City firefighters will keep jobs, get raises and bonus under terms of settlement

By Howard Owens
Aug 27, 2009, 7:10pm

Greg Ireland, fire union president, and Batavia City Manager Jason Molino have cut a deal after a marathon negotiation session Tuesday that will save some Fire Department jobs and put more money in the pockets of firefighters.

In exchange for several concessions by the city, the firefighters' union has agreed to drop its unfair labor practices claim against the city.

The Batavian has confirmed with two sources that the city has agreed to retain four positions that were slated for termination Monday, and to extend the current union contract -- originally ending in 2011 -- by two years, provide a 5-percent pay raise over the next two years and pay each member of the department a $1,000 bonus.

Additionally, the Sept. 1 staffing of 36 paid personnel will be retained throughout the term of the contract and not be reduced by either layoff or attrition.

Neither Molino nor Ireland would comment on specifics of the agreement (Molino spoke with WBTA this afternoon and would not confirm the settlement).

The City Council is meeting in closed session at this hour to hear for the first time details of the proposed settlement.  When reached this afternoon, City Council President Charlie Mallow said he had no insights into the agreement.

Both the union and the council would need to approve the settlement.

The need for a settlement arises from the city's decision to eliminate the city ambulance service. The union maintained that the decision to eliminate the union jobs and inevitably replace them with contract workers violated the Taylor Law.  The union filed its claim immediately after a county task force announced Mercy Flight as the preferred contractor for ground ambulance service in the county starting Sept. 1.

"The best solution for everyone involved, every one involved, including the city, the fire department and the community is to have a settlement in place before Sept. 1," said Ireland in a phone interview this evening.

Some people think Mercy Flight won't respond to calls in the city unless the city signs a contract with Mercy Flight, but Mercy Flight will be based in the city and Mercy Flight executives have said the ground ambulance service will respond to any calls sent to it by Genesee County dispatchers. But with a settlement, the city can sign a contract with Mercy Flight that will guarantee response times.

Ireland said the main reason to reach a settlement before Sept. 1 is just to ensure everybody can work together well.

"As we move forward, if there is a different ambulance service, then we need to continue to work with them as well because we're going to be on scenes together," Ireland said. "We need to be able to work amicably with everyone."

Many of the Mercy Flight employees will be former members of the city ambulance service. Fifteen city employees were hired by the Buffalo-based non-profit organization.

Under terms of the settlement, the EMS members who had their jobs eliminated will retain their unused vacation and comp time, holiday pay and earned longevity. Those stipulations appear to be items the laid-off workers would have received anyway. They will also get half of their sick time and one-month additional health care coverage.

AUDIO: Interview with Greg Ireland

UPDATE 7:50 p.m.: Council members came out of their closed session smiling and laughing but wouldn't comment on the settlement proposal. When asked what he thought of the settlement or if council would support it, a jovial Frank Ferrando said both times, "We'll have more for you on Monday."

Mallow said the council will meet in public session Monday, but stopped short of saying there would be a vote that night.

Molino only said "no comment."

Dairy industry gives NY senator an earful

By Billie Owens
Aug 27, 2009, 7:01pm

BATAVIA, NY -- About 200 people attended a formal Senate hearing this afternoon at Genesee Community College focused on a dairy industry in crisis and possible solutions.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand heard testimony from producers and processors, economists and dairy industry experts. At the end of the two-hour hearing, which started about a half hour late, she said she was taking some good ideas back to Washington to use in developing long-term fixes.

The dairy industry is hard hit by: a pricing structure that's based on only 2 percent of the industry's products: higher fuel and feed costs; trade inequities; the expense of meeting increased regulations and standards not required by international competitors; and by a swiftly fluctuating market -- stemming from changing demands, the impact of product perishibility and supply -- plus many other factors.

It's a tough business and it requires a certain youthfulness to do the heavy physical labor, 365-days-a-year, with a liklihood of losing money at the end of the year instead of making a profit.

