Ephratah bottling plant plan on track

Lease negotiations between the village of Canajoharie and California-based CG Roxane are proceeding

Lease negotiations between the village of Canajoharie and California-based CG Roxane are proceeding slowly, but officials say they believe a proposed water bottling plant in the town of Ephratah is on track to open in fall 2012 as planned.

Permits for the approximately $20 million project had stalled at the state level, where all efforts were being directed toward recovery from tropical storms Irene and Lee.

But with the recent completion of a state environmental quality review, those permits can now move forward, town of Ephratah Planning Board member Dale Gray said.

Although the SEQR was completed and approved Oct. 11 with no roadblocks, Gray said ground won’t be broken at the site on Old State and Murray Hill roads in the town of Ephratah until a lease is finalized.

That lease, currently being negotiated between the village of Canajoharie and water bottling company CG Roxane, is about 96 percent complete, said Village Mayor Francis Avery.

“We’re just ironing out specific words and fine-tuning things at this point,” he said. He declined to comment on which portions of the lease are still under negotiation and said he can’t be sure when it will be finalized.

A special Village Board meeting was held Monday night that served as an informational meeting for the public, he said. But few residents showed up.

Initially, Avery had planned for the lease to be ironed out by Monday’s board meeting so that a vote on the sale could be held. “This last time we announced it all over and no one seemed to be too interested,” he said. “But when the final agreements are ready, there will be another meeting.”

He said CG Roxane would like to get going on the project, which involves the construction of two 100,000-square-foot buildings on 29.8 acres of Canajoharie-owned land in Ephratah.

That property would be sold for $400,000, Avery said. The village expects about $150,000 in revenue a year in water sales. And if plant operations increase to 24 hours a day, that number will increase as well, he said.

The bottling plant revenue would help offset the loss of revenue from the Beech-Nut baby food factory, which officially ended production in Canajoharie earlier this year.

“At this point any offset is a plus for us,” Avery said. “It’s never going to replace Beech-Nut by any means. But we have tentatively run the figures, and if we were to consummate this project, we anticipate we could lower water rates by $1 per 1,000 [gallons].”

The plant will bring 34 jobs as well as increased tax revenue.

The California company is looking at three 99-year renewable leases with the village to draw from its watershed for potentially 297 years.

CG Roxane Executive Vice President Page Beykpour did not return a call seeking comment for this story Tuesday.

Grant money that would help pay for infrastructure construction at the plant site is still being sought, said Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz.

Fulton County officials applied for $250,000 in funds from the U.S. Northern Border Regional Commission that would help CG Roxane widen a half-mile stretch of road from the proposed plant site out to Route 29.

Gray said CG Roxane is hoping to install the plant’s foundation before the end of this year.

“They are still on the same time schedule to open next year, I’m sure of it,” Gray said. “Everything as far as I know is on schedule, and by September or October they want to be bottling.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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