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Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 11:57 am

Photos: Washington Towers honors residents who have quit smoking

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, smoking, Washington Towers

Jeanne Graber and Margaret Hughes are quitters, and we mean in a good way. Graber and Hughes were among a group of Washington Tower residents who were recognized Friday for successfully quitting the cigarette habit. Some of the quitters have stopped within the past year, and others haven't smoked in up to 60 years.

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 9:28 pm

Chimney fire reported on West Bergen Road

post by Billie Owens in bergen, fire, Le Roy

A working chimney fire is reported at 8029 W. Bergen Road. The location is between Selden and Randall roads. Le Roy fire and ambulance are responding along with Bergen fire.

UPDATE 10:44 p.m.: The fire is out. A code enforcement officer is on scene. Le Roy ambulance is back in service.

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Winter storm warning in effect this weekend - extreme cold, possible wind chill 35 degrees below zero

post by Billie Owens in weather

A winter storm warning has been issued by the National Weather Service in Buffalo, in effect from 7 a.m. Saturday until 6 p.m. Sunday. Expect more snow, blowing snow and extreme cold.

Snow accumulations of three to seven inches are anticipated; winds 20 to 30 mph; visibility near zero at times.

The weather service says there will be a dangerous mix of wintry conditions this weekend. Strong winds along with snow will lead to considerable blowing and drifting snow. Travel will become difficult with snow-covered roads. Heavy snow and/or ice will cause hazardous driving conditions. Be prepared to encounter whiteout conditions.

The combination of extremely cold air and strong winds will create dangerously and possibly life-threatening wind chill values -- as low as 35 degrees below zero at times. "Frostbite times will only be on the order of just minutes." Limit your time outside and dress in multiple layers this weekend.

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Stafford's proposed ban on fracking and oil drilling gets county planners' approval

post by Howard B. Owens in Stafford

The residents of Stafford are a step closer to banning all natural gas hydrofracking as well as other types of oil and gas exploration, drilling and processing.

The Genesee County Planning Board recommended approval Thursday night of a new local law for the Town of Stafford that would ban such activities within the town borders.

Next step is passage by the Town Board, then it becomes law for Stafford.

According to the proposed law, the purpose of the ban is to: promote the health and safety of Stafford residents; protect and preserve the quality of the town's air, water and other natural resources; and to protect the town's priceless and unique character.

Also recommended for approval by the board:

  • A sign permit for RW Vapors, Ellicott Street, Batavia;
  • With modifications for patient access, a proposed new cancer center at UMMC;
  • A sign for Kay Jewelers in Batavia Towne Center;
  • A windmill on Brown Road in Bethany;
  • A new barn on Zuber Farms, Byron;
  • A new waterslide at Darien Lake Theme Park;
  • A site plan review for expansion of animal waste storage on a farm on Batavia Elba Townline Road.
Friday, February 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm

DWI charge in fatal Thruway accident in Pembroke

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, pembroke, thruway
Jermaine Vann

One person is dead and a Rochester resident is being charged with DWI after the car he was driving early this morning slammed into the back of a Thruway Authority snowplow near mile marker 404 in the eastbound lane.

The accident was reported at 3:44 a.m.

Killed in the crash was Milagro Lopez-Cruz, 33, of Rochester, who was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Jermaine A. Vann, 34, of Rochester.

Vann's small car was eastbound behind the snow plow when his car rear-ended the plow.

He was charged with DWI, aggravated unlicensed operator, 3rd, following too closely and speed not reasonable nor prudent for conditions.

He suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was treated and released at ECMC. 

(Initial Report)

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Task force learns there are no ideal locations for new Batavia PD headquarters

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

The third of five meetings for the Police Facilities Task Force had members looking at drawings and maps and thinking about traffic patterns, parking and floodplains.

The committee reviewed the proposed sites for a new police station, looked at the options for remodeling the current location -- the old Brisbane Mansion -- and asked why a variety other locations in the city weren't considered.

The task of the task force is to come up with a recommendation for the City Council by July 1.

They meet next on March 10 to look at financing options.

