Beech-Nut teardown gets funding

Teardowns of several buildings began in 2015, but cleanup of the debris was not completed. Now, the eastern portion of the plant will come down. (Leader-Herald file photo)

CANAJOHARIE — Montgomery County has been awarded $500,000 to help with the demolition of a portion of the former Beech-Nut plant.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the Restore New York Communities Initiative grant on Thursday.

County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the funds will help the county demolish the eastern portion of the former Beech-Nut plant as well as the bridges that are on site.

“These are safety concerns that we are primarily concerned with right now,” Ossenfort said.

Ossenfort said this funding, in addition to other grants the county has applied for, will allow the county to tear down a majority of the buildings on the eastern side of the property.

Ossenfort said the team has been preparing for a teardown for months, with hopes the demolition could begin later this year.

“Our goal as a team is this summer,” Ossenfort said. “That’s an aggressive schedule and if it does take a little longer than that we’ll deal with that. We are all hands on deck to move this process forward as it is. Our goal is to see some real, physical progress on this site this summer and frankly this fall at the latest.”

Montgomery County has been looking to tear down the deteriorating former baby food factory for more than a year.

In 2009, Beech-Nut announced it would close the factory and build a new complex in the nearby town of Florida — after a new multimillion-dollar water-treatment plant had been built in Canajoharie with Beech-Nut’s needs in mind.

Beech-Nut moved into the new 550,000-square-foot, $124 million Florida facility on Route 5S in 2011.

TD Development purchased the Canajoharie property in 2013.

The county will be bonding for the cost of the demolition, before being reimbursed by the state for the funds.

Ossenfort said the the village’s filing will help the county with its plans to demolish the buildings. Ossenfort said the county has not foreclosed on the property because it is waiting learn about the liability to the county before completing the process.

Village officials have filed paperwork in state Supreme Court in Montgomery County seeking the right to begin demolition of several deteriorating buildings at the former factory.

The paperwork, filed Dec. 22, asked the the court to grant the village the ability to begin making necessary safety precautions at the former Beech-Nut facility on Church Street. The application seeks to demolish nuisance structures, remediate environmental hazards and recover associated costs.

TD Development of Batavia, Ohio is listed as the respondent in the case.

In 2015, teardowns of several buildings began. However, cleanup of the debris was not done following the demolition.

The village wrote citations against TD Development and B&B construction of Broken Arrow, Okla. over debris that was left unsecured following the demolition of some of the properties.

Officials are seeking permission to tear down buildings 38, 40, 42, 45 and 50 as well as three bridges that cross the Canajoharie Creek.

The village states in its filing that the buildings and bridges in question are unsafe. The village also wants to place “No Trespassing” and “Danger Keep Out No Access” signs around the property.

“With the court order that the village filed, we’re expecting that will give us the ability to go forward, should the foreclosure not happen before we’re ready to move forward,” Ossenfort said.

He said the partnership between the village and the county on this project is strong and stated this teamwork will play a key factor in moving the project forward.

“I have nothing but praise to give to the village for their work on this project as well,” Ossenfort said.

He said the county’s Business Development Center has also played a big role in securing grants for this project and many others. He said $84,000 in CFA funds will be used for studies for the market and best use of the site. Additional funding from the Environmental Protection Agency will also be used.

“We want to make sure what goes in there on the east side, also the Church Street side, is a good fit for the region as a whole,” Ossenfort said. “The goal is really to do something transformational here and we want to make sure we have the right occupant for both the village, the county and the region.

Ossenfort said the goal once the structures are down is to get the site as close to shovel-ready as possible. He said with additional tax credits for a Brownfield site, the county could find a developer that is interested prior to it being fully shovel-ready.

“As far as the plans go, we just want to get it to a point where we can start to market it,” Ossenfort said.

He said that while they don’t want to turn down opportunities, the county would like to see a business that is a heavy water and sewer user to help offset costs associated with the updated system the village put in place to service Beech-Nut’s needs.

“They have a tremendous capacity for water and sewer that is unfulfilled and to get that working and generate that revenue for the village,” Ossenfort said. “At this point we want to market it and take it on a case-by-case basis when the leads come in.”

Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery could not be reached for comment.

Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]

By Chad Fleck

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