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Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Photo: Train crossing at Route 19 through Village of Bergen closed with no ETA for reopening

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, csx, railroad, trains

Route 19 through the Village of Bergen is closed to all but local traffic while crews rip out the current crossing and construct a new one. The recommended alternate route is Jericho Road. Village officials only learned of the closure after CSX erected signs, and officials say that when contacted, CSX was unable to provide a timeline for how long the work will take or when the crossing will reopen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Bergen dedicates 'life trail' system in Hickory Park

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, health, Hickory Park, Seniors

A bit of rain didn't dampen spirits in Bergen this morning where officials dedicated a new "life trail" system in Hickory Park.

The system, made up of seven, three-sided stations with a series of exercises people can perform, is designed to give seniors in particular a chance to be active and improve their physical health.

It was funded by a $50,000 state grant, secured with the help of Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Assemblyman Steve Hawley and County Legislator Bob Bausch.

"We have put in place a parks master plan with a focus on fitness and wellness," said Mayor Anna Marie Barclay. "In particular, we want to give opportunities to seniors, which is our fastest growing population, an opportunity, because there are not as many opportunities for seniors as there are for other age groups. We want to encourage our seniors to come out, and not just our seniors. We invite seniors from all of the surrounding communities to come out to our park."

Ranzenhofer said he was proud to have helped bring about the project.

"I'm very excited to be here," Ranzenhofer said. "The comment about the weather, we were talking before about it being a rainy day, but it really is shining today, even though you may not see the sun. On a project like this, with your hard work, collectively, we were able to do a very good thing for the village residents, and thanks for including me."

Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Bergen Business and Civic Recognition Dinner is Nov. 1, deadline to buy tickets is Oct. 24

post by Billie Owens in announcements, bergen, business

The Bergen Business and Civic Association Recognition Dinner is Saturday, Nov. 1, at Bohn's restaurant in the Town of Batavia.

This year’s honorees are Barry Miller, Jim Pascarella, Ken Milner, Alyson Tardy, Fred and Eunice Ely, Triple-O Mechanical and Bergen C Store.

The restaurant is located at 5256 Clinton St. Road. There will be a cash bar starting at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person. You may contact Michele Smith (Bergen town clerk) at 494-1121 or Maria Rowland at 721-7721 for tickets.

There are a limited number of tickets; please purchase by Oct. 24th.

Friday, October 10, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Photo: Cornfields across the road from Byron-Bergen School

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, byron-bergen

When I was out there today, I liked this early-fall-day scene I spotted across the road from Byron-Bergen School.

BTW: Byron-Bergen is hosting a first-ever Friday night football game tonight. It's a big local football night. Batavia HS has its homecoming and the 5-0 Le Roy team meets 5-0 Bishop Kearney in a homecoming game. (I'll be in Le Roy).

Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Accident with injuries on Swamp Road, Bergen

post by Billie Owens in accidents, bergen

An accident with injuries is reported at 7666 Swamp Road, Bergen, near or at the intersection with Jerico Road. It's a small dump truck vs. car. Bergen fire and Mercy medics are responding

Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 11:02 am

Grand Jury: Two Bergen women accused of possessing more than 3K in stolen retail merchandise

post by Billie Owens in bergen, crime

These indictments were handed down from the Genesee County Grand Jury this week:

Joan A. Gliwski is accused of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, a Class D felony. It is alleged that between August 2013 and January 2014 in the Town of Bergen she knowingly possessed stolen property with the intent to benefit herself or another person other than an owner or to impede the recovery by an owner. Moreover, the value of the property exceeded $3,000. The property was various merchandise stolen from seven retail stores.

Maria A. Gardiner is accused of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, a Class D felony. It is alleged that between August 2013 and January 2014 in the Town of Bergen she knowingly possessed stolen property with the intent to benefit herself or another person other than an owner or to impede the recovery by an owner. Moreover, the value of the property exceeded $3,000. The property was various merchandise stolen from seven retail stores.

