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Can you say adobe? 

When you think of local suburban housing, and you think of Penfield, you probably imagine row upon row of subdivisions, one house not much different from the next, with a couple of barns tossed in here and there the farther out you drive. Just ask me, I live there. Post-1960s suburban housing design lacked a lot in imagination.

            But hidden in Penfield's rolling hills are somehow, very curiously, the two remaining "sod" houses in MonroeCounty. Yes... sod, adobe, mud. Call it what you want, it's not proud. In fact, between 1834 and 1836, when these earthen masterpieces were created, they were premium housing --- over all the other log cabins in the neighborhood.

            Not to knock log cabins, my grandma lives in one. But the fact that both these buildings were built a couple decades before the Civil War and still remain standing may be reason for you to drive east up Atlantic Avenue for a gawking session.

            The first mud house is on Qualtro Road, but if you weren't aware the building was formed of earth you'd have no reason to stare. The house was long ago covered over with wood clapboard and is now painted white. The current owners, the DeGennaros, knew they were in for an adventure before purchasing it but have only been around six months and there's been nothing too exciting to report so far.

            Mary DeGennaro says that a couple of the rooms have been restored to original historic paint colors and other interior changes are planned. The only place you can see the clay-mud mix is in the basement. Also of note is the fact that the house is located less than a half-mile up the road from the marquis de Denonville's army campsite during its 1687 massacre of the Seneca at Ganondagan.

            The other mud house is on Whalen Road and retains its rustic antique exterior. Its current owners keep the house largely shielded from traffic and from the summer sun. It's an elegant building, and even among the McMansions of the suburbs it really doesn't stand out.

            FYI: Somewhere along the line electric, heating, and plumbing have been added to both houses, so there's no need for an outhouse.

--- Dave Cross

Best ever

They're always feeding you hype. Promoters for all kinds of music festivals will swear "this is the best year ever." But in the case of the mayor's 11th annual Rochester MusicFest, it is. You gotta hand it to Mayor Johnson: He's stuck with this fest from the beginning, when it needed a push. Now it's simply cruising on the momentum of its quality.

          This year's line-up is diverse, with plenty of cool acts mixed in with the hot contempo talent.

          Featured this year are Nina Sky, Jagged Edge, 112, Ciara, John Legend, and Boys II Men on Saturday, July 16. Sunday, July 17's line-up includes Fatty Koo, Raheem DeVaughn, Common, Faith Evans, and Brian McKnight.

          Each day will kick off with local bands yet to be determined, in a battle-of-the-bands sponsored by WDKX.

          Weekend passes are $49 (adults), $17(children 7-12). Single-day passes are $32 per day (adults) and $10 per day (children 7-12). Tickets, which went on sale this week, are available from Ticketmaster outlets, through, or by phone, 232-1900.

--- Frank De Blase

The cops question

One of the recent efforts to assess how Rochester's police and community get along is gaining momentum.

            Last week a crowd of community residents filled City Hall's Council Chambers to hear Peter Bibby, the Center for Dispute Settlement's director of police community relations, and New York City's first public advocate, Mark Green, at a forum organized by City Councilmember Adam McFadden.

            Bibby, who oversees the CDS program that handles complaints about police behavior, had plenty to say about his organization, the third oldest in the nation. Since it uses only state-certified mediators and generally receives high marks for user-satisfaction, it's considered a model program in other cities around the nation.

            "The Rochester program is as effective or more effective than most," he said.

            But that didn't satisfy everyone in the room, as Bibby acknowledged.

            "One of the weaknesses of the process is that we don't use it enough," he said. "From what I hear in the community, it's not being used nearly enough."

            That seemed to be borne out by a handful of questioners who told Bibby of their own experiences being harassed or disrespected by police. To nearly every grievance posed, Bibby asked if the questioner had filed a complaint. Most had not.

            "You not only have a right to file a complaint, you have a responsibility," he told the crowd.

            City Councilman Adam McFadden, who's been a force behind the meetings, which began in May 2004, said he's encouraged by the sustained interest the forums have generated.

