Fulton County

Fulton County eyes business park for grant boost

The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth is hoping to land a $2 million grant from the state to

The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth is hoping to land a $2 million grant from the state to create a regional business park containing shovel-ready sites outside the city of Johnstown.

The project has languished because the city of Johnstown and the town of Mohawk cannot come to terms on a revenue-sharing agreement.

The CRG submitted a consolidated funding application for the park as its priority project under the second round of economic development grant awards from the state. The applications were due mid-July.

“If we got the money, it would spur creation of the park,” said Michael Reese, center president and chief executive officer. “We want to have that as a shovel-ready site.”

Some $25 million will be awarded for priority projects in the Mohawk Valley region. There is also $530 million in state funds available for CFAs statewide. The state will announce awards later this year.

The CRG, then called the Fulton County Economic Development Corp., submitted a similar application last year for the park, but did not get an award. Instead, Fulton County received $2 million to develop the former Tryon campus in Perth into the proposed Tryon Technology Park and Incubator Center. The state has yet to turn over the former youth detention facility to the county.

Center Chairman Dustin Swanger said Fulton and Montgomery counties do not have enough shovel-ready sites available with which to attract businesses. Shovel-ready sites are those that come pre-approved for construction and have infrastructure in place.

Reese said the center would use the grant to purchase approximately 288 acres in the town of Mohawk from two private owners. It also would use the grant for engineering studies and to begin the process of annexation.

The site is across Route 30A from the existing Johnstown Industrial Park and does not have sewer or water connections. These would have to be provided by the city of Johnstown. The center’s plan is to annex the land into the city so that the city can provide these services, in addition to full-time police and fire protection.

“Annexation would be one of easiest ways to get sewer and water onto site, but the town does not want to give up the land without anything in return,” Reese said.

‘some serious costs’

Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland said the city is keen on the project and has been working through Reese to negotiate with Mohawk Supervisor Gregory W. Rajkowski. One proposal involves sharing property and sales taxes on the park.

“We have not worked out the split, and we have given some suggestions on other ways to look at it,” Slingerland said.

She said the sticking point, “in broadest sense, is a fiscal issue for the city and a quality-of-life issue for the town. We are the only entity that would have a fiscal responsibility for the park, because it would be inside the city and we would have to service it. Other entities would be collecting money, but we would have some serious costs.”

As such, the city wants an agreement that covers its costs, Slingerland said. “It is not political. We have to consider it along fiscal lines,” she said.

Rajkowski said negotiations are not proceeding. “I haven’t spoken with anyone who knows how long,” he said. “I am very receptive to sit down and talk.”

He said the proposal involves a 55-45 split between Johnstown and Mohawk involving property and sales taxes. “Where we are stuck on is we want the agreement to go on forever and not last for 40 years. At that point all the revenue goes to city and the town would be stuck with a tax [increase],” he said. “I am trying to be a custodian for the taxpayers who are there now and in the future.”

Reese said the city’s position is that it cannot sign an agreement for more than 40 years under municipal law; he disagrees with the city’s interpretation of the law.

Rajkowski said an agreement must be in place before the Mohawk Town Board would approve annexation of town property into the city of Johnstown. He also said the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors would also have to approve annexation. The entities are involved because the annexation involves changing municipal boundaries.

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