File Photo Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort meets with local officials in June to discuss the former Beech-Nut site.

 

By MORGAN FRISCH

Recorder News Staff

FONDA — With private sector job growth up and unemployment rates hitting the lowest they’ve been in 10 years, Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort is encouraged by the trends he saw in 2016. For the new year, his plan is to continue working on the county’s goals until they end in success.

In his State of the County address in February, one of Ossenfort’s goals was to develop shovel-ready sites with the Beech-Nut plant in the village of Canajoharie and the Exit 27 site in the town of Florida as priorities.

Ossenfort said the Environmental Protective Agency still needs to finalize phase two of the environmental study for Beech-Nut. The county is waiting for the EPA to release the liability of the site so they can proceed with the foreclosure process. As soon as this takes place, demolition and remediation can begin. Ossenfort said it’s possible work could begin this spring.

As for the Exit 27 site, Ossenfort said the county is “doing everything we have to do” to get a portion of the property shovel ready. He said they have made progress with the EPA and should receive results regarding the land shortly.

“We are looking at next year starting some physical demolition on the site,” Ossenfort said. “Which will be great because the community will see some physical progress.”

The reason these issues were addressed in the State of the County address is because there is minimal industrial space left to market. Ossenfort is hopeful this is one of the issues legislatures will tackle in the first few months of 2017.

The Dollar General project, which could create close to 500 jobs for the region, is coming to fruition. The company proposed a $91 million 750,000 square-foot distribution center in the Florida Business Extension. Ossenfort said the land deal could be closed on within the next few weeks. If everything goes according to plan, construction could begin in 2017.

“Hopefully it can help boost our tax base and hopefully build on the momentum I feel has already begun,” Ossenfort said.

The distribution center will provide opportunities for people within and outside the county, he explained.

“Our goal is to help spur people to work and live in Montgomery County,” he said.

Expansion of the Public Safety Building was another goal that has moved forward.

“The county offices, consolidation, we made good progress with the the public safety building,” Ossenfort said. “That’s really the key for this year [2017], following on the goals that have been laid out and making sure we see them through to the end successfully.”

For 2017, Ossenfort’s key word is implementation and he is looking toward bike path resurfacing, going paperless and using grants that the county has been awarded.

His personal accomplishments involve cooperation and collaboration.

“As one person you can only do so much,” Ossenfort said. “But when you can inspire your team members and your partners whether they be municipal, or the private sector or non private, when you can help inspire everyone to work together as a team with a common goal, I think that’s the greatest accomplishment thus far because you can accomplish far more as a team than any one person can do individually.”

In 2017, new faces will be filling the legislative chambers, but Ossenfort is confident with what they can bring to the table. He has already had meetings getting the new members up to speed on priorities and looks forward to working with them.

“I think some of the new people bring a lot to the table,” Ossenfort said. “Combined with the experience of some of the returning members it’s gonna be a good group.”

The executive plans to “lay out” in greater detail the county’s accomplishments and plans for 2017 during his State of the County address possibly near the end of January.

As for the upcoming election, he has not made any announcements at this point.

“We are heading into the fourth year of the term and there is a number of things that we’ve identified as priorities as a team,” Ossenfort said. “Really, we are at a point now where we are just trying to keep pushing the ball down the field and make progress and that’s really what we are focused on.”