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Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

Task force asks for more information on two new potential locations for BPD HQ

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

Task force members have been asked to consider five options for the future headquarters of the Batavia Police Department. At Tuesday's meeting, none of those sites appeared to be entirely satisfactory and members asked consultants to give them data on two more locations.

Committee members are interested in taking a closer look at potential locations in the parking lot between Bank Street and City Centre and at the former Wiard Plow factory location on Swan Street.

A chief advantage of both locations is they are outside the floodplain, which means construction costs could be at least $1 million cheaper, and perhaps $1.5 million cheaper.

The discussion of the alternate locations arose after consultants went through a spreadsheet of potential costs of the original five options.

The five options and their potential costs:

  • 56 Ellicott St. -- $11,380,844
  • 96-98 Jackson St. -- $11,877,839
  • 26 Evans St. -- $11,710,712
  • 165 Park Road (co-located with the Sheriff's Office) -- $10,095,565
  • Current location remodelled, option 1 -- $16,358,596
  • Current location, remodelled, option 2 -- $11,622,954

Among the biggest variables in cost are associated with elevating locations within the floodplain (the top three locations) and mitigating for potential flooding.

The first two locations have higher costs associated with environmental testing, too.

City Manager Jason Molino also presented the committee with information on potential grants and an overview of debt service and municipal bonds.

If the city took on debt for $11 million, the debt service over a 30-year term would be $600,000, which is within the city's current debt load capacity.

The city is building a capital reserve fund to help pay for projects such as this, and with the pursuit of financing at least two years away, the amount of cash on hand to help pay for the building will likely increase, reducing the amount of money that would need to be borrowed.

The city could reduce the amount paid in the early years of the financing agreement to as little as $100,000 annually through the use of what's known as bond anticipation notes. These interest-only notes can last as much as five years in lieu of issuing municipal bonds.  

BANs would be helpful while the city pays down existing bonds before taking on a heavier debt.

Reducing debt and growing the capital reserve would help reduce the amount of bonds the city would need to sell in order to fully finance the project.

Committee member Marc Staley noted that a growing local economy would also help make a project like this easier for the city to handle financially and expressed some frustration with obstructionists who attempt to block the city's growth efforts.

"'The whole thing gets a lot more tenable with sales tax growth or growth in property assessments, but the whole thing gets swatted down by some," Staley said. "Like Jason said, you can't cut your way to prosperity. You can't develop a community unless you have a viable economic environment. It goes hand-in-hand with what we're trying to do."

The amount the city needs to finance could also be reduced by state and federal grants.

There's up to $1 million in potential grants available for projects such as this and Molino said further research may yield other grant opportunities.

The grants are competitive, which is why there is no guarantee the city will receive one for the project.

Among the advantages of the Alva Place and Swan Street alternate locations are they can include basements, which would help reduce costs and allow for some police functions to be more secure.

Chief Shawn Heubusch expressed some concern about the traffic volume on Bank Street if the location was in the City Centre parking lot, which would also reduce available parking in the area.

There was some talk of placing the building where a potential intersection of an extended Jackson Street could meet Alva Place. (Extending Jackson Street to the north has been proposed previously in other economic development discussions.)

Swan Street would provide patrols with easy access to both Ellicott Street and Main Street though the location would lack the public visibility of the other proposed locations. The three-acre parcel would provide the department plenty of room for potential expansion if the city grows, however. 

The project consultants will work up a cost analysis for each location and present it to the committee at its meeting next month.

The committee is supposed to have its recommendation ready by July 1, but some committee members expressed concern there is still a lot of work to do. There may be a request later to extend the deadline.

Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 11:38 am

Batavia PD announces house checks on registered sex offenders

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

Press release:

The Batavia Police Department has launched a proactive sex offender house check campaign that will have officers checking registered residences for sex offenders that live in our community. The check is to encourage compliance with NYS sex offender registration laws and to bring offenders who are in violation into compliance. These checks will be random and unscheduled.

The Batavia Police Department has also launched its new Local Sex Offender Web page on the City of Batavia Web site. Citizens can view information pertaining to all the sex offenders that are registered in the City Of Batavia. The page can be found by clicking on “Click for the list of Sex Offenders in the City of Batavia” located at http://www.batavianewyork.com/police-department/pages/sex-offenders.

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 2:27 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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Batavia PD grow moustaches and raise money for Genesee Cancer Assistance

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

Nineteen members of the Batavia PD participated in "Movember," during the month of November in recognition of prostate cancer month. Department members grew moustaches and raised $500 for Genesee Cancer Assistance. A handful of officers still have their moustaches including, above, sgt. Dan Coffey, officer Frank Klimjack and officer Jason Davis.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 8:28 am

Police Facility Task Force appointed by council

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

By unanimous vote Monday night, the City Council approved the appointment of a Police Facility Task Force to study the need for a new or remodeled Batavia PD headquarters.

