Legislature to vote on former Beech-Nut site

Part of the old Beech-Nut warehouse can be seen in this April 2015 photo. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)

CANAJOHARIE — The Montgomery County Legislature is poised to vote on a resolution to foreclose on the former Beech-Nut baby food manufacturing plant.

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said his county recently completed negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that have enabled the long delayed foreclosure of the site, which currently owes about $1.7 million in unpaid county, village and school taxes. He said the EPA has agreed to drop $4 million in liens against the property, incurred due to hazardous waste located at the site, in exchange for receiving 50 percent of the ultimate sale price of the property. Ossenfort credited County Attorney Meghan Manion for negotiating the deal.

“This is a big step that we had to make to ensure the taxpayers of Montgomery County would not have to pay for this liability at the site, which potentially could have bankrupted the county,” Ossenfort said. “But at the same time, we have to take responsibility for moving things forward, because if we don’t, this site could sit vacant for years and that’s simply not acceptable.”

The foreclosure of the former plant, located at 68 Church St., is key to the county’s Exit 29 project to rehabilitate the site, located near Thruway Exit 29.

Ossenfort said once the legislature approves the foreclosure, Montgomery County will move forward with cleaning up the eastern side of the 29-acre site, which he said will be treated as a traditional economic development project and will likely eventually be sold to a private sector owner, with the EPA getting 50 percent of the sale price.

For the western side of the site, Montgomery County officials have targeted the location for a potential $5.6 million “adaptive reuse” project that could convert the location into a joint municipal center and courthouse, a project that has been included in the county’s entry into the $20 million New York state Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan contest.

The EPA, on April 13, issued an order requiring the last two owners of the baby food plant, Beech-Nut Nutrition Company and B & B Recycling, LLC, to clean up millions of dollars worth of asbestos at the location. So far, the former owners have disputed responsibility for the clean up.

Ossenfort said Montgomery County’s deal with the EPA does not impact any efforts the agency has to recoup funds from Beech-Nut or any other entity. He said Montgomery County will proceed with cleanup efforts at the location using grant money it has obtained from New York state.

The legislature had been set to hold a special meeting tonight to vote on the foreclosure resolution, but the meeting has been postponed until 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.

By Patricia Older

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