By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature is able to move forward with the foreclosure of the former Beech-Nut property in Canajoharie after passing two resolutions Tuesday night.
“The day is finally here,” Canajoharie Village Mayor Frances Avery said. “It’s a great significance what’s happened tonight.”
The legislature voted unanimously during a special meeting for Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They also authorized Montgomery County Attorney Meghan M. Manion to move forward with foreclosure of the 26-plus acre site.
Ossenfort said this is a firm step forward and it shows the county’s commitment towards the project. He said previously that the MOA reduces the risk and liability in taking on a site that has contamination issues. Via the EPA’s MOA with Montgomery County, two liens they have claimed against the property, estimated at approximately $4 million, will be released, with the EPA also waiving their right to take title of the property within a year of foreclosure. If the county sells the property they will convey 50 percent of those earnings to the EPA.
District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell asked Manion if she could “bring everyone up to date” in regards to events leading up to this point.
Manion said the Industrial Development Agency competed phase one of the process. This environmental assessment study included looking through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s records for a spill, or potential spills, and looking back through the site’s history to what occupied the property before Beech-Nut for any potential hazardous material. Phase two of the study involved doing an in-depth analysis, including soil samples to determine any contamination on site.
Manion said the results of phase two were examined and “were nothing earth shattering.”
District 2 Legislator Brian Sweet asked Manion if she was “relatively confident” that the site is now clean.
She said from what the phase two indicated there is “nothing incredibly concerning,” mentioning the importance of the Oil Spill Fund that was authorized.
The county obtained environmental liability releases from the Oil Spill Fund through the state Comptroller’s Office as the EPA’s phase two study did not indicate significant pollution-related obstacles in regards to the potential foreclosure.
In order to obtain the Oil Spill Fund releases, the county paid a $5,000 fee, which allowed them to be released from responsibility in regards to oil-related contamination on the property, making “petroleum spills separate and distinct to any other spills on site.”
Manion said there is still asbestos on the site, and Sweet asked who would be responsible for the remediation.
Montgomery County Legislative Chairman Roy Dimond said the county will be cleaning up the existing asbestos with grant funds.
Purtell asked for an estimation in regards to grant funds that have been awarded for the project.
Montgomery County Business Development Center Director and CEO Ken Rose said there has been approximately $800,000 awarded and there are still pending applications.
Ossenfort said the next step is to work diligently toward remediation and demolition of the eastern side of the property.
“I’m hopeful that we can get some of that done this year,” he said. “I think a fair goal is to see some activity on the site in the fall.”
He said previously that the foreclosure process should take about one month.
Canajoharie Town Supervisor Pete Vroman said this has been a long time coming.
“It’s the heart of our downtown and certainly in the heart of our state and I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.
Dimond was also excited about moving forward with the foreclosure process.
“It’s been a long process to get to this bench march and I’m very excited that we’re there, as I mentioned, it’s not only a big thing for Canajoharie and the surrounding area but it’s a big thing for the county as whole,” he said. “So I would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work. We’ve got a lot of work a head of us but we are at a very important point in this development.”
“We only have one opportunity to get it right and we intend to avail ourselves of that opportunity,” he said.