Projects designed to boost development in Canajoharie and greater Montgomery County were the focus of a meeting Friday at the Canajoharie Fire House.
Local officials delivered a rundown of plans for the former Beech-Nut factory at Exit 29 as well as an update on an ongoing project with the New York Power Authority to install LED street lights this summer in the village, which will own the lights outright, according to officials.
Mayor Jeff Baker shared information about progress with local officials and state Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-46th state Senate District, the first-term senator in the district.
The village intends to use a $50,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to facilitate the new lighting, as well as air conditioning and heating upgrades at the waste water treatment plant. The funding will also be used for a LED information board and a pole for banners from the Canajoharie Central School District.
“We’re classified as a New York Green Community” already, said Baker, since the village’s municipal lighting was upgraded years ago. “We practice energy management as much as we can, and with this new project, it’ll certainly be more.”
He also outlined a $2.7 million grant and loan project to facilitate upgrades at the water treatment plant, including transmission line improvements and the installation of a large water storage tank at Wintergreen Park.
A FEMA project is also scheduled to repair Riverfront Park which incurred $120,000 in damages from flooding on Halloween 2019.
Extensive remediation has been completed at the Exit 29 Beech-Nut project and Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the site is under consideration by potential tenants.
“The site right now is completely clean and all we have is demo” left to complete at the Church Street-facing building 17, said Ossenfort.
He explained that a challenge related to the Exit 29 project is that the Incinerator Road bridge — the only means of access to the waste water treatment plant — has been flagged by the Department of Transportation as dangerous. A roadway has been cleared through the Exit 29 site to provide access, though Ossenfort said that prospective buyers may not want a roadway running through their property.
“We just don’t want it to be an impediment to development,” he said.
An important part of the project related to potential bridge repair, he added, will be to “reclaim public access to the creek and Mohawk River,” along with the tourist-attracting Canalway Trail. “It all converges in downtown Canajoharie,” said Ossenfort, noting that a strategy for growth will be to attract visitors to the canal and snowmobile trails.
“The really exciting part about today,” Ossenfort said, “is that we’re at that point now where … there’s some real interest” in the exit 29 project. He said the eastern section of the parcel is close to having tenants, which could happen in the next two months, if not sooner.
“The excitement is not because a building is coming down or asbestos is being taken off the site — the excitement is we’re getting close to putting people to work on this site again, which has been the goal from the beginning,” he said. “This is one of those special projects that everybody gets excited about, including potential tenants that we’ve had on the site recently.”
“The information specifically about the history of Canajoharie, the importance of this village in our region, the history of the Beech-Nut factory and what it can be and what it means for the region, is incredible,” Hinchey said after the meeting. “To be able to be here, safely distanced, but in person and to hear not just the proposal and not just the opportunity, but the passion and excitement too from people in the community, is critical.
“People want it, and the projects that people want are the ones we should be pushing forward and really focusing on,” she said.
Other local representatives in attendance Friday included Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose, several village board members and officials, Canajoharie-Palatine Chamber of Commerce President and Owner of Lee’s Shops at Wagner Square Janet Lee Stanley, Police Chief Bryan MacFadden, DPW Superintendent Jerry Ward, Canajoharie Volunteer Fire Department Chief Frank Nestle, Fulton/Montgomery County Chamber President/CEO Mark Kilmer, District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell, representatives from both Delaware Engineering and the Canajoharie Library and Arkell Museum.