The Task Force is charged with making a critical appraisal of recommendations by city staff and Geddis Architects for either building a new facility at one of four locations in the city or remodeling the current location.

Picking any one of the options could lead to expenditure for the city of $9 million to $17 million.

The current headquarters -- in the former Brisbane mansion -- has a number of deficiencies, officials say.

Appointed to the task force are Durin Rogers, Ashley Bateman, Peter Garlock, Alfred McGinnis, James Jacobs, Marc Staley, Bill Hayes and David Lone.

There's no representative from the Fifth Ward because no volunteers could be found willing to take on the job. One person agreed and at the last minute backed out.

Previously:

Friday, October 24, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Photos: Jackson School kindergarteners get visit from Batavia PD as thanks for thank you cards

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD, Jackson School

A few weeks ago, as a writing assignment, a pair of kindergarten classes at Jackson School decided to send cards and a "police survival kit" to Batavia PD officers.

Today, three officers in the department returned the favor by going to the school and showing off their police cars and answering questions about their jobs.

Participating officers were Kevin DeFelice, Mich Cowen and Felicia Degroot.

The police survival kit contained candy and gum.

"We decided to come down and show them we appreciated what they did for us and that we're here for them anytime they need us," DeFelice said.

Friday, October 17, 2014 at 6:33 am

Veteran Batavia police officer scores well at Fall Festival Highland Games

It was just after 9 a.m. and Claudia and I were working our way between an already growing crowd of vendors and onlookers when we spotted Batavia Police officer Frank Klimjack. He was standing in a roped off area at the base of Bristol Mountain with several men in kilts -- some bearded, some bald and all of them about the size of NFL linemen. 

They are known as the Buffalo Heavies, so-called not so much for their size but rather for the physical contests they engage in. Officially they are the Buffalo Heavies Kilted Throwers Club. traditional Celtic athletes from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada. Their forte is throwing and heaving weighted objects around: they throw for height, distance and, in the case of the caber (pictured above), it's not so much the distance but accuracy -- pitching the caber forward as straight as possible.  

Frank Klimjack preparing to toss the sheaf, a straw-filled burlap bag weighing 16-18 lbs.

On this day Frank and his fellow Heavies were competing in the Bristol Mountain Fall Festival and Highland Games. The Highland Games are a series of athletic contests that originated in Scotland in the 11th Century. The events are the hammer throw, sheaf toss, caber toss, weight for distance, weight for height and weight over the bar, Braemer stone and open stone. The difference between the latter two is technique and stone weight.   

In one swift motion the sheaf is pitched upward....

and over the bar. After each round the bar is raised higher. It's kind of a last man standing deal.

Frank's interest in the Highland Games began a few years ago. "I was at Olcott Beach watching members of the Niagara Athletic Club competing when their athletic director said to me, 'you look big enough -- why don't you come out and give it a try?' A couple of weeks later at another competition they lent me a kilt and I was on my way." He fared pretty well on that first outing. "About middle of the pack," he said, "at least I wasn't at the bottom."

Frank Klimjack has moved up quite nicely since that initial outing. On this day he took second place overall. Competing in only his third full season, he is currently ranked #5 in North America in the Highland Games 45 to 49 age group.

A former paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, he did a stint with the New York State Park Police before finding his niche with the Batavia PD, where he has served for the last 15 years.

Kellie Klimjack, left, watching her husband's efforts.

Nick Kahanic, Klimjack's friend and fellow "Heavy," is a world-record holder in the Braemar stone and Open stone.

Here's Nick competing in the Weight for Distance. He sent the 56-pound weight 87 feet on this try.

Bagpipers and drummers paying tribute to disabled vets. Whenever the Buffalo Heavies compete, all proceeds raised go to OASIS (Outdoor Adventures for Sacrifice in Service) a volunteer organiziation that provides sporting experiences to disabled veterans and their families free of charge. OASIS currently offers skiing, fishing, sailing, archery, ice skating, horsemanship, golf and rowing. This day's competition raised $4,500 -- awfully good considering admission was free.

This is Lou Iannone and I would venture to guess he's the sparkplug of the Buffalo Heavies. This was our first exposure to the Highland Games and we found the camaraderie between competitors evident and the athletes engaging the crowd with friendly banter as well as answering any questions onlookers may have had.

