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Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Heavy smoke spewing from apartment on third floor of 400 Towers

post by Billie Owens in batavia, fire

Heavy smoke is reportedly spewing from a third-floor apartment inside Washington 400 Towers on East Main Street. City firefighters are on scene after dispatch received information that multiple alarms were sounding in the building. Firefighters are "packing up and heading in."

UPDATE 3:48 p.m.: This was a stove fire. Commands reports it is out and they are ventilating.

UPDATE 4:07 p.m.: Now ventilating the fourth and fifth floors and will be remaining on scene for "quite awhile."

UPDATE 4:38 p.m.: Ventilation was completed about 15 minutes ago. Command says one unit is picking up to leave and the other will be remaining to do some investigation.

Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 12:44 am

Pair of Washington Towers residents marry, saying they've found true love

post by The Batavian in batavia, Washington Towers

Story and photos by Sloan Martin, WBTA.

At 67 years old, Cherry Pease is now Cherry Farr.

She and 78-year-old Edmund “Sonny," who met as Washington Towers residents, got married Friday afternoon on the same Care-a-Van bus they got engaged on.

Cherry said a few days before her wedding that this is a second-chance for her; a way to have the wedding – and marriage – she’s always wanted.

“I think things will be different this time because my last marriage, to be honest, I married for money that he didn’t have,” she said. “This time I am marrying for love, so I think it’s really going to be wonderful.”

Surrounded by close family members, about 15 people wearing pink carnation boutonnieres witnessed the union of Cherry and Edmond.

Cherry tells the story of their first meeting like a college student who doesn’t have a car on campus yet would. A couple of years ago, she started to give him rides to Wal-Mart and Tops so Sonny wouldn’t have to walk so far in the winter.

“I asked him if he wanted a ride because no one else would ask him in the building. And we went. And that’s apparently when he said he fell in love with me, with my eyes,” she described. “But I asked him later on, maybe a couple months later if he wanted to come up and play (the gaming system) Wii. He runs up the three flights of stairs – that’s how quickly he wanted to get up to play Wii (with me).”

Both are widows. Sonny’s late wife passed away in August of 2012, Cherry says, and Cherry’s late husband died in September of last year.

In November, Sonny proposed.

That was after the couple had gotten involved with the Care-a-Van Ministries. Founder and Director Paul Ohlson runs the local public outreach initiative to share the Gospel and was there for the engagement.

“It was a cold morning and he walked out to the jewelry store and picked up the ring,” Ohlson said. “He brought it onto the bus and knelt down and asked if she would marry him and of course she said ‘Yes.’ ”

“We couldn’t afford a very expensive ring,” Cherry said. “It’s sterling silver which doesn’t bother me at all, but it’s blue diamonds and that’s one of my favorites and he’s got blue eyes so they kind of match.”

Cherry says Care-a-Van Ministries has been a “good foundation for our lives.” They spent many weekends volunteering together which is why they decided to get married on the bus itself.

The bus is cozy and inviting. White tulle and potted plants with fresh flowers hang from the silver overhead poles which hands once grasped for balance in the bus’s former life. Seats with tables in between line the bus. Each table has a Bible, creamer and candies in a pretty dish for the Care-a-Van’s outreach coffee and movie sessions.

Guests crammed in for the intimate session. Sonny’s grandson, Jordan Farr, read aloud from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 between wiping away tears. Pastor Tim Young was the officiant. Sonny, who was peppy and spunky posing for cameras prior to the ceremony, was tender and reserved, almost nervous. They did not recite their own vows, but exchanged rings and kissed twice -- to make sure they did it right.

Ohlson says weddings on the bus don’t ever happen. It was because Cherry and Sonny were so devoted to both the ministry and each other that he was supportive of the wedding venue.

“Everybody needs somebody,” he said. “Edmund, he’s getting up there in age and he knows it and he jokes about it, he’s good with it. He just doesn’t want to be alone. Just to be able to connect and encourage someone to follow through with the dream that they had but also bringing in Biblical principles to their relationship and encouraging them to put the Lord first.