Their virtual tour of potential locations started at 56 Ellicott St., the former Santy Tires location.

Advantages include access to Ellicott Street and Evans Street (a driveway would extend along the north side of the Salvation Army building), high visibility Downtown and the opportunity for all new construction.

The downsides include being in the floodplain (though, by a slight margin, the highest of the sites in floodplains), some level of environmental remediation because of the former auto repair shop and gas stations, and proximity to the Della Penna property.

The Della Penna property itself has been taken off the list because the lot size is slightly too small and it will require significant environmental remediation.

Next up was the Salvation Army building on Jackson Street.

The location is not as visible as 56 Ellicott, but not entirely hidden either. It's also in the floodplain, but would offer a good configuration for the actual building as providing separate parking for police and civilians with separate access points.

The current building is not suitable for retrofitting to meet the needs of a modern police headquarters, so would need to be torn down and a new building constructed.

Another location for a new building is 165 Evans St.

The location would offer a lot of space, but it also creates a lot of problems. It would eliminate the current parking for Falleti Ice Arena, forcing new parking behind the building and perhaps changing the primary entrance for the rink to the back of the building or the north side.

"We've identified that there was a parking issue with the ice rink and that we would need to reconfigure it, but we didn't come up with a solution," City Manager Jason Molino said.

There's a seven-acre lot behind that location and Molino said the city is getting some serious interest in redeveloping that land.

Also under consideration is co-locating with the Sheriff's Office on Park Road.

This is not the clear win advocates of shared services might think. One of the big cost drivers (making it a very expensive option) is that the new building would require new mechanicals. If the two buildings had been constructed as one facility or built at the same time, then they could share heating and air and such; but they weren't, so they can't.

"If it's not that much cheaper, why are we discussing it?" Molino said. "Because, for 25 years, people have been suggesting it, so it at least deserves a good evaluation or people will always be asking the question and saying, 'well, you didn't look at this site.' "

The biggest challenge, Molino said, would be for the city and county to come up with an operating agreement -- how costs would be allocated, what would be shared, what would remain separate, and similar operations issues.

The location, being well outside the heart of the city, would also require a satellite office for the department somewhere Downtown.

For the current facility, which is more than 150 years old, there are two options: Tear down the 1963 addition to the facility (the entire back of the building) and build new or remodel the existing wing.

Neither option offers significant cost savings over building an entirely new building at another location. It doesn't solve the parking and access issues currently faced by the department and no new floor plan could be fashioned that meets the needs of a small city police department in 2014.

But officers could have an indoor firing range in the basement.

Another option Molino presented to the task force was maintain the status quo.

Such an option wouldn't improve the layout of the building, because no substantial changes could be made.

The current building isn't compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, so any design changes beyond just the cosmetic would force the city to make the entire building conform to ADA rules. The cost thing skyrockets back up to the range of a complete remodel. 

Enlarging the bathrooms and adding air conditioning to the parts of the building that don't have it are both examples of pressing needs with the current building that would kick in ADA rules.

Chief Shawn Heubusch offered that early on, officials looked at the mall as a possible location, but there's no good solution to some of the access issues it would create.

Any location on Main Street would present access and parking problems.

The city at one time looked at the old armory on State Street, locations around Alva Place and on Bank Street and the Harvester Avenue area and found significant deficiencies in access and traffic patterns with each.

The bottom line: There is no easy answer to the question of where Batavia should house its police force.

Top photo: John S. Brice, architect, Geddis Architects, who facilitated the discussion. Bottom photo: City Manager Jason Molino.

