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Officials Hope To Demolish Structures At Beech-Nut Site

Lucas Willard

The Village of Canajoharie and Montgomery County are hoping to demolish certain structures at the shuttered Beech-Nut factory. An upcoming court date could move things forward as the officials await a half-million dollar grant.

The empty Beech-Nut baby food factory in Canajoharie looms over the Mohawk Valley community. The site that at one time supported the area with thousands of jobs is contaminated with asbestos and black mold. And local officials are hoping to tear down structures they see as a safety threat.

The village, working with the county, is hoping to demolish dilapidated warehousing and three bridges on the property. The 1 million square-foot site, however, is still owned by company TD Development, which owes about $1.7 million in back taxes.

So the village has a scheduled State Supreme court hearing in early February, to try to prove that the work is necessary. Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery..

“Frankly, we’re well aware of our responsibility in redevelopment and we have but one chance to get it right. And this is what we’re trying to do,” said Avery. 

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the county and village are hoping to gather a total of $1 million to do work on the parcel this spring.

A major component of that funding is a $500,000 Restore NY grant.

Ossenfort says there has been some environmental and other surverying done on the site, but the physical work on the property is the next goal.

“Really the people of the village really want to see some actual progress. It’s great that we’re getting some environmental work done and all the behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done, but we’re excited about getting some actual physical progress of improving that site next year,” said Ossenfort.

The county does reserve the right to foreclose on the property and there is some support to do so, since taxes have gone unpaid for years. But Ossenfort said it is vitally important that the county get releases of liability from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before foreclosure is considered. 

He said that would ensure that the county would not take ownership of something that could bankrupt it.

“Until we get to a point where we have those releases, the county is not going to foreclose. But I will say that we have enough access to the site to do everything we’ve needed to do up to this point so foreclosure has not been a requirement,” said Ossenfort.

Ossenfort said the county is aware of talks between the site’s owners and another company about a possible sale, but added the county’s position is to not negotiate the $1.7 million in back taxes.

“Should those back taxes be paid then that would certainly be a different story. But we’re not exactly expecting that to happen in the near future,” said Ossenfort.

With the court date scheduled for next week and grant dollars on the horizon, Mayor Avery says the village is ready to act.

“When that money is awarded and we have Judge Sise’s decision granting us permission to go in there, we’ll begin demolition,” said Avery.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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