no cash value.  People who have won a certificate in the past 30 days are not eligible to win a certificate from the same business as before.  By state law, gift certificates cannot be used for alcohol purchase.

How to Win: Purchase using the PayPal "Buy Now" button below. After the first person to hit the "buy now" button completes the purchase, PayPal will let you know that the item has been sold. Ideally, the winner will arrange to stop by my office on Main Street before 5:00 p.m. (today or tomorrow) to pick up gift certificate. Mail is an option, but it would be better to hand you the gift certificate. 

If you want to be notified via e-mail of future Deals of the Day, sign up for the Deals of the Day e-mail list by clicking here.

Merchants: If you would like your business featured in Deal of the Day, call Howard Owens at 260-6970.

South Main Country Gifts


Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles


Batavia Downs Grandstand Bar & Grille


Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 6:25 am

Syracuse-based retail chain looking for location in Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business

Metro Mattress, based in Syracuse, is actively looking for a store location in Batavia, according to the Buffalo News.

The chain would hope to open a location within the next 12 months, according to the article.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 6:17 am

Byron Memorial Day Parade

post by Howard B. Owens in byron, Memorial Day, parade

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 6:15 am

Video: Batavia Memorial Day Parade

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Memorial Day, parade

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Chris Lee scores points for bi-partisan efforts

post by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee

The Buffalo News reviewed the first few months of Rep. Chris Lee's term as a U.S. Congressman and Buffalo Pundit, blogger Alan Bedenko, who, shall we say, leans Democrat, says Lee actually is doing an OK job, even if Bedenko doesn't always agree on policy.

I was wrong about Lee. The guy really seems to care about his constituents, and he’s taken an interest in the issues that matter.

Lee is building bridges with his Democratic colleagues, especially those also representing Western New York Districts, according to the News.

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 11:57 am

Road block sign probably warning of police check point

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

road block sign.jpg

I've been on Bank Street near the city limits each of the past four days. Friday, this was a normal speed sign as I remember it.  When I saw "road block" Saturday, I didn't think much of it. Then I did the blotter report this morning and realized that the Batavia Police Department was running a DWI check point on Bank Street Friday evening.  It looks like somebody tried to warn drivers.

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 11:43 am

Car flys off Thruway into the woods

post by Howard B. Owens in accidents

Reports are coming in that a vehicle flew off the Thurway at mile marker 400 and landed about 50 or 60 feet into the woods.

No serious injuries are reported. There were two people in the vehicle.

Initial reports said chain saws would be required to cut trees away to get the people out of the car, but that turned out not to be the case. However, the tow company that will extricate the car may need chain saws, according to reports.

State Police are walking the driver and passenger out of the woods now.

UPDATE: No injuries reported.

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 11:29 am

Accident Reports: Tractor pulling wagon full of 17 people has trailer hitch break

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accidents, Darien, LeRoy

accident_drawing_tractor_leroy.gifSeventeen people, including 11 children, managed to avoid injury after a tractor ride went wrong Sunday night when the trailer hitch broke on the tractor pulling them down Conlon Road.

Gregory J. Luetticke, 46, of Le Roy, who was driving the tractor, did report an injury. He complained of neck pain.

Luetticke was reportedly pulling the wagon down a grass laneway on Conlon when the hitch broke. Luetticke said when the hitch broke, he steered to the west and lost control of the tractor, causing the tractor to overturn. Luetticke was ejected from the tractor and came to rest to the northwest. The wagon stopped moving.

In the wagon were Billie J. Kennedy, 31, Alexa M. Kennedy, 6, Madailein M. Blonski, 5, Ashley Bottonfield, 10, Erica Ulrich, 15, Amber A. Williams, 8, Dominque M. Williams, 14, Mariah A. Williams, 12, Teresa Annecharicle, 35, Tyler M. Annecharicle, 35, Isabell Annecharicle, 10, Nicholas Rogers, 6, Zachary M. Rogers, 10, Colleen M. Rogowski, 39, Allison M. Rogowski, 8 and Lauren E. Wood, 8.

Bradley Brooks, 25, of Spencerport, failed to negotiate a turn on South Lake Road in Bergen Sunday afternoon and drove his motorcycle into a ditch. Brooks was ejected from the bike. He was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Brian D. Whitmore, 25, of Darien Center, suffered a fracture in his arm and collar bone after striking a deer while driving his motorcycle eastbound on Conway Road in Darien. The accident occurred Wednesday about 9 p.m.