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 12:22 pm

County highway superintendent warns of treacherous conditions tomorrow

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Message from County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens:

The National Weather Service is not catching this yet, but I expect that driving conditions from tomorrow afternoon through Sunday morning will be treacherous. Forecast is for wind gusts up to 37 mph and lake effect snow off and on for and additional 3-5 inches. Most of the County has between 20 and 36 inches of snow on the ground. The snow and wind combined with the high snowbanks is going to create whiteout conditions in open areas. All of this will create blizzard-like conditions.
The National Weather Service is covering the dangerous cold and wind chill, but have not yet highlighted the problems with blowing snow. 
I am expecting driving conditions to deteriorate rapidly tomorrow afternoon. I suspect there will be plenty of people attempting to travel out for Valentine's Day dinner and other activities. At this point, I recommending extreme caution. Anyone caught in a whiteout or off the road could have serious problems if they are not equipped to handle the extreme wind chills we will be experiencing - -currently projecting -35°F.
Friday, February 13, 2015 at 8:28 am

Law and Order: Should college be required for police recruits?

post by Howard B. Owens in polls
Friday, February 13, 2015 at 3:57 am

Serious injury accident reported on Thruway

post by Howard B. Owens in pembroke, thruway

An accident with possible serious injuries is reported on the Thruway in the area of mile marker 404. 

The call came from a tollbooth operator. 

A Thruway vehicle is involved; the injury is in the second vehicle. 

Pembroke and Indian Falls fire along with Mercy EMS responding. 

UPDATE 3:58 a.m.: Mercy Flight out of Batavia is only available for eastbound flights at this time. Dispatch on availability of Mercy Flight out of Buffalo. 

UPDATE 4:09 a.m.: All eastbound traffic being blocked. CPR in progress. 

UPDATE 4:18 a.m.: Mercy Flight can stand down. 

UPDATE 5:50 a.m.: We have no further information at this time. The accident is under investigation, according to State Police.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Closures and cancellations for Friday, Feb. 13

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Closures and cancellations announced so far for Friday, Feb. 13, due to weather:

  • Batavia City Schools
  • Pavilion Central Schools (not closed: two-hour delay)
  • Notre Dame
  • St. Joe's
  • Bingo tonight at St. Mary's is cancelled

E-mail closures and cancellations to [email protected]

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Teen accused of selling drugs on school grounds in Alexander

post by Howard B. Owens in alexander, crime

A 17-year-old has been charged with three felonies after being observed allegedly selling narcotics on school grounds in Alexander.

Nicholas David Frayne, of Chick Road, Darien, is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance on school grounds, criminal sale of a controlled substance, 3rd, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, and criminal possession of controlled substance as a Class A misdemeanor. 

The alleged sale was reported at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Alexander Central School.

Officials did not say who observed the alleged sale.

The case was investigated by Deputy Patrick Reeves and Sgt. Greg Walker.

Frayne was arraigned in Town of Alexander Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Sponsored Post: Pembroke Soccer Club sign-up deadline is Feb. 15th!

Looking for an opportunity for your son or daughter to play travel soccer locally? Pembroke Soccer Club is accepting registrations for girls and boys, ages 10-19. You can register online!! Click here to sign up now, teams are filling up quick!
Come play in a high energy, competitive league with quality coaches. Your son or daughter will have fun and develop the fundamental skills that will push them to the next level. Registration deadline is February 15th!!! Visit us online: www.pembrokesoccerclub.com
or e-mail: [email protected]
Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Photo: Plow truck pulls school bus from ditch in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy

Photo by Thomas Coveny, taken this morning. A plow truck pulls a school bus from a ditch on Bater Road near Route 5, Le Roy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Darien Lake rolls out two new rides for 2015

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park, tourism

Darien Lake Theme Park draws thousands upon thousands of visitors from all over Western New York each summer, but General Manager Chris Thorpe says Genesee County residents are going to be especially pleased with what they find at the park this season.

Two new massive rides are going to add a lot more value for season-pass holders, he said, and local season-pass holders are an important customer base.

"We are excited to present these two new attractions this year," Thorpe said. "We think it cements us as the best entertainment value in Western New York, particularly from a local perspective. For Batavia residents, local Genesee County residents, our season pass will offer so much more this year. We're excited to give them the opportunity to come out and visit the park frequently, over and over, to see what a great value we are."

The new rides are called Brain Drain and Rolling Thunder.

Brain Drain is a massive, seven-story waterslide that offers twin free-fall drops through tubes that loop and cross, with riders zooming through at 38 feet per second until they're blasted into a pool of water at the base.