The atmosphere was festive, the scenery fantastic and with the chair lift taking an endless number of visitors leaf-peeping to the top of the mountain, the crowd was estimated at over 7,000.

The athletes were impressive, entertaining and outgoing. It was for sure a fun outing and Claudia and I look forward to attending the Highland Games again.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 7:05 am

Current police headquarters has its problems, but so do available alternatives

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

The list of problems with the current Batavia PD headquarters is long, but the price of doing anything about it is huge.

In the best case scenario, the city will need to spend $10 million on a solution.

Unless, of course, the option selected involves putting head in sand and hoping for the best. That option costs next to nothing, unless of course, the city is sued over some of the potential problems with the existing facility, or disaster strikes.

That's the summary of what members of the City Council heard Monday night from a group of consultants hired to create a police facilities feasibility study.

The consultants were Dominic Calgi, Calgi Construction; John Pepper, Rebanks, Pepper, Littlewood Architects; and, John Brice, Geddis Architects.

Their job -- work with city administration on evaluating three possible scenarios:

  • Construct a new police headquarters from the ground up;
  • Create a new police headquarters using an existing building;
  • Renovate the existing headquarters at 10 W. Main St.

Monday, they presented scenarios for three new-build locations, a scenario for constructing a building with some shared space with the Sheriff's Office on Park Road, and two options for renovating 10 W. Main.

The most expensive option was an extensive rehabilitation and renovation of 10 W. Main, which could cost as much as $17 million. For $10 million, it might be possible to build a new headquarters on Park Road, but there are also a lot of unknown variables that could drive the cost up.

The first step in this process, if it moves forward, is for the City Council to appoint a community task force to study the options presented by the consultants and make a recommendation.

City Manager Jason Molino recommended a task force competely devoid of elected officials, city staff members or members of the law enforcement community. Instead, he recommended citizens from each ward, the school district and UMMC. (Clarification: also, business owners.)

His goal, he said, was to keep it non-political and help assure the public that nobody in the city was pushing a specific agenda.

Council members balked at the recommendation and instead appointed a subcommittee to study the proposed make up of the task force and come back to the full council with a recommendation.  

The council will discuss the proposal again Oct. 14 and if it decides to move forward with a task force, appoint it at its November business meeting.

That would give the city a month to advertise for participants and recommend a slate of task force members.

What are the problems with the existing headquarters, which is occupying space built in 1855 as a rich family's residence and was later used as City Hall?

  • The building entrance is not secure, neither for police nor the public, nor arrestees;
  • Interview rooms and holding cells are not isolated nor secure;
  • Storage of weapons and gear is insufficient;
  • Building egress is inadequate and not code complaint, and egress for patrol cars is insufficient;
  • There is no separate entrance for youthful offenders, which violates state code;
  • Building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means even basic improvements such as upgrading the HVAC system can't take place (unless the city wants to ignore the ADA).
  • Building infrastructure is outdated and in need of replacement (HVAC, water, plumbing, electricity);
  • Hazardous materials exist;
  • Installation of modern technology requires major renovation (again, triggering ADA compliance issues).

A renovation of the facility would be expensive, not just because of the remodeling expense, but it would also need to be expanded.

The option that would give the department the most space (top photo), with a garage and sally port for prisoner transport at ground level, would cost from $15 million to $17 million.

A less robust option, with a raised garage and sally port, would cost from $11 million to $12 million. For that price, the city could build at one of four other identified locations.

"When renovating an existing structure, it's never going to be good at meeting program requirements as new construction," Brice said. 

During the reconstruction project, the headquarters would need to find a temporary home. One location suggested is the former Robert Morris School.

56 Ellicott St.

This location is the former Santy Tire's location with existing businesses still using a portion of the building. Essentially, it's at the corner of Ellicott and Jackson, but the parcel would be expanded to stretch as far back as Evans Street.

Pros for the site include easy access to Downtown and it would be all new construction. The cons include potential environment issues. It's in a flood zone, so the building pad and parking lots would need to be elevated two feet, and it would compete with economic development plans for Ellicott Street.

The potential cost: $11.1 million to $11.9 million.

96-98 Jackson St.
The current Salvation Army location.

Pros, again, easy access to Downtown. Cons include the purchase price and existing structure torn down, and it's still in a flood zone.

The potential cost: $11.6 million to $12.5 million

165 Evans St., Batavia
The property is next to Falleti Ice Arena.

Pros include the fact the city already owns much of the property.

The cons include, again, the flood area issue, and it's somewhat of a constricted lot for access. Chief Shawn Heubusch pointed out that it would increase emergency vehicle traffic in front of the ice area and it's somewhat removed from Downtown.

