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Friday, April 3, 2009 at 7:00 am

Batavia native starring in tribute musical to John Denver

post by Howard B. Owens in entertainment, music

John Birchler left Batavia a long time ago, but he's making headlines in Schenectady where he's starring as John Denver in a off-Broadway tribute musical called "Almost Heaven."

Birchler left Batavia to attend college in Albany, and landed a teaching job near the state capitol after graduation. He is now retired.

“I don’t try to sound like him. It’s just a matter of representing his songs in that John Denver musical style. We want to perform the songs and be as faithful to him as we can.”

Birchler is the only identified character in the show, which includes 29 of Denver’s tunes, some of them accompanied by an audio-visual presentation.

“There are no real characters, but I do portray a John Denver-like figure,” said Birchler. “There’s a bit of a narrative thread throughout the show, and that’s me talking a little bit as Denver about different things that happened in his life. Beyond my little dialogue and the music, there’s an A-V component that includes almost 130 images projected onto a screen. In some way, they illustrate the songs and much of Denver’s life.”

Friday, April 3, 2009 at 6:37 am

Suspected drug dealer reportedly tried to flee from police on foot

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force

BATAVIA , N.Y. -- Kirby S. Wall, 32, of Rochester, reportedly tried to run from Drug Enforcement Task Force investigators yesterday only to be found hiding along the east wall of 400 Towers. The foot chase started at a residence on Swan Street, where officers had gone in an attempt to arrest Wall for allegedly dealing in crack cocaine. Wall was allegedly found to be in possession of $1,000 worth of crack and a quantity of marijuana.

Previously, Wall reportedly made two sales of crack cocaine to undercover investigators.

Wall is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance, both felonies. He is also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, a misdemeanor.

Assisting in the investigation were the Batavia Police Department, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, Livingston County Sheriff's K-9 Unit, and the Genesee County District Attorney's Office.

Friday, April 3, 2009 at 6:34 am

Police Beat: The case of the missing tires

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

Gorgon L. Montgomery, 50, of Batavia, allegedly thought he could get something for nothing. He is accused of taking four tires that had been chained to a residential tree and marked "for sale." The tires disappeared the night of April 1 and were allegedly found in the back of Montgomery's pick up truck yesterday. He is charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the 5th degree. He was issued an appearance ticket on the charge.

Gerald P Perkins, 77, of LeRoy, was reportedly stopped for driving a vehicle without break lights. Upon further investigation, the arresting deputy reports, it was determined that Perkins was allegedly driving while impaired by alcohol. He was charged with DWI and released to a friend.

Michael C. Mirabal, 36, of Batavia, is accused of taking and using another person's car with out permission. He is charged with one count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Accused cattle rustles couldn't evade long arm of the law after anonymous tip

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Pavilion

Cattle rustlers like to go after calves, according to Sheriff's Department Investigator Timothy J. Weis.  Weis said the younger animals are easier to move -- they can fit in the back seat of a car -- and easier to sell because they don't often yet have any permanent identification.

"It's easy to cut a calve's identification from its ear," Weis said. "You can use scissors or metal snips. You then have a hole in the ear, but it's difficult to identify the cattle afterwards."

That ease of movement and lack of identification may have been what Charles M. Fuller, 20, of Gainsville, and William C. Raymond, 26, of Castile were counting on when they allegedly calf-napped three young Holsteins from Noblehurst Farms, York Road, Pavilion, on March 23.

What the alleged theives weren't counting on was an anonymous tip that led investigators to suspect Fuller and Raymond.

Without the tip, there may never have been an arrest in the case. Even though the Sheriff's Department notified the livestock auction houses in the region, the thieves were apparently able to successfully sell the calves at the Maplehurst Livestock Market in Hinsdale.

"They (Maplehurst) didn't catch it (that the calves were stolen) and they processed the sale as normal," Weis said.

Rather than try to recover the calves, which would involve tracking them through other possible sales channels and possibly as far as California, the owners of Noblehurst have elected to seek restitution from the defendants upon conviction, Weis said.

The owners are also concerned that "now that the calves have mixed with other cattle, they could bring back disease and infect their other cattle," Weis said.

Often times, Weis said, investigators need not rely on anonymous tips. Because auction houses are notified when calves are stolen, they might spot unusual activity and let law enforcement officials know.

"When they see some individual who doesn't seem to be a farmer (trying to sell cattle), that's a clue," Weis said.

Even so, Weis said that livestock auctions are hectic environments and not conducive to every seller getting close scrutiny.