Riders start in an enclosed launch capsule, with both riders dropping into the tube simultaneously when the floor beneath them gives way.

Roling Thunder is a compact steel loop that stands 73 feet at its apex and propels 24 riders at time through a closed loop on a high-speed train. The ride hangs passengers upside down and rockets back and forth through the loop.

Construction will begin soon and the rides are expected to be ready for opening day, May 9.

The expansion gives the park 47 rides for visitors to choose from, with enough variety to please all guests, Thorpe said.

"There's so much to do, but what's even better, is there's something for everybody in the family here," said Thorpe, who is originally from Buffalo and first started working at Darien Lake in 1995, rising to the level of general manager, transferring to other theme parks for the past couple of years and now returns home.

Noting how important Darien Lake is to the local economy in the jobs it creates and the tourism dollars it attracts, Chamber President Tom Turnbull said it was great to see the theme park adding rides.

"One of the things I've learned from our friends at Darien Lake -- they've kind of schooled me on the amusement park business -- is how important attractions are in driving attendance," Turnbull said. "To have not just one new attraction, but two new attractions means, I think, we can expect a banner year at Darien Lake."

Adding rides is a departure from last year's strategy to draw visitors to the park, using entertainment, such as the Harlem Globetrotters, a Latin music festival, and, of course, Nik Wallenda to draw in crowds.

To be sure, Wallenda brought guests to the park, but he's moving on to other venues this season and Thrope said the new rides are a good fit for what the park already offers.

"We'll still have our traditional entertainment in place, the magic shows and things like that, but last year's focus was Nik Wallenda, which was a very strong attraction," Thorpe said. "This year, we're going more with a hardware focus and looking at attractions that will peak people's interest."

The park will still work to maintain its identity as a destination with strong Western New York roots, Thorpe said, a branding effort begun by park management two seasons ago.

"It's important for us to be woven into the cultural fabric of Western New York and those things like the Anchor Bar and Tim Horton's and all the local vendors we work with are critically important to our success," Thorpe said.

Chris Thorpe explaining Rolling Thunder.

Tom Turnbull

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Law and Order: Man in trouble for pictures posted to social media site

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bergen, byron, crime

Stephen J. Turkasz, 24, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Turkasz is accused of posting photos of people who are the subject of a protective order on a social media Web site, in alleged violation of the order of protection.

Malcolm A. Kea, 27, Porter Avenue, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant related to a charge of operating while registration suspended or revoked. Kea was arrested at his residence for alleged failure to appear.

Curt Thomas Randall, 27, of Swamp Road, Bergen, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Randall was stopped for an alleged traffic violation at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday on Byron Holley Road, Bryon, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Benjamin G. Evans, 26, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Evans is accused of stealing from Tops Market, Batavia. Evans was arrested by State Police.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 9:07 am

Weather Report: Wind chill warning issued for this evening through Friday

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather

A little bit of snow fell on Batavia overnight and this morning, but that isn't the worst weather news you're going to get today.

It's going to get cold. Very cold.

A wind chill warning is in effect from 6 p.m. until noon Friday.

With winds of 10 to 20 mph, the wind chill value will be 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

The National Weather Service warns of the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia.

Stay warm.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 7:35 am

SUV rollover on Thruway, driver possibly has minor injuries, Le Roy responding

post by Billie Owens in accident, thruway

A black SUV rolloved over several times on the eastbound Thruway but the driver has minor, if any, injuries, according to a dispatcher, who is on the phone with the driver. Location is mile marker 380.2; Le Roy fire and ambulance responding.

UPDATE 7:48 a.m.: Command says the crew is actually in the westbound lane; the vehicle is in the median. State Troopers are en route.

UPDATE 8 a.m.: Troopers on scene.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Snow squall coming through area in next hour, could affect driving visibility

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

A band of lake effect snow is passing through Western New York and could come into Genesee County, affecting visibility for those on the roadways within the next hour.

There could also be unexpected slick spots on roads.

The Thruway area affected is between exits 48 and 60.

Caution is advised while driving.

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