            "I think it's going pretty good," he says. The mailing list from people who've signed up to receive updates has climbed to nearly 400, he says.

            McFadden, like others involved in the community policing conversation, will be participating in "The Dialogue Continues," a one-day conference sponsored by CDS on May 12. Registration for the event costs $30, and the deadline is Friday, April 29. Call 546-5110 x107 or email to register.

--- KrestiaDeGeorge

Told ya

We've been tellin' you all along: Despite the glut of cover bands, Rochester's still a hip music town.

            A recent issue of Rolling Stone sported a story and photo of Mastodon, a heavy prog-metal outfit from Atlanta with drummer BrannDailor and bassist Bill Kelleher hailing from Rochester. The band is also featured on the cover of the May issue of heavy-music bible decibel. Mastodon will play the main stage at Ozzfest at Six Flags Darien Lake July 21.

            The latest issue of The Wire has reviews of Figure'sWhen the Alphabet Hides in Your Mouth CD and the Carbon Records' new 10 Year Series release.

            And The Squires of the Subterrain'sStrawberries on Sunday is being featured on CD Baby's front page.

            Maybe it's not just City that believes in this town.

--- Frank De Blase

Party lines

The House of Representatives approved the controversial energy bill last week, 249 to 183. And predictably, Rochester-area representatives voted along party lines, with Democrat Louise Slaughter opposing it and Republicans Randy Kuhl, James Walsh, and Tom Reynolds supporting it.

            The bill includes, among other things, big tax breaks and other aid for energy companies, and it permits drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Democrats and some moderate Republicans also charge that it does little to promote energy conservation. The bill is expected to face a fight in the Senate.

            Two members of the Rochester Republican delegation have been showing some independence, however. Earlier this month, Kuhl and Walsh broke from their party and their president on the issue of Medicaid funding. They were among 44 representatives who wrote House Budget Committee Chair Jim Nussle, objecting to the Medicaid cuts included in the House budget resolution. The cuts, they said, "will negatively impact people who depend on the program and the providers who deliver health care to them while not putting us on the path to comprehensive reform and improvement that the program needs."

--- Mary Anna Towler

COMIDA watch

Here's April's list of businesses receiving public assistance from the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency for creating new jobs:

            Bersin Properties, LLC, Fayetteville, to buy and redevelop Irondequoit Mall; 1,900 jobs to be created.

            Linden Oaks North, LLC, 400 Linden Oaks, to build out 2,315 square feet at 10 Hagen Drive for Rochester Oral Surgery;1 job.

            ITT Industries Space Systems, LLC, 1447 St. Paul Street, to update and expand its facility at 2696 Manitou Road; 31 jobs.

            Monroe Community College Association, 1000 E. Henrietta Road, to build and outfit a student apartment building on the Monroe Community College Brighton campus; 8 jobs.

            Manning & Napier Advisors, Inc. 1100 Chase Square in downtown Rochester, to buy computer and other equipment for a move to 290 Woodcliff Drive, Fairport; 4 jobs.

            B&L Wholesale Supply, Inc., 70 Hartford Street, to buy forklifts and replace the vehicle fleet; 4 jobs.

            Nadeau Management, Inc., 45 Saginaw Drive, to renovate and buy equipment to open a DirectBuy at 45 Saginaw Drive in Henrietta; 30 jobs.

            Premier Sign Systems, LLC, 40 Ajax Road, to buy a new crane truck; 1 job.

            Paradigm Environmental Services, Inc., 179 Lake Avenue, to buy new analytical testing equipment; 2 jobs.

            Special Care Systems, LLC 2112 Empire Boulevard, Webster, to buy office equipment and two delivery vehicles; 1 job.

            CMI Communications, 200 Mile Crossing Boulevard, to buy new equipment; 3 jobs.

            Legends, LLC, 1200 Lee Road, to renovate and outfit a former Kodak facility and move in its trading card operation there; 11 jobs.

            Metro Justice activists have complained that COMIDA's process of handing out these benefits skews competition between local retailers and wholesalers rather than attracting large industrial employers from outside Greater Rochester.

--- KrestiaDeGeorge

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