"You would be surprised at how easy it is to go unnoticed," Weis said.

That's why the anonymous tip in this case may prove crucial in getting a conviction and lead to restitution for Noblehurst.

Mug shots above: Fuller upper left; Raymond, lower right.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 5:22 pm

No immediate plans in Batavia to take advantage of new red light camera rules

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, red light cameras, traffic

Several cities in New York have lobbied the Legislature to allow them to install traffic enforcement  cameras to help catch drivers who run red lights.

Red light cameras are controversial because many citizens view the devices as a get-quick-rich scheme for municipalities, while often times law enforcement officials defend the automated cops as a legitimate traffic control measure.

So the natural question is, if Batavia had the chance, would officials like to install such cameras at any intersections in the city?

City Council President Charlie Mallow said the subject has come up in informal discussions around City Hall, but there is no immediate plans to pursue the option.

"The city has a huge problem with out-of-town truck traffic and speeders bypassing the Thruway," Mallow said. "Traffic is the number one complaint I hear from residents."

Even so, Chief of Police Randy Baker said he hasn't looked into the issue at all. He's aware there is talk of installing the cameras in other cities, but no such proposal has been floated in Batavia as far as he knows.

"I'm not sure even what's involved," Baker said. "I'm not sure how expensive the cameras are or what kind of support is needed."

Council member Rosy Mary Christian said she hasn't given the issue any thought because none of her constituents have raised the issue.

But Mallow doesn't think the idea is off the boards.

"The city already has a plate reader on a (police) car that I’m told has been very effective," Mallow said.  "I guess I have yet to make up my mind about these cameras. If the police department believed it would be effective, I would be open to discussing it."

Both Buffalo and Rochester have long sought permission from the Legislature to install the cameras. The Buffalo City Council voted this week to ask Albany again if it could install 50 cameras. Rochester is expected to seek permission in a City Council vote today, according to an article in the Democrat and Chronicle.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Genesee Community College Employee Wins National Paragon Award

post by Howard B. Owens in announcements, GCC

Press Release:

BATAVIA, NY  -- Genesee Community College is pleased to announce Hal Legg has received a Paragon Award, which recognizes the highest achievement among two-year college communications professionals across America, Canada, and several other countries. Hosted by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR), this year's competition drew more than 1,700 entries.  Hal took top honors in the "Notes/Cards/Invitations" category for "Flip Flop," a student recruitment mailing shaped liked a sandal.

Legg also received two scholarships totaling $500 to defray the cost of his attendance at the NCMPR national conference which took take place March 15 - 18 in Kansas City, Missouri. He won a $400 "Seasoned Professional" award for professional development and a $100 scholarship from the NCMPR's District 1 Council, which is the governing body of the organization's Northeast region. This is the second consecutive year that Hal has received both national and regional scholarships to attend an NCMPR event.

"Flip Flop" previously won gold at the NCMPR's District 1 Medallion Awards last October in Saratoga Springs, prompting Hal to enter it in the Paragon Awards. One of the elements that make "Flip Flop" so interesting is that it is Customized Market Mail (CMM), which is a special postal classification. With CMM, irregularly shaped pieces (in this case, life-sized sandals in the sand) can be mailed without any envelope. Another interesting feature is that it incorporates variable data publishing (VDP), meaning that the content of each piece is tailored to its recipient. For example, a male applicant could get a camouflaged flip flop with language particular to having applied for admission. A female non-applicant could get a pink flip flop with language related to soliciting an application for admission.

"'Flip Flop' was a challenging piece, but it really resonated with potential students. You look at it, and it's just a lot more fun than typical mail," Legg said. "An award like this just goes to show Genesee's across-the-board support for innovation. I'm privileged to accept it, but this honor belongs to the College."

This is the first time Hal has entered and won a category in the Paragon Awards. A recruitment communications specialist, he has been with Genesee since 1997, and is a frequent conference presenter. He is a resident of Brockport, NY.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Truck and car collide on Oak, backing up traffic to Main Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

Traffic is blocked and backing up on northbound Oak Street to Main following a semi-truck and car collesion at 12 Oak Street.

Only minor injuries are reported.


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Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Back yard BBQ leads to fire truck sirens in the city

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire

BATAVIA, N.Y. -- It's a great day to BBQ, but apparently some people haven't brushed off the cob webs of winter and reminded themselves cooking out doors.

About 1:35, a resident on Bank Street saw flames from an enclosed area in a neighbors back yard and called dispatchers with report of a fire at 117 Bank Street.

Batavia fire crews responded promptly and found nothing more than a beginning-of-spring bar-b-que in progress.