One of the surest ways of increasing the health of the dairy industry, is to increase consumer demand for its products. Several spoke in favor of the federal government doing more to help out, such as buying more milk for school breakfast programs, stocking up food banks with cheese or buying powdered milk for women and infant nutrition programs. In other words, use more Department of Agriculture money going toward food purchases anyway to beef up dairy consumption.

To compete with a ever-increasing variety of thirst-quenching beverages, the dairy industry needs to develop new products and boost the flavor, "mouth feel," and nutrition of milk without adding fat or calories.

They also called for leveling the field when it comes to trade. Why does an American dairy farmer have to pay a 15-cent per-hundred-weight fee for marketing and promotion, when the foreign importer does not yet still enjoys the benefits?

One good way to boost oversees consumption is to sell more solid milk product, which is in great demand worldwide. But more production plants are needed. Yet a capital expansion program for Batavia has been on hold since 2005 pending USDA approvals.

Rep. Eric Massa said he'll enlist his colleagues to pressure the USDA to speed things up if Kim Pickard-Dudley drafts him a letter on why the capital expansion program is critical for Western New York. She spoke as a representative of the farmer-owned Upstate Niagara Co-op.

Robert Church advocated "market-driven solutions" and federalizing uniform industry standards, so states like California, do not have unfair advantage over Western New York's dairy industry. He's herd manager for Patterson Farms, a 980-cow operation west of Auburn.

"You said one-size-fits-all," Massa told Church. "My job is to protect New York. That's what I'm here to do."

The problems faced by New Mexico, California or Arizona dairies, compared to here, are vastly different because their circumstances are different, Massa said, about as different in fact as Mars is from Pluto.

"California cows are happy cows," so goes the marketing slogan, but Massa said here it's more like "New York cows are really angry cows."

U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Hearing at GCC

By Bea
Aug 27, 2009, 6:59pm

milk2.jpgCongressman Massa, Senator Gillibrand, and Congressman Lee listened to two panels.  The first Producers and Processors, the second consisted of Economists and Experts.

The best lines of the day....Congressman Massa, after learning that each NY dairy farmer must contribute to a national promotion fund, part of which is used by the State of California to promote their California Happy Cow ads in New York State. Fifteen cents per hundredweight is levied on all milk marketed commercially in NYS.

He asked, "Why can't we produce ads for...let's say... New York Happy Yankee Cows, and play them in California?".

When told that it is tradition that  dairy farmers' have responsibility to transport milk to the processor...just like lobster fisherman must arrange transportation of their catch from the ship to the cannery.

Congressman Massa mused, "I don't know how to milk a lobster."

The Old Meets the New!

By Loren
Aug 27, 2009, 2:00pm

mail-1.jpegMembers of Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma (DKG), a Genesee County society for women educators, met this summer for a personal/ professional growth activity at the historic Adams Basin Inn (between Brockport and Spencerport).

Innkeepers David and Pat Haines served lunch in the tavern dining room, then graciously allowed the ladies to tour their nearly 200-year-old home which they operate as a bed and breakfast.  David, a former teacher, gave a witty and fascinating history of the structure that was built along the Erie Canal as a bar and general store; in fact, the Adams Basin Inn has the only known original bar-room left in existence along the 363-mile-long waterway.   Meticulously restored and updated, the Adams Basin Inn is a frequent stop for bicyclists along the Canal towpath.

Blended into the charm of the old is the efficiency of the new:  the Inn is using the latest in solar technology with 18 state-of-the-art solar modules and a power inverter.  The system is capable of producing over 4,000 kilowatts of electric per year and will produce clean, solar generated power over its 30-year projected lifecycle.  This renewable energy system will offset approximately 40% of the Inn's electrical needs -- and its environmentally friendly!

In the photo, DKG members enjoy perusing artifacts during Mr. Haines' informative talk.

Man who pulled knife after getting caught shoplifting at Target gets seven years

By Howard Owens
Aug 27, 2009, 11:31am

Marcos Juan Gomez had a chance to turn his life around fairly quickly, but as he admitted to Judge Robert Noonan this morning, "I blew that up."