“Even this late in life they can make it work and they can be happy.”

After the ceremony they celebrated with a Chinese buffet for the whole party. It was almost like when they first met, transporting around Batavia. Only this time they were married and it was their special Care-a-Van bus that shuttled them.

Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 12:37 am

BID honors two Downtown businesses and key volunteers

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

Story and photos by Dan Fischer, WBTA.

The Batavia Business Improvement District (BID) honored two local businesses on Friday with its “Spirit of Downtown Business Award.”

The new business Spirit award was given to The YNGodess Shop. Proprietor Christine Crocker received the award with her son, Ben, at her side.

Accepting the Spirit award for the Established Business of the Year was Gregory Gluck, proprietor of Alberty Drugs.

Also recognized for their volunteer efforts on behalf of the BID were Steve Coraci and Beth Kemp.

The BID was created in 1997 creating a core group of Downtown property owners and city officials to organize a formal Downtown management association. Today, the BID is comprised of 143 properties that pay a total annual assessment of $120,000 and the City of Batavia’s contribution (for capital projects) is $41,300 to fund the organization.

The BID will meet on Tuesday to elect a new slate of officers.

Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 12:30 am

Golden Arches on the horizon for Eastown Plaza

post by Bonnie Marrocco in batavia, business, Eastown Plaza, McDonald's

It's been a long time coming, but a spokesperson for the McDonald's Corp. has confirmed the fast-food chain will indeed open a second location in Batavia on East Main Street.

A developer received the necessary permits and approvals months ago, but then -- nothing. Even city officials didn't know if the project was still going through.

“Construction should begin this summer and Batavians can look forward to a brand new McDonald’s restaurant before the end of the year,” Vice President of Public Relations Kerry B. Ford said.

The project developer, TY Lin International, obtained a lease from the property owner, Eastown Plaza Associates, in November 2012 and according to City Manager Jason Molino, a building permit was issued last September.

“Permits are good for one year, but may be extended or a new permit could be applied for after expiration,” Molino said.

In response to questions about delays, Ford cited the magnitude of the project.

“As you can imagine, a project of this scale requires a great deal of careful planning and that planning takes time,” Ford said. “McDonald's is thrilled to raise a new set of Golden Arches in Batavia.”

According to the February 2013 application to the city’s Planning and Development Committee and Zoning Board of Appeals, Ty Lin International proposed constructing a 3,911-square-foot site in the current parking lot of Eastown Plaza. The project area is about .78 acres and is zoned for commercial use. The site would include two drive-thru lanes and raised islands, a shed, a dumpster, along with asphalt parking, landscaping, lighting and signage.

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Stove fire on Ellicott Street

post by Billie Owens in batavia, fire

City fire is responding to a reported stove fire at 511 Ellicott St., right-side apartment.

UPDATE 7:07 p.m.: No fire at this time, just a smoldering pot on the stove. Ventilating. Now Mercy medics are called for a person suffering from smoke inhalation.

UPDATE 7:26 p.m.: Fire command says that are still ventilating and will be there for some time. The source was deemed to be an electrical problem with the stove. Medics are evaluating the patient.

UPDATE 7:30 p.m.: The patient is being transported to UMMC.

UPDATE 7:39 p.m.: Firefighters killed power to the stove then removed it from the apartment. The assignment is back in service.

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Head of BPD detective bureau closes out 33-year local law enforcement career

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

The most satisfying part of his job, Det. Pat Corona said, was solving crimes for victims. The worst part -- "call ins." Getting called in to work on a case at two or three in the morning.

"When the phone rings, whatever time of the morning, whatever day of the week, it's because something bad happened," Corona said. "That's the most stressful part of the job."

Corona has basically been on 7/24 call since 1988.

That ends today. After 33 years in local law enforcement, Corona has turned in his badge and announced his retirement, primarily so he could take a job with the U.S. Marshal's Office providing court security in Rochester and Buffalo.

