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Montgomery County Executive Pitches Vision For Shuttered Factory

Lucas Willard

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort met with residents in Canajoharie Wednesday night to discuss his vision to redevelop the massive, former Beech-Nut plant that sits beside the Mohawk River.

“There’s some tough issues at the heart of this particular property and certainly some feelings that go back many, many years. But I think the biggest thing that happened last night is we really had a packed room full of people thinking about the future and what the potentnial opportunity is and how really special this could be if we all really work together and get it done,” said Ossenfort.

The partially-demolished one million square foot facility that produced baby food and employed thousands has sat dark for seven years. Today, it’s an eyesore with a future that’s uncertain.

The village is hoping to obtain the property through foreclosure, as the current owner has not paid taxes on it in years. Some of the plant is salvageable. Some is not. Lots of internal wiring and other components have been stripped out of the building over the years and there is leaking water, asbestos, and toxic mold throughout.

A few months ago, local leaders joined the American Architectural Foundation on a tour of the site and later participated in a conference in Washington D.C. with leaders from other cities facing similar challenges.

Presenting some of the issues talked about during the conference Wednesday night, Ossenfort said he wants to divide the plant into two separate projects, east and west.

“By treating it as two projects you have some things that can be done right away and you can see a quicker  turnaround on some of our items. But when you look at the western part, that’s the part that’s going to take some time,” said Ossenfort.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working to determine what contaminants are found on the 26 acre site.

Ossenfort is hoping to obtain state and federal grant money to stabilize and remediate the buildings and also begin a planning phase for what’s next.

Up for consideration is a memorandum of understanding between the county and village of Canajoharie about what to do about the property.

Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery said the document would clarify different issues and responsibilities for the site before a plan is developed.

“We are certainly willing to entertain any and all plans and examine them very carefully and see, we with the county, determine what is really feasible. But everything is on the table. No one’s mind is set in stone,” said Avery.

The Canajoharie Village board is set to meet Tuesday, September 6th.

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