CANAJOHARIE - Village officials are hoping recently announced economic assistance will help bring improvements to the village and possibly the rest of western Montgomery County.
The village and one of the companies there, Richardson Brands, will receive funding from the state as part of the Regional Economic Development Awards announced earlier this month.
The village will receive $600,000 to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant, and Richardson Brands will receive $100,000 to buy new equipment and do interior work. In addition, neighboring Fort Plain will receive $40,000 to construct the Old Military Road Trail that will connect the Canalway trail to the Fort Plain History Museum, according to a project description provided by the state.
Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery shows a photo of the village’s sewer plant from the 1990s. The village plans to upgrade the plant.
The Leader-Herald/Arthur Cleveland
Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery said the village in the last 16 months received $1.2 million total to upgrade its sewer plant.
"We have to upgrade the sewer plant," Avery said. He added the plant, originally constructed in 1979 before being upgraded in the 1990s, is out of date.
"These grants, along with the money we have, will allow us to bring the sewer plant into the 21st century, keep the [sewer] rates where they are and eliminate one-third of the plant but still maintain all of its capacity," Avery said.
Before Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. moved its baby-food plant from the village to the town of Florida, the village borrowed about $5 million in the 1990s to build a large water and sewer system meant to entice the company to stay.
A few years later, the company moved anyway, leaving the village with about $2.8 million in debt and a sewer system officials said was too big for the village and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain.
According to Avery, the village has been trying to keep the sewer bills low, but it can't afford to do that for much longer.
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He said if the village hadn't received the state award, sewer bills would have gone up and the plant could have shut down.
The plant will replace several of its stirring motors with a fine air diffuser, lowering costs from $148,000 to $70,000 and producing much more dry waste, he said.
Also, several of the tanks will be emptied and kept in case of future need.
Bids will be accepted for the renovation around February and March. Work may start in April.
Several new businesses have come to the village recently. In the last six months, Avery said, three new establishments opened, including an antiques store, a clothing store and an art gallery.
In July, several of the storefronts were empty on the main street in the village.
Another company is expected to open soon on Mill Street. Caribe Food Trading will use 50,000 square feet of space and hire more than 20 people, the mayor said.
The former Beech-Nut complex still stands in the middle of the village and has been on the market for several years.
In July, Avery said if a company moves into the Beech-Nut facility as it currently stands, the village would still receive property taxes for the property.
Avery said he will work with village and town officials on ways to attract industry to the area.
Avery said even if no new factories or industries come to the village, the sewer plant could offer services to other municipalities and businesses outside the village.
The sewer plant could take sewage from a municipality or factory and process it at the Canajoharie plant if a pipeline were built.
"If Canajoharie can't get it, well, here's our sewer plant, ready to go." Avery said. "If the village can't attract industry, by bringing that plant into the 21st century and having that capacity available to the other communities, they don't have to build a new one, they don't have to make the investment. All we would have to do is build a pipeline."
This would open up other areas to growth, he said.
Richardson Brands in the village says the $100,000 in state funding will help pay for new equipment and interior work.
Arnie D'Angelo, CEO for candy maker Richardson Brands, said the company had applied for around $2 million in state money.
"Obviously, our goal is to keep the plant operational, the people employed and to make improvements to the best of our ability," D'Angelo said.
The exterior of the building was also remade over the summer. D'Angelo said the company wanted to make the building a "point of pride" for the community.