Brian R. Croakley is accused of driving while intoxicated, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on May 31, 2013, in the Town of Bergen, he operated a 2010 Dodge on Route 19 while in an intoxicated condition. In addition, he is indicted by way of Special Information of having been convicted in the Town of Bergen Court of driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor on June 16, 2010. This conviction was within 10 years of the crime alleged in the indictment.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Brockport man testifies he feared for his life, but didn't call police after looking down barrel of shotgun

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, crime

A Brockport man who claims he had a shotgun pointed at his head by a local resident testified today that he couldn't get State Police to even consider his side of the story before he was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief.

After the charge against Micheal Crooks was dismissed (under what's called an ACD -- adjudication in contemplation of dismissal), he did what a trooper and attorney labeled "cop shopping." 

Crooks went to the Sheriff's Office and found that Sgt. Ron Meides was willing to listen to his side of the story. As a result, John Robinson, of North Lake Road, Bergen, was arrested by Deputy Matthew Butler and charged with menacing, 2nd.

The attorney for Robinson, Kevin DeCarolis, has requested Justice Donald Kunego dismiss the charge against his client "in the interest of justice."

Kunego held the hearing today as part of the motion process. He will issue a written ruling at a later date.

He's already received written arguments from both DeCarolis and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell on the motion.

The case stems from a confrontation Jan. 13, 2013. Crooks contacted both the State Police and the Sheriff's Office about pursuing charges against Robinson in November 2013. Robinson was arrested in April of this year.

Trooper Eric Daigler, who arrested Crooks based on a complaint by Robinson that Crooks damaged his screen door while trying to get into his house, testified today that he was confused and angry when he learned Butler was about to arrest Robinson.

He said typically, law enforcement officers don't involve themselves in cases that have been handled by other agencies.

He felt the case had been closed in January 2013 with the arrest of Crooks.

"I was dumbfounded," Daigler said. "First and foremost, it's common practice not to take on other agencies cases. We refer to it as 'cop shopping.' It happens. Usually, we are pretty good at stopping people who are just trying to get the right answer. They are looking for the answer they want. That's usually the Sheriff's Office policy."

Daigler said it was his position at the time of the incident that Robinson was doing exactly what he's allowed to do under the law -- protect his property and himself. 

"He didn't conduct himself in a manner that should be arrested," Daigler said. "He was in his home. He armed himself and he called 9-1-1 and informed dispatchers he had armed himself. He was well within his rights in his own home when a man he never met came to his door and was yelling and screaming."

Daigler consulted with his supervisor, Sgt. Ron Lobur, and other troopers, who all concurred, arrest Crooks, but not Robinson.

Since the arrest of Robinson, Daigler said, everybody he's spoken to in the local law enforcement community, with the exception of Meides, are bothered that Robinson was arrested.

"I've had 10 members of the Sheriff's Office come to me independently and voice their displeasure with the case," Daigler said.

Crooks testified that Daigler never even asked for his version of events before telling him he would be arrested.

Contrary to prior reports, Crooks said he didn't try to hide from troopers before being contact. He said he didn't even know that in his "assertive" knocking he damaged the door, and to this day, he isn't convinced that he did.

After the confrontation, he said he went to a job site in Brighton -- he's a construction manager -- and then went home and discovered he had a message from Daigler that evening. He immediately returned the call, and when he didn't get a call back after an hour, he called again.

When he spoke to Daigler, Daigler told him to meet him at the Batavia barracks. When he asked why, he said Daigler told him he was going to be arrested on a criminal mischief charge.

At that point, Crooks said, he decided he wouldn't make a statement without an attorney present.

On the advice of his attorney, he didn't pursue charges against Robinson until after the term of his ACD expired (six months).

Crooks was upset, he said, because he believed Robinson was involved in some sort of relationship with is wife.

He said he first became aware of the relationship some time around October of 2012.