No injuries were reported in a single-vehicle accident last night at 11:30 p.m. on Quinlan Road in Le Roy.

The 1996 Dodge coupe was driven by Matthew Derooy, 20, of LeRoy. Deborah J. Derooy, 24, was a passenger.

Derooy reportedly driving the car westbound on Quinlan Road when he drove off the north shoulder and hit a support wire to a National Grid utility pole. The vehicle then continued through a field and landed in a ditch.

No apparent cause is cited in the accident report.

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 8:47 am

Main St. Pizza should open Tuesday, following fire, owner says

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Main St. Pizza Company

Vic Marchese was at his popular Batavia restaurant early this morning washing dishes and waiting for a cleaning crew to arrive following last night's fire that caused an estimated $30,000 damage.

He expects to be open to serve customers by tomorrow, he said.

He won't be able to cook with charcoal immediately, since that's the vent system damaged by the fire, but the rest of the kitchen remains in good shape and ready to serve up pizza, pasta, wings, subs, salads and just about everything else on Vic's menu.

Marchese said he had been away from the restaurant most of the day and returned at 9 p.m. About three minutes later a lady came in and asked about all the smoke in the back parking lot. Vic said he went outside, saw the smoke and immediately called 911.

Fire crews were on scene within minutes. 

The fire was just beginning to poke out of the vent, Marchese said. The flames were doused quickly.

"Good thing," Marchese said. "These old buildings, the whole block could have gone up."

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 6:35 am

Police Beat: Police arrest four alleged illegal immigrants at check point

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

Four alleged illegal immigrants from Guatemala were apprehended by Batavia police at a Bank Street DWI check point Friday night.

One of the men arrested, Edwin O. Perez-Hernandez, 36, of Varysburg, allegedly tried to flee the scene on foot and faces a resisting arrest charge. He is held on $2,500 bail.

Oscar U. Perez-Hernandez was reportedly the driver of the vehicle and faces numerous traffic violation charges, according to police. He is held on $1,000 bail.

Two women in the vehicle were issued appearance tickets for immigration court.

James F. Kempisty, 48, of Batavia, drove through a DWI check point on Bank Street Friday night around 10:30 and BPD officers determined that he was apparently intoxicated. He was charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Kempisty was issued an appearance ticket and released.

Dustin R. Collinge, 24, of Wheatland, faces two felony counts following a traffic stop in Stafford early Sunday morning. Collinge is charged with DWI and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Collinge reportedly has a prior DWI conviction. He is accused of driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Collinge was released pending arraignment.

Keith Whitney, 21, of Churchville, is charged with two felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon and a misdemeanor count of menacing following an alleged domestic dispute with his girlfriend in Bergen early Sunday morning. Whitney allegedly brandished an assault rifle "with the intent to use it against his girlfriend," according Sheriff's deputies. He is being held on $5,000 bail.

Robert Brown, 47, of Darien, is accused of pushing an acquaintance to the floor.  He is charged with harassment in the second degree.

Richard Synder, 43, of Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana following a traffic stop for allegedly speeding in Elba. Snyder was issued an appearance ticket and released.

Erick R. Horning, 19, of Batavia, is accused of hosting an under-age drinking party at his house on Wilkenson Road early Saturday morning. Horning was charged with unlawful dealing with a child, issued a ticket and released.

Robert  Piechocki, 45, of Attica, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon. Deputies allegedly found six unregistered pistols in his residence while investigating a reported domestic incident.

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 6:06 am

Main St. Pizza sustains $30,000 damage in vent fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Main St. Pizza Company

Last night we reported word of a fire at Main St. Pizza Company, 200 E. Main Street, Batavia, but information at the time made it sound relatively minor.

It turns out there the fire caused $30,000 in damage -- $25,000 to the structure and $5,000 to contents of the building, according a report released by the Batavia Fire Department late last night.

The fire was contained mostly to a exhaust duct at the rear of the building, with a "minor extension into the building."

The report states that owner Victor Marchese became aware of the fire when he smelled smoke. He immediately evacuated the customers and called 911.

When city fire crews arrived, they found heavy smoke coming from the duct and quickly dosed the fire with the use of chemical extinquishers and water hoses.

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