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Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 8:00 am

BID announces return of summer-time public market downtown

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, localism

The Downtown Batavia Public Market returns Thursday, June 25 for its third year of operation, according to Don Burkel, manager of the Batavia Business Improvement District.

The market will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and run until Sept. 10 and operate at the corner of Ellicott and Center streets.

"This year the Market will be open on Thursdays to accommodate  residents and employees of the businesses and government," Burkel said.  "This provides a convenient venue for them to shop for fresh vegetables, fruit, baked goods, fresh cut flowers, honey, specialty BBQ sauce and popcorn and lots more within a short distance of their homes and places or work."

There is plenty of parking at the location, Burkel noted.

For those interested in being a vendor at the Downtown Public Market they can contact the Business Improvement District Office at 585-344-0900 or for more information visit the BID Web site.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 7:51 am

Summer Child Care Program Available at Genesee Community College

post by Howard B. Owens in announcements, child care, GCC

Press Release:

BATAVIA, NY -- The Genesee Community College Association Child Care Center is pleased to announce the introduction of a summer child care program. This is a pilot program and will run on a first come, first served basis. The summer session runs from May 26 - July 31, 2009. Interested participants are asked to fill out an application and pay a $15 application fee. Applications will be due no later than May 11, 2009.

The GCCA Child Care Center offers complete child care services for children six weeks to five years of age. The hours are from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM Monday to Friday, following Genesee's academic calendar. Children of students, staff and faculty, and the community on a space available basis may use the GCCA Child Care Center.

The Center is newly renovated with safe and developmental resources. The staff is trained and supervised by the Director, Maggie Hagen. There are educational programs, and lunch and snacks are provided. Safe sleeping equipment is available for naps. The Center is also accessible for children with disabilities.

Rates are set according to the age and the number of days that the child uses the Center. The U.S. Department of Education and the State University of New York awarded grant funds for child care tuition subsidies for income eligible Genesee Community College students. For detailed rates, please visit http://www.genesee.edu/index.cfm/general/dspArticle/campuslife.childcare....

The GCCA Child Care Center has earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the nation's leading organization of early childhood professionals.

For further information, please contact Patti Cassatt, Office Manager of the Center at 585-345-6833. The Center is located at the main entrance to the Campus in Batavia. For an application, please visit http://marketing.genesee.edu/images/GCC_Childcare_Application.pdf.  Application deadline is May 11th.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 7:42 am

Police Beat: Marijuana arrests follow two traffic stops in Genesee County

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

Eric Bastian, 25, of Macedon, was arrested in Bergen Monday and charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Bastian was reportedly driving on Route 262 when a Sheriff's Deputy stopped him for allegedly driving with improperly tinted windows and a partially obscured license plate. When the deputy approached the vehicle, he said he could smell marijuana coming from the vehicle. Upon questioning, Bastian stated it was marijuana, according to the deputy's report. A field test also confirmed that the substance found in the car was marijuana. Bastian was issued a ticket and ordered to appear in court on April 8.

Jason Smith, 30, of Ontario, was arrested for alleged unlawful possession of marijuana following a traffic stop near Oak and Main streets in Batavia. Smith was allegedly speeding. When a Sheriff's deputy approached the vehicle, the deputy could reportedly smell the smoke and then observed smoke in the car. A field test of the substance in the car reportedly confirmed it was marijuana. Smith was issued an appearance ticket for April 8 in the City of Batavia.

James P. Cox, 46, of Pembroke, was arrested for alleged DWI after a witness allegedly observed him hit another vehicle in Erie County. The witness helped Erie and Genesee County Sheriff's deputies track and find Cox. Cox was stopped on Route 5 in Pembroke. He is charged with aggravated DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. He received additional moving violation tickets. Cox must now appear in courts in both Pembroke and Newstead.

James P. Coles, 30, of Darian, was arrested by Batavia Police yesterday for allegedly violating an order of protection the day before. Coles is accused of sending text messages to, and then showing up at the residence of the protected person. He is being held in lieu of $1,000 bail.

A 17-year-old from Bergen was picked up by Sheriff's Deputies yesterday and charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. The teen was allegedly found in possession of marijuana in the Village of Bergen municipal parking lot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Genesee County ambulance task force opens bidding for new countywide service

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, gensee county

Private ambulance companies can begin bidding on a contract to provide Genesee County with ambulance services. The private service will replace the service terminated by a vote of the Batavia City Council and scheduled to end Sept. 1.