He thought it had ended, but on Jan. 12, he said, his wife went to a party with their two daughters, ages 11 and 14.

His wife became drunk at the party, he testified this afternoon, and placed numerous calls to Robinson.

The girls became aware of what was going on and tried to get her to stop. That led to a physical confrontation between mother and daughters, he said.

That was what really upset him, he said, and convinced him he should talk with Robinson about not having further contact with Mrs. Crooks because of the stress it was causing for his daughters.

He testified that he didn't make any verbal threats to Robinson. That the only thing he yelled once he figured out Robinson was in fact at home Jan. 13, 2013, was "come out you coward."

He said after about two minutes, when it was clear Robinson wasn't going to come out, he decided to leave. 

He testified that as he walked down a sidewalk close to the house he caught some movement through a window and turned to look.

"There was Mr. Robinson," Crooks said. "He was holding a shotgun and he rushed right towards the window and screamed absolutely bloody murder that he was going to blow my fucking head off."

He said the barrel was only inches from the window.

"My heart stopped," Crooks said. "I've never looked down the barral of a gun that wasn't removed from a gun that closely in my life. I've been around guns my whole life. I own guns. I've owned guns since I was 19. I'm not afraid to be around guns."

Under questioning by DeCarolis, Crooks admitted that despite this mortal threat, he didn't call police.

When Finnell asked him about why he didn't call police, Crooks said he dialed 9-1-1 and had his finger on the button, but then changed his mind.

"I was exhausted," Crooks said. "I was emotionally drained. I wanted this to be over. I just wanted to go to work and do what I had to do."

In closing arguments, Finnell urged Kunego to take into the account of events provided by Crooks. He didn't fault Daigler for arresting Crooks. Since he didn't have a statement from Crooks, he could only go on the information available to him at the time of the arrest. But now, he said, Kunego has just as Medies had, Crooks' version of events. He said the case should proceed based on Crooks' account.

DeCarolis dismissed the testimony of Crooks as vindictive and self-serving.

Daigler, he said, did something very unusual -- he testified for the defense rather than the prosecution. That never happens and that should carry a lot of weight with court, he said. Daigler's testimony should weigh heavily in favor of Robinson because he has nothing to gain from his testimony.

The testimony of Crooks is another matter, however.

"His action, his tone, his disposition all show he has a very significant animus against Mr. Robinson," DeCarolis said. "It's very clear he was cop shopping. I would ask, your honor, that you evaluate his testimony in that light."

Kunego set a follow-up appearance for Nov. 19, but said he will likely issue a written decision on the motion to dismiss "in the interest of justice" before that date.

The Batavian's exclusive previous coverage:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Photo: Railroad crossing repair work ongoing in Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, railroads

Crews are repairing the rail beds at Dublin Road, Jerico Road, Beaver Meadow Road in Bergen. The crossing have been closed this week. A supervisor on Dublin Road said today that he was trying to finish up that crossing ASAP and he expected to have all of the crossings opened by Friday.

Friday, September 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Woman found unconscious inside car on South Lake Road, Bergen

post by Billie Owens in bergen

A woman is reportedly unconscious inside a vehicle at 83 S. Lake Road, near Appletree Avenue. Bergen fire is responding along with Mercy medics.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 10:28 am

Gift from Liberty Pumps puts new technology in the hands of every Byron-Bergen student

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, business, byron, byron-bergen, liberty pumps

There's a selfish reason Charle Cook got behind the idea of his company donating money to help the Byron-Bergen School District buy 1,100 tablet computers for all of the district's children: He wants potential future employees to have the technical skills to work for the Liberty Pumps of tomorrow.

But the donation is also a good deed that will benefit his and his son's alma mater and perhaps encourage other rural companies to be as generous with their local school districts.

"We felt it's important as kids progress through school that they become knowledgable and comfortable with technology," said Charlie Cook, CEO of Liberty. "It's going to be part of their future employment. To have that as a kind of leg up to students who might not have access is an advantage.