"I love this work," Corona said. "I still do. I love this community. The people have been so good to me. It's been a pleasure to serve them."

But it's time to move on, in part, Corona admitted, because it's clear he'll never be chief of the department, a job he said he did seek.

"They made a different decision and that's fine," Corona said. "That's not coming and this is a great opportunity."

Corona's roots go deep in Batavia, back to his grandparents. He was born here and went to high school in Alexander.

That's where he made his career decision.

"In high school, people tell you, 'you should decide what to do with your life' and law enforcement appeared interesting to me."

His parents both worked in corrections, which may have helped guide his decision.

After graduating, he enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Genesee Community College and when those studies were successfully completed, he worked security at the college.

"That was a fun job," Corona said.

In 1983, the Sheriff's Office hired him to work in the jail (a job that would play a role six years later in helping him solve one of the most notorious cases he handled in his career). Two years later, he graduated from the Erie County Police Academy and was placed on road patrol as a deputy.

Corona said he's thankful for the great start to his career that the Sheriff's Office provide him, but in 1985, when he was offered a job with Batavia PD, he felt that police department -- at that time -- had a better retirement package. So he made the switch.

Three years later, he and Charles Dudek were both accepted into the detectives bureau at the same time.

"I've loved working with Chuck Dudek," Corona said. "He's been a great partner. He's a brilliant detective. I've learned a lot from him."

Corona had only been in the bureau for a year when he happened into one of the most dramatic murder cases that has ever been handled by Batavia PD.

Officer Ned Murray responded to a report of a man threatening to kill a baby.

Murray came upon Joe Schlum with a pillow over the baby's face and a knife pointed at the baby's heart. Murray tried to convince Schlum to lift up the pillow and drop the knife, but he wouldn't move. As the seconds ticked and the situation became more dire, Murray warned Schlum that he would shoot him if he had to. Just before Murray was about ready to pull the trigger, Schlum lifted the pillow. The baby was saved and Schlum was arrested.

Young Det. Corona was called in to interview Schlum.

Schlum had been a trustee in the jail during Corona's two years working as a guard.

"What benefited me on that case was my time working in the jail," Corona said. "I became very acquainted with Joe Schlum. We were on a first-name basis. I think perhaps, he trusted me."

During the interview, Schlum made a confession that at first seemed impossible to believe.

"I was asking him about the child abuse and he said, 'I've done something really bad,'" Corona said. "I was thinking to myself, 'Joe, what you've done is pretty bad,' but I said, 'What is it?' He said, 'well, I killed somebody.' "

There was no immediate unsolved murder case that came to his mind, so Corona was skeptical.

"OK, Joe, who'd you kill?"

"Pam Smith."

That's an obvious name to invent, Corona thought.

Schlum said he strangled her.

Corona called the dispatch desk and Sgt. Ed Doody answered the phone. Corona asked if there was a missing person report on a Pam Smith. Doody did a few minutes research. No missing person report. But there was a warrant more than two years old for a Pam Smith. She hadn't shown up for court on some Batavia Municipal Code violation.

Corona told Doody what Schlum had said and Doody kind of chuckled. He didn't believe Schlum's confession, either.

"He was skeptical," Corona said. "I was, too. The more we talked, the more it seemed like a possibility."

Corona decided to take Schlum over to the Friendly Motel on Ellicott Street (now Charles Court) where Schlum said he killed Smith and buried her under his room.

"He brought us into one room and he walked into the corner of the room and he stepped on the corner of the floor and he said no this is the wrong room," Corona said. "I thought, 'oh, no, he's being untruthful.' We tried the next room and then the next room and he stepped on the floor and I saw the floor go (he makes a gesture with his hand going up and down), you know it went 'er-ert' kind of went in. That's when I thought, 'Ok, there's something here.' "

Officers and detectives removed the floor boards and Schlum and Corona climbed into the crawl space and Schlum showed Corona where he had buried Smith's body.

