Faced with already-high unemployment and the impending loss of a major employer, county supervisors must now consider whether to give a slow-moving fish farm project more time to take over the former Guilford Mills complex in Cobleskill.
A request by Intelligent Fish, a company looking to raise fish for restaurants, to extend the purchase offer is one item on the agenda for a special meeting set for 5 p.m. today.
The company paid a $50,000 deposit last year and offered to purchase the building and property for $2.5 million, but county officials say there has been no progress since then on local permitting or environmental review. The company did get a permit to raise fish, officials said.
Schoharie County seized the facility in 2009 and has been paying school taxes on the parcel since then. The offer would allow the county to break even on unpaid taxes since the former textile manufacturer shut down in 2001.
The owners of Intelligent Fish could not be reached by email or telephone Wednesday.
Schoharie County Planning and Development Director Alicia Terry said the fact that other people have expressed interest in the building and the need to get something going there is an important consideration.
“It needs to be an incubator, it needs to be a place where there are quality jobs,” Terry said.
The county has suffered from high unemployment and chronic underemployment and expects to lose roughly 100 jobs later this year when the state shuts down the Summit Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, one of the area’s biggest employers.
Intelligent Fish already received a six-month extension on its offer to purchase the site, but that expired in June, and county supervisors have to decide if they want to wait any longer for the company to start making progress. Blenheim Supervisor Robert Mann said he’s keeping an open mind.
“Obviously we’d all be delighted to have them close this deal quickly and put people to work,” he said.
Mann said it would be unfortunate if the county has to start over again in marketing the building, but he intends to learn what he can before making up his mind.
“I’ll have to listen, hear it out and then make a decision,” he said.
Cobleskill Supervisor Thomas Murray said he recently showed the facility to another prospective buyer, and he believes the fish company is just taking too long. Until now, he said, conversations with the company’s principals have amounted to requests for lower water and sewer rates and other costs.
Esperance Supervisor Earl Van Wormer said he’s anxious to get a firm interested in the facility so something can happen there.
“We’ve been fooling around with this thing long enough,” he said. “It seems like this just keeps going on and on and on. I think we should give anybody at this point a chance with that building.
“I don’t want to leave it vacant, I want to fill it with jobs.”