Middleburgh lauded for hard work

When it comes time to pick up the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce’s annual award for “business
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Categories: Schenectady County

When it comes time to pick up the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce’s annual award for “business persons of the year” this month, there could be quite a crowd of Middleburgh residents in the room.

Rather than single out a particular person for 2007, the chamber decided to honor “the community of Middleburgh” for years of work to make the village and town more vibrant, according to Jodie Rutt, the chamber’s executive director.

“It’s an interesting thing, we’ve never done it before,” Rutt said about the award committee’s decision to recognize a whole community.

Rutt said businesses have been attracted to Middleburgh, the Main Street district looks appealing, and community events are regularly being held. “Middleburgh has become a destination in Schoharie County,” she said.

There’s plenty of credit to go around, said businessman and community revitalization activist Frank Monaco, as he recalled a decade of efforts by village and town officials, businesses, clubs and residents in reviving the village.

“Around [the year] 2000 was pretty much the bottom for Middleburgh,” Monaco said.

“It was struggling,” Mayor William Ansel-McCabe acknowledged, “but we haven’t peaked yet.”

The state-funded restoration of a landmark stone wall along the Schoharie Creek that had been heavily damaged in a 1996 flood helped focus the community’s attention, officials said.

The late Richard Hanson, who was town supervisor at the time, helped convince the state Department of Transportation to restore the wall along the River Street portion of state Route 30.

“They took [parts of it] up to Queensbury and shipped back sections of the wall and put them back together,” Monaco said.

That helped get the ball rolling to restore the community.

“We were all thinking the same thing … and we started looking at this seriously,” he said.

Monaco, a financial services adviser who also runs a liquor store, said he helped found an informal Middleburgh Merchants Association.

Local dentist Dr. Herbert Emmons “was very instrumental in turning that merchants group into a going organization,” Monaco said. Others too numerous to name also played active roles, he said.

Some of the seeds for a series of grants were planted under the 2000 to 2004 administration of former Mayor Gary Hayes.

“The fruit is ripening,” Monaco said, under current Mayor Ansel-McCabe and local groups,

Close to $2 million in various grants or loan programs are now been used to restore building facades along Main Street, install old-fashioned looking street lighting and other ongoing projects, according to Ansel-McCabe, who succeeded Hayes in 2004.

“It’s great that the chamber recognized us as a community because it’s been a group effort,” Ansel-McCabe said.

In addition to various businesses, he cited the Rotary Club, the women’s Century Club and Middleburgh Telephone Co. for ongoing assistance.

Among recent government funding is a $555,000 state and federal small cities grant to improve building fronts, provide apartments and offer micro-enterprise loans or grants to help businesses.

Up to $200,000 in funds are available for more building improvements under a state Main Street program, provided local matching money is found, Ansel-McCabe said.

About $350,000 in a state DOT grant is expected to allow the start of a long-planned railroad museum attraction in Bagley Park this summer, he said. Another $538,000 state Office of Parks and Recreation grant is pending for a creek-side park along Dexter Avenue.

In addition, the village recently applied for a $200,000 small cities grant to help Bassett Healthcare equip and fund a new medical care facility currently under construction in the village.

The awards will be presented at the chamber’s annual meeting Jan. 26 at the Best Western Inn in Cobleskill.

In separate annual awards, the chamber named Marathon for a Better Life, which sponsors an annual fundraising walk/run, as its “community leader of the year. The group, co-chaired by Donna Lavigne and Cherie Stevens, raised $100,000 in 2007 to help people being treated for cancer, Rutt said.

“Business of the year” honors went to Support Services Alliance, a company that provides various administrative services for client businesses. SSA employs 37 people at its Schoharie office, plus 14 in Oneida, according to spokesman Chris Koetzle.

“We’re honored. We have a long history of supporting community efforts,” Koetzle said.

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