By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
CANAJOHARIE — County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said Thursday he had received some of the most exciting news of his career, that the village of Canajoharie has received a $500,000 grant for remediation to the former Beech-Nut plant.
The village was awarded the grant through Restore NY for the demolition of the eastern portion of the site. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday nearly 75 municipalities had been awarded $40 million in the fourth round of the Restore New York Communities Initiative. The city of Amsterdam was also awarded $500,000 for the former Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame building.
“This is some of the most exciting news I’ve gotten at the county since I’ve been here, because the Restore NY grant for the village of Canajoharie was one of the most critical elements to us making progress in the short term,” Ossenfort said. “We can build off of this moving forward and it’s just very, very exciting news at this point.”
Ossenfort expects to begin construction at the 26-acre site by late spring or early summer, including the removal of three bridges. The village also recently petitioned the Montgomery County Supreme Court to request permission to access the former Beech-Nut site to remove several structures such as the bridges and five warehouse buildings.
He thanked staff at the Montgomery County Business Development Center for all their hard work this year and said without them, the county would not have received more than $5 million in state grants.
Ossenfort said the county has been waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release the final draft of the phase two engineering study that will help better identify liabilities at the Beech-Nut site.
He said the county has received preliminary data that did not list any concerning contamination spots. However, the county has still been waiting for the phase two results to begin negotiating with the Department of Environmental Conservation and EPA to release the county from site-related liability.
“We are waiting for EPA to issue the final draft and I think given the state of federal politics at this point, it’s uncertain when that will be finished,” Ossenfort said. “We are hoping that it will get done sooner than later because it’s a big piece of our decision making, as it relates to foreclosing on the property.”
Ossenfort said waiting on the foreclosure has not prevented work from happening at the Beech-Nut site because of a court order that was recently done by the village. TD Development, LLC, currently owns the property and owes about $1.7 million in back taxes.
“It is an important piece, but it is not preventing anything from happening at this point,” Ossenfort said.
Ossenfort previously said the eastern site “presents the most liability and is a more traditional economic development site the county wants to get shovel ready and market.”
In December, the county and village were awarded $85,000 in Regional Economic Develop Council funding for the project. The funds are to complete analyses and gauge the potential for challenges of the redeveloping the site.
Ossenfort said a market study will give very specific industry sectors the site will be advantageous for.
“The goal right now is to get it shovel ready and market the site over the next few months,” Ossenfort said.
He said there is potential for another announcement regarding grant funds in upcoming weeks. Although he said these funds have not yet been publicized, they could offer additional funding to the site.
“We are optimistic that there will be more funding on the way,” he said. “Especially related to the site in Canajoharie.”