Gomez pled guilty in early May to robbery and Judge Noonan agreed to consider a lesser prison term if Gomez successfully completed a drug rehab program at a clinic in Rochester.

Outside the courthouse, Attorney Fred Rarik could only shake his head at the chance Gomez traded away for a maximum seven-year prison term imposed by Noonan this morning.

"I've seen Judge Noonan tell people 'I really didn't expect you to follow my orders' and reward them," said Attorney Fred Rarik outside the courtroom.

Gomez was back in court for sentencing on his robbery conviction because he reportedly left the rehab clinic before completing treatment and stealing something in order to get some money to buy heroin.

Rarik argued that Gomez deserved a chance to kick his addition.

"I've seen people struggle with addiction and fail many times before success," Rarik told Noonan. "I ask that you limit his incarceration to sufficient time for him to get treatment. I ask for three years."

But Gomez didn't just steal some DVDs to buy drugs from Target back in April, Noonan said. Gomez committed a violent felony, pulling out a large knife on a loss prevention officer.

"I see drug addicts day after day," Noonan said. "I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to protect the community and at the same time help people deal with their addictions ... you committed a violent act because of your addition, so it is my responsibility, and I feel very comfortable with that responsibility, to separate you from society as long as possible."

Gomez expressed remorse for his crimes and his addiction.

"I've never been the type of person who would hurt somebody and I guess the drugs really got to me," Gomez said.

Police Beat: Damages to Darien Lake trailer lead to arrest of Canadian man

By Howard Owens
Aug 27, 2009, 8:32am

George Michael Thompson, 32, of 310 Wilson Drive, Milton, Ontario, Canada, is charged with criminal mischief and endangering the welfare of a child. Thompson allegedly got in a argument with a woman at Darien Lake Theme Park and proceeded to cause at least $250 damage to a camping trailer owned by the facility.  A 12-year-old child was present during the incident.

A 17-year-old from Albion is charged with petit larceny for allegedly stealing $53 worth of merchandise from K-Mart.

Wendy M. Cilnyk, 25, of 9 Liberty Ave., Lancaster, is charged with DWI, refusal to take breath test and moving from lane unsafely. Cilnyk was stopped by officer Chris Camp on Pearl Street after police received several calls about an erratic driver.

Jane Amanda Richardson, 24, of 788 Route 33, Corfu, is charged with falsifying business records and petit larceny. Richardson allegedly falsified business records at the Elba Yellow Goose store. The case was investigated by Deputy Brian Thompson.

Today's Deals: Pudgie's, Picasso's, Adam Miller, T.F. Brown's and more

By Howard Owens
Aug 27, 2009, 8:09am

T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St., Batavia, N.Y.: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. When you need to book your next party, think T.F. Brown's. See the ad on the right side of the page for contact information. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, N.Y.: Brighten up your home or office with flowers!  We have a $20 gift certificate for $8.50.

Picasso's Pizza, 419 W. Main St., Batavia, N.Y.: A great variety of pizza, subs and salads -- and try the wings, too. We have three $5 booklets of $1 gift certificates ($15 value) for $7.50. The gift certificates can be used collectively or individually).

South Main Country Gifts, 3356 Main St. Road, Batavia, N.Y.: From cozy to contemporary is what you'll find at this well-stocked gift store. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.

Pudgie's Lawn and Garden Center, 3646 West Main Road, Batavia, N.Y.: It's just about time to plant your fall bulbs for gorgeous spring flowers. Check out Pudgie's bulb selection. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, 8 Center St., Batavia, N.Y.: Feel like a kid in a toy store again, or treat your kids to the greatest toy store they will ever see. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.

SOLD OUT

Texting While Driving Accidents

By Robin Walters
Aug 27, 2009, 6:58am

My daughter turns 17 this Saturday. She will be going to take her driving test.

Last night, I received this video on my facebook. This video is so graphic of what happens when texting while driving. I am sure many of us have been guilty of texting or talking while driving. I believe this is a wake up call to all. This is a must see for all teenagers!

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NiZBNNztl0]

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