Lawn signs protesting the council vote continue to dot the Batavia landscape.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) can be found on the County's Web site. The RFP was developed by the Genesee County Ambulance Task Force.

WBTA interviewed Tim Yaeger is the county’s emergency management coordinator, and head of the task force. Yaeger said the task force will review the proposals and submit recommendations and feedback to the participating government agencies.

Deadline for submissions is April 29.

The RFP is a very thorough document (PDF). It specifies the scope of service, company qualifications, insurance requirements, equipment needs, response times and communication guidelines.

The winning bid will be granted a three-year contract beginning Sept. 1, 2009 and ending Aug. 31, 2012. The contract may be terminated by either party on 120-days written notice.

The selected vendor must submit a surety bond or irrevocable letter of credit in the amount of $500,000 to guarantee performance of work.

The task force also reserves the right to reject all proposals.

Interested companies can ask questions and get more information on April 15, 10 a.m., at the Fire Training Center.

While service must start by Sept. 1, no date has been set for announcement of the awarded contract.

Most of the information contained in proposals received by the task force will be public information, discloseable under the Freedom of Information Law, except information specifically deemed as proprietary, in writing, by the submitting company.

Opponents of the city's decision to terminate its ambulance service set up a Web site to rally community support for its position. At one time, the site contained a (certainly non-scientific) poll to gauge community support for its position. Before the poll was taken down, only about 35 percent of the poll respondents favored the pro-city-ambulance position. The site also contains an online petition, but as of this moment -- several weeks after it was launched -- only 131 people have signed it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Gensee County sees opportunity in rural broadband stimulus package

post by Howard B. Owens in broadband, genesee county, rural

The Obama stimulus package includes $7.2 billion to help rural America access the Internet more easily, and officials in Genesee County would like to ensure some of that money benefits the region.

Known as "Title VI--Broadband Technology Opportunities Program," the allocation is a mere 1 percent of the entire stimulus program.

County Manager Jay Gsell clued me in a couple of weeks ago about the County's efforts to attract some of that money to help areas of the county that do not yet have broadband access. He said the broadband effort is one of many tasks on the County's to-do list related to bringing as much stimulus money to the county as possible.

Stephen Zimmer, Genesee County Director of Information Technology, said the county is participating in a state program to map current broadband availability and identify areas of need.

New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton applauds the effort to help rural residents access the Internet more easily.

"Farmers in rural, agricultural areas need broadband," Norton said. "Support for broadband has been in our policy book for years. Technology is necessary to keep agriculture viable. Your business (The Batavian) thrives off of technology and agriculture is needing technology more and more."

Much is unknown even at this point about how the broadband program will be administered, and it may not be until 2010 before we see any results. This PCWorld article explains some of the unresolved questions about the program.

The broadband stimulus program is also not without controversy.

Former FCC economist Michael Katz has been acerbic in his dismissal of rural American and the need for spending $7.2 billion on improving Internet access.

Katz listed ways that the $7.2 billion could be put to better use, including an effort to combat infant deaths. But he also spoke of rural places as environmentally hostile, energy inefficient and even weak in innovation, simply because rural people are spread out across the landscape.

"The notion that we should be helping people who live in rural areas avoid the costs that they impose on society … is misguided," Katz went on, "from an efficiency point of view and an equity one."

According to the same NPR piece, a New York Times article has referred to the rural broadband initiative as a "cyber bridge to nowhere."

But others say the package could help another 20 million Americans get broadband access, and high-speed access does help create and retain jobs.

A study of 3,000 people in Michigan, Texas and Kentucky found those in areas that received broadband Internet grants from the federal Rural Utilities Service quickly signed up for service, matching the penetration rates in cities. That happened where network investment was coupled with community programs aimed at convincing people about the benefits of Internet access.

Home broadband users were more likely to start businesses or take classes online, and less likely to move away, the researchers at Michigan State University found.

Norton said a lot of farmers in Genesee County are still stuck with dial-up, which hurts their productivity. It also keeps them from accessing more advanced online-software that help them run their businesses.

"(Broadband) will help the more progressive and larger enterprises the most," Norton said, "but with the smaller ones, there lies another opportunity to educate people and help them."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Mallow says Batavia can handle loss of video lottery money to state budget

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, budget

In a statement issued last night, Assemblyman Steve Hawley said the elimination of VLT money (video lottery terminal funds) is going to cost both Batavia and the County some big bucks.

Today we asked City Council President Charlie Mallow (who, along with Rose Mary Christian, apparently will be a candidate for the County Legislature) about the impact of the state budget on local governments.