The potential cost: $11.4 million to $12.3 million.

Park Road

City Manager Jason Molino said this option, as part of the study, was looked at very seriously, but the idea isn't without problems.

There is less overlap between police functions with the Sheriff's Office than one might assume. For one thing, since the police patrol the city, Heubusch said, they do their reports and interview subjects at the station; whereas, deputies typically do all of their interviews and paperwork in the field.  

The Sheriff's Office doesn't have enough space to share locker rooms, and separate locker rooms would make a shared briefing room less practical. The departments can't share storage because of the need to protect chain-of-custody on criminal evidence.

"It's possible with a lot more thought and investigation between the two units, you could increase the amount of shared space, but it's not built that way now," Brice said. "You might save some space by finding ways to share space, but you wind up renovating more."

The potential cost: $9.9 million to $10.6 million, but maybe more after further study.

For the full study, click here.

Friday, August 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm

City announces results of Thursday's NET detail

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD, crime

Press release:

August 29, 2014, Batavia, NY.  On August 28th the City of Batavia Police Department joined by the Genesee County Drug Task Force (The Genesee Drug Task Force is comprised of personnel from Batavia PD, Le Roy PD and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office), Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and Genesee County Probation participated in the fourth neighborhood enforcement detail this summer. The purpose of these details is to systematically approach known problem areas within the City and target criminal activity.

In total 10 law enforcement personnel from four different agencies were partnered in a focused enforcement details in seven separate locations. NET patrols included State Street, Washington Avenue, Jackson Street, Liberty Street, Swan Street and Sumner Avenue, Central Avenue, Pringle Avenue, Harvester Avenue and Clifton Avenue. The following are results of this year’s fourth detail:

• 52 data runs
• 12 vehicle/traffic stops
• 2 Traffic tickets issued
• 4 Penal Law Arrests
   -- Brasky, Alex P., age 23, unlawful possession of marijuana
   -- Blake, Ian J., age 27, unlawful possession of marijuana
   -- Scheuerlein, Jacob M., age 18, unlawful possession of marijuana
   -- McWethy, Randy S., age 44, criminal possession of hypodermic instrument
• 16 probation checks
• 1 probation violation

Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET) details were outlined in the City’s Strategic Plan as part of the City’s Neighborhood Revitalization efforts. They include dedicated patrols for targeted enforcement with the goal of intercepting and interrupting the flow of illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband as well as locating and arresting wanted persons. All agencies involved expect to continue joint law enforcement efforts in the future. These details are not advertised prior to taking place and locations are selected based on criminal data, the presence of nuisance and illegal behavior and ongoing investigations. 

If you see criminal activity or know about a crime that has occurred please contact the Batavia Police Department at (585) 345-6350 or the confidential tip line at (585) 345-6370.

Friday, July 11, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Previously reported police activity on Jackson Street turns out to be part of planned law enforcement detail

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD, crime

We now know that all the police activity on Jackson Street the evening of June 26 was more than just a response to an individual seen running behind backyards between Maple Street and Morton Avenue. It was part of law enforcement detail in the area aimed at identifying issues in the neighborhood. 

Earlier this week, the City of Batavia announced the results of the detail.

Police made contact with numerous individuals, some were on parole or probation.

The person seen running through yards was on parole, but not wanted, according to local law enforcement. He was released after none of the property owners who initially called about him wanted to file a trespass charge. Police are unsure why he decided to run and try to hide from law enforcement, if that is indeed what he was doing.

There have been complaints from citizens on The Batavian and on Facebook that they had their vehicles stopped for no or flimsy reasons, but Chief Shawn Heubusch said all traffic stops were made in accordance with guidelines related to probable cause. 

"Each traffic stop was conducted legally and with probable cause," Heubusch said in an e-mail response to our questions. "As for the probable cause for each I do not have that information. We do not generally keep track of that information unless an arrest is made (DWI for example)."

We asked about the probable cause for the 59 "data runs" reported in the press release.

Heubusch said, "As for the "data runs," these are done routinely when checking license plates or driver's license info, for any wanted-person info, or stolen vehicle, for example. New York State does not require probable cause to run a license plate attached to vehicle."

We asked for the arrest reports/press releases on each of the three arrests reported during the sweep and Heubusch said he would think those arrests would have been reported previously by each of the agencies making the arrests, but he would have to research that further.  

The detail is part of a plan announced earlier this year in keeping with the city's strategic plan, which calls for revitalizing neighborhoods. The effort is designed to identify problems and deal with them before they grow into something bigger.

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