"Somewhat from a selfish standpoint," he added, "we're going to need a certain segment of those graduates, and we're interested in keeping as many kids as we can in the community."

Superintendent Casey Kosiorek said the gift was timely. The district had recently cut a staff position from its library and New York's formula for aid to district continues to disportionately favor affluent suburban districts over rural districts.

"This allows us to do something that most of the school districts in the more affluent areas of the state are able to do," Kosiorek said. "We're very thankful for that."

That was part of what motivated Liberty to seek out a way to assist the district, said Jeff Cook, who initiated the talks with the district that led to the donation.

"The reason Liberty Pumps thought the Learn Pads were a good idea was that we hear a lot about how wealthier, suburban districts seem to have advantages over poorer, more rural districts in terms of course offerings and opportunities for their students," Jeff Cook said. "We were looking for a way to help give our students an edge while minimizing the overhead burden of the district and therefore the taxpayer."

Charlie Cook didn't want to reveal the total monetary amount of the donation, but it's roughly 30 percent of the cost of the 1,100 tablets, which cost a few hundred dollars each. That donation made Byron-Bergen eligible for a technology grant from the state education department that covered the remaining 70 percent of the cost.

There will be no new local spending as a result of the program.

The tablets are known as LearnPads. They are Droid-based tablets with modifications to suit the needs of an educational institution.  

First, there are limits on how students can use them. There's access to YouTube, for example, but they can only watch teacher-approved videos. They can only visit approved Web pages. They can only download and install teacher-approved apps.

Teachers control the entire LearnPad environment according to the education needs of the class.

From a desktop computer program, teachers can customize how the LearnPads can be used, develop each day's lesson plan, then provide a QR code that can be posted to a wall. As students enter the class that day or that hour, the student scans the QR code to receive the lesson plan. As class progresses, teachers can monitor student activity to ensure they're staying on task.

However, Kosiorek stressed, LearnPads don't replace lectures and class discussions.

"This is a great tool for students and for teachers, but it doesn't replace quality education," Kosiorek said. "It's a tool, it's a supplement, an addition to a teacher's toolbox."

There are educational books available on the LearnPad and Kosiorek said the district hopes to someday replace all of its text books with tablets. That would save the district money as well as end the days of one-ton backpacks and multiple trips to lockers for students.

And yes, there are games available to students. Math games and vocabulary games, for example.

"Many students have access to video games and those games are very engaging," Kosiorek said. "There are goals that are set and you work toward those goals, so whatever we can do to provide relevance and engagement for students (we will do)."

Every student, starting this week, gets a LearnPad, from kindergarten through 12th grade. The younger students don't get a keyboard and will just use the touch screen, but starting in about third grade, keyboards will be introduced.

At younger grades, the LearnPads stay in school -- at least until the summer, when they can go with the summer reading program already installed -- while older children can bring the LearnPads home for homework once permissions slips and guideline acknowledgments are signed.

"We're very excited to be doing it," Charlie Cook said. "I've got four grandkids in the system right now and when I come to an event, which I do as often as I can, it's amazing to me to watch these kids work with the technology, even what they have currently. I think even in preschool years, they were up operating the touch screen, so this is a natural progression for them."

Jeff Cook said he hopes other business owners will look at this initiative and contact their own school administrators and ask "How can we help?".

Education, after all, is everybody's business.

"My hope is that what Liberty Pumps is doing will gain traction in the business community and others will join in on supporting our schools," Jeff Cook said. "If you are a business that is passionate about something you would be willing to help fund or support, I would suggest talking to the school administration about your idea and see if it is feasible. 

"In the case of Byron-Bergen, they did all the leg work and presented us with their vision based on our ideas. This could be anything from supporting sport programs and class offerings, to equipment for the district. Anything that could enhance a student's learning opportunity."

Photo: Casey Kosiorek, left, and Charlie Cook.

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