Charlie sent along this statement:

The city never planned for the VLT money to continue. We have always looked at the money as a short term windfall that was used to pay down the city’s debt. This year we used most of the money for designs to plan for infrastructure repairs.  On the bright side we were able to dodge a bullet that would have taken $40,000 in state aid that helps support our Youth bureau. We lobbied hard to change the governor’s mind about those block grants.  As far as I am aware at this point, some careful planning has helped us in the long run and this budget shouldn’t have a major effect on the city.

Hawley's statement about the VLT cuts:

The budget will also include a 50% reduction in VLT funding that will leave municipalities that depend on this money left holding the bag. The City of Batavia will see a cut of $314,849, the Town of Batavia $114,563, and Genesee County $143,137.  This lack of funding will force municipalities to pass along the added burden to taxpayers.

Reltated but out of the area: In an editorial, The Canandaigua Daily Messenger  recently said Farmington was wise not to count on keeping VLT money, which has been targetted for potential cuts before.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Genesee County dairy farmers being squeezed by low prices, high production costs

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, dairy

Local dairy farmers are hurting, according to Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau.

Prices have plummeted -- because of decreased demand for dairy products at home and abroad -- while costs have increased substantially. 

Currently, milk is selling for $10.50 to $11.50 per 100 weight (about 8.5 gallons), while the cost of production is $15 and $16 per 100 weight.

Last year, milk sold for about $20 per 100 weight.

"The area economy stinks and it's a tough year," Norton said. "Receipts are down and individuals might be exiting the dairy industry."

Exports have dropped and domestic demand has been driven down as people eat out less during the recession, so there is shrunken demand for dairy products.

To help address the plunging prices, Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has initiated a herd retirement program, which will help reduce the number of milk-producing cows and lower supply.  Bids must be postmarked by May 1.

Dairy farmers throughout the nation are hurting according to The Rural Blog:

“The number of dairy cows being sent to slaughter has risen by about 20 percent from last year, as desperate farmers cull their herds and sell at fire-sale prices,” Sue Kirchoff writes for USA Today. “Adding to the problem, banks are less willing or able to extend farmers’ loan payments amid the financial turmoil.” John Murawski reports for the News & Observer in Raleigh, "Several dozen dairy farms in North Carolina are expected to go under this year." (Read more)

The National Dairy Federation has called on President Obama to aggressively address the problem, or thousands of jobs could be lost.

There are several reasons for the implosion: oversupply, falling export demand and continued high prices for supplies such as feed,” Kirchoff explained. “The dairy sector in the past has been less prone to huge price swings than other areas of agriculture, but that’s changing as the industry relies more on the markets and less on government programs.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a program to buy 200 million lbs. of nonfat dry milk surpluses for domestic low-income programs.

Neighboring Wyoming County is being especially hard hit by the downturn in the dairy market, according to a story by Tom Rivers.

The $60 million in reduced revenue is compared to 2008 prices, when dairies averaged about $17.50 per hundredweight. This year the prices are forecast to average $12.80 for the year. The prices are expected to climb above the current $11 level and top $14 in September, which is still below most farms' production costs.

The county's 47,970 cows, which outnumber the county's residents, produced $178.9 million worth of milk products in 2007, by far the most in the state.

"The market is saturated and these prices are likely to be with us until mid-summer," Norton said.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 8:53 am

Most viewed posts for March 2009 on The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian

According to our internal statistics, these were the most viewed posts in March.

And since I forgot to post this list for February, here it is:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 7:22 am

Meeting to discuss problem of teen drinking called in LeRoy tonight

post by Howard B. Owens in LeRoy

Residents of LeRoy are asked to attend a community forum tonight to discuss the issue of teenage alcohol abuse.

The meeting will be held at LeRoy Village Fitness, according to WBTA.

Over the past six years, there has been a 250 percent increase in incidents involving under-age drinking. Most recently, a 21-year-old man was found in the Village so intoxicated, allegedly, that he had to taken to the hospital. He allegedly bought and served alcohol to an 18-year-old in the Village.

WBTA posted an audio quote from Cindy Herzog, superintendent of LeRoy Central Schools.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m..

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 7:02 am

Cardinals affilation with NY-Penn league teams shows mixed results

post by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Muckdogs, sports

The Cardinals Nation blog runs down the history, going back to 1981 when the Cardinals added the New York-Penn League to its farm system, of Cardinals-affiliated teams.

Only seven times in nearly 30 years in the league have Cardinals farm teams reached the playoffs.  The capper, of course, is the 2008 championship season of The Batavia Muckdogs.

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