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Batavia council in a ‘tiff’ over proposed meetings about financing

BATAVIA – A trio of City Council members Monday night questioned City Manager Jason R. Molino’s plan to share information about a PILOT Increment Financing plan in small groups rather than wait until the full board’s next conference meeting.

Kathleen Briggs pointed to an email she received from Molino’s office, asking council members to meet two at a time with Julie Pacatte, Batavia Development Corp. coordinator, and Molino to discuss the financing plan that aims to redevelop core brownfield areas in the city and reduce poverty through infrastructure enhancement, real estate redevelopment and job creation.

“I don’t know why we have to meet two at a time,” Briggs said.

Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Rose Mary Christian agreed with Briggs, with the former stating that the Council “could gain much feedback by meeting together” in a public forum.

Molino, visibly perplexed by the council members’ pushback, noted that this was not an unusual request on his part.

“My staff and I meet regularly with elected officials,” he said. “It’s not practical to assume that you can get all the business of the city done by meeting just two times a month (Council’s current meeting schedule).”

Molino said his goal is not to prevent or replace a public meeting but to “provide feedback before the council’s conference session.”

“In many instances, we meet to discuss the complexities of the issue,” he said. “Before budget sessions, we do this. It is a matter of being proactive.”

Council members Patti Pacino and John Canale said they were in favor of Molino’s plan, which he outlined in a memo to Council dated Sept. 4.

“I would like to have a preliminary meeting so I can be prepared when my constituents come to me with questions,” Canale said.

Molino also said he and Pacatte are setting up meetings with Genesee County legislators and Batavia School Board members prior to a public presentation by the end of the month or in October.

Council did vote on a few resolutions Monday night, including the authorization of a contract with Elan Planning, Design & Landscape Architecture PLLC, a planning consulting firm based in Saratoga Springs, to assist the city with its Comprehensive Plan update.

The $100,000 pact will be paid through a $75,000 grant from the Cleaner Greener Communities program and a required local match of $25,000, Molino said.

“There will be a lot of public engagement in the coming months,” Molino said.

Elan personnel will schedule a “kickoff meeting” with a steering committee (comprised of the Batavia Planning & Development Committee) to develop its plan and will collect data to identify issues and necessary improvements within the city, Molino said.

The process also includes the formation of strategies in various areas such as downtown redevelopment, zoning, historic preservation and utilization of natural resources, Molino said, and will be illustrated by maps, graphics and a list of funding opportunities.

A final draft report, subject to steering committee and public approval, is expected within 12 to 18 months.