Smith had never been reported missing. Her family thought she had taken off for Texas, Corona said.

The hotel's owner, Charlie Pero, had thought a couple of years earlier that the stink around one of the rooms was from a tenant's boa constrictor that had escaped.

Officer Murray had been a fraction of a second away from shooting and probably killing Schlum. If he had, nobody would have ever known that Smith had been murdered.

Schlum is serving 17 years to life in the Auburn State Prison. He's eligible for parole in August.

The story illustrates a truth Corona learned about being a detective. You never know what's going to happen next.

"Every time you think you've seen all the cases you think you could see, something new comes up," Corona said.

The murder of Desean Gooch was another big case for Corona. He said he's extremely proud of the work of the entire detective bureau in that case.

Gooch was a Dellinger Avenue resident in 2006 when he was murdered by other young men Corona said were gang members.

The big break came when detectives were able to connect Jessie Foreman with the crime. The police had enough evidence on Foreman that they could get him to talk.

"Gang members are not going to cooperate unless you present to them that you have the evidence to proceed with something to charge against them, then they want to cooperate so they can do the best they can for themselves," Corona said. "Until they see you have evidence against them, they won't talk."

Andrew Figgins was identified as the murderer and is now serving 25 years to life at Elmira State Prison. Foreman was also arrested, along with Rondell Breedlove and Thomas Banks (an associate who was charged with a prior robbery of Gooch).

Murder cases are dramatic, but they're all important Corona said. Solving a larceny can sometimes be as much work as bigger felony cases.

"It's always rewarding to solve the mystery, to bring a case to its conclusion, to bring somebody to justice," Corona said.

Solving crimes is really about helping victims, he said.

"Years ago, through Genesee Justice, Ed Minardo gave me some advice," Corona said. "The system should victim-oriented rather than offender-oriented. It's rewarding to help victims."

The biggest change Corona has seen in law enforcement in Batavia -- besides the introduction of DNA evidence, which didn't exist when Corona started his career -- is the first local gang-involved crimes.

There was the Gooch murder, followed by a shots fired case on Tracy Avenue in 2009, and of course the shots-fired cases this past fall on State Street and Jackson Street.

"I don't want to sound the alarm here, but there has been a few legitimate gang-related activities that have gone on," Corona said.

Corona said he's a very ambitious person and the awards and plaques in his office are markers of his dedication, from the certificates for completing all kinds of detective and police work training to the five or six medals he's won from running 5K races.

"I always had a skill for running, but in high school, I didn't put it to good use," Corona said. "My first official 5K was the Friends and Family 5K through ARC. That was in 2007. I was first for my age group. I thought, 'must be a pretty slow age group,' but I was hooked."

Soon, Corona's replacement will be announced by Chief Shawn Heubusch, and Corona has some advise for that rookie detective: "Work well with others. Develop good interdepartmental relationships. When you need help, know who to call. You can't be shy about asking for help. Work well with the public. That's who you're serving."

Clearly, words of advice that served Corona well in his own career.

Photo: Corona in his office at BPD headquarters with his original "Manual for Police."

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

Grant aids the rehabilitation of more homes in Batavia

post by Bonnie Marrocco in batavia, Neighborhoods

The City has been awarded another grant in the amount of $400,000 for housing rehabilitation projects over the next two years. The Community Development Block Grant is from the NYS Office of Community Renewal.

The first housing rehabilitation grant the City received was in 2010 for the same amount, which led to successfully rehabilitating 19 homes. Major projects completed in many of the homes included roof repair/replacement, porch repair/replacement, heating, plumbing, electrical, masonry work, window and door replacement, siding and rain gutters.

“Nearly all of the rehabilitation work in 2010 was performed by Genesee County contractors, keeping local dollars in the community,” City Manager Jason Molino said.

The program will assist single-family, owner-occupied homeowners to upgrade their properties. Assistance will be provided in the form of grants, up to $24,500, for the cost of home improvements. It is estimated that the program will be able to assist 15-18 homeowners with needed repairs.

“This is another $400,000 that will be invested in City housing stock and contributing towards revitalizing our neighborhoods. This is a great opportunity for our community and I look forward to another successful program,” City Council President Brooks Hawley said.

“This grant is citywide and income-eligible property owners may apply. The city expects to start working with property owners within the next 90 days and would expect the program funding to be committed by the end of the Summer of 2015. Home repairs should be completed within a year of when the funds are committed,” Molino said.

Anyone interested in applying for the grant program should call the Office of the City Manager at (585) 345-6330 and have your name added to the list. Once the office receives the necessary paperwork from NY State, the people on the list will be contacted to fill out applications. Recipients will be chosen from those who meet the necessary criteria and whose earnings have been verified. The income requirements are based on HUD guidelines for Genesee County.  

Aside from the 2010 CDBG award, the City also received a $450,000 grant in 2011 from the New York Main Street program to assist 10 Downtown building owners that have invested more than $1.2 million in Downtown buildings, including nine residential units. All three grant awards, 2010, 2011 and 2014, are in line with the City’s Strategic Plan focusing on Neighborhood Revitalization as one of the City’s seven strategic priorities.

Photos showing before and after views of Batavia homes that have received grants provided by the city. From top, 175 Summit St., 164 Ross St., and 47 Hutchins St.

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 9:20 am

Law and Order: Suspect arrested for alleged fight at local bar

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy, Oakfield, Stafford

David J. Swartz, 53, of Washington Avenue, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Swartz is accused of punching another person while at The Harvester at 1 a.m., Thursday. Swartz was issued an appearance ticket and released.

A 16-year-old resident of Thorpe Street is charged with harassment, 2nd. The youth was allegedly involved in an incident on State Street at 3:09 p.m., Monday. She allegedly grabbed the hair of another person and began a physical altercation with her.

Wassim S. Issa, 50, of Sunnyside Road, Shinglehouse, Pa., is charged with issue a bad check. Wassim was arrested by Lancaster PD and turned over to Batavia PD in Corfu. Issa posted cash bail and was released.

Chad Ryan Smith, 19, of Church Street, Middleport, is charged with unlawful possession of alcohol by a person under age 21 and drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle. Smith was reportedly a passenger in a vehicle stopped at 1:13 a.m. Thursday on Judge Road, Oakfield, for alleged traffic violations by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Daivid Lea Stanley, 20, of Nichols Street, Lockport, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle, speeding, failure to dim lights and side wings/windows non-transparent. Stanley was stopped at 1:13 a.m. Thursday on Judge Road, Oakfield, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Debra Lynn Haccket, 55, of Craigie Street, Le Roy, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to keep right and moved from lane unsafely. Hackett was stopped at 12:39 a.m. Wednesday on Main Road, Stafford, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Alex S. Dumbleton, 20, of Jackson Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd, and criminal mischief, 4th. Dumbleton was allegedly involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend at 1:30 p.m. Monday. Dumbleton was jailed on $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

Brandon P. Duell, 32, of Saint Helena Street, Perry, is charged with failure to appear. Duell is accused of failure to appear on a traffic citation. Duell posted cash bail and was released.

Miguel A. Vargas, 23, of Rochester, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Vargas was stopped at 7:15 p.m. Monday on Route 237, Stafford, by State Police.

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7:23 am

Batavia woman struck by car Monday in Hamburg dies

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

Via WBTA:

A Batavia woman injured early this week when struck by a car in Erie County has died.

Thirty-one-year-old Jacqueline Dotzler died yesterday at Erie County Medical Center.

Dotzler was struck by a car Monday night as she crossed Camp Road in Hamburg.

The driver of the car was not charged.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Four-car pile-up at West Main and River streets in the city

post by Billie Owens in batavia, accident

A four-car accident, no injuries, is reported at West Main and River streets in the city. City fire and police are responding.

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