Montgomery County officials surprise Minden supervisor with clean-up

Minden Supervisor Cheryl Reese speaks with Montgomery County Public Works Commissioner Eric Mead on Tuesday at the old site of the Minden municipal complex, which was reduced to ash after a blaze and is in the process of cleanup.

Minden Supervisor Cheryl Reese speaks with Montgomery County Public Works Commissioner Eric Mead on Tuesday at the old site of the Minden municipal complex, which was reduced to ash after a blaze and is in the process of cleanup.

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MINDEN — Less than a month ago, Minden Supervisor Cheryl Reese was taken aback as she watched two-thirds of the town municipal complex reduced to ash. But this time, she saw progress.

And it was also a surprise.

“It takes a fire to get you here,” Reese joked with open arms Tuesday morning as she bee-lined toward Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort and county Public Works Commissioner Eric Mead. “Oh my God.”

“Well, you should hug him first,” Ossenfort said, hinting to Mead.

Montgomery County DPW, the state Department of Transportation, four nearby counties and two towns removed much of the remaining rubble that morning. Only the since-condemned town court and clerk’s office had been spared from the Dec. 18 fire.

Hoping to surprise Reese, who also works as clerk for the Montgomery County Legislature, officials spent a week coordinating the cleanup.

She didn’t need to know before Tuesday, said Highway Superintendent Joe Hanifin, who knew about it. 

“She shouldn’t,” Hanifin said. “She’s got so much going on.”

The multi-agency effort reminded the Ossenfort of teams cleaning up Fort Plain after flood waters devastated the village during a 2015 storm.

“It’s going to be a long-term process, but it takes a lot of little days like today to get there,” Ossenfort said. “And we all help each other out. That’s the one thing I love about my job is just to see the way the different municipalities and community members come together.”

After flames ripped through the town’s highway department fleet, Montgomery County, Oppenheim, Richfield, Canajoharie, Cherry Valley and Root loaned vehicles and equipment to Minden. Adjacent Herkimer County towns Danube and Stark are covering snowy roads on Minden’s behalf.

Three charred remains cannot be removed from the premises until fire investigators fully close the case. New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal gave Minden the greenlight to start removing non-suspect scraps last week.

“To be a month into a fire and to have three quarters of it cleared up, I think we’re doing something,” Reese said. “We have a long road ahead of us to get to the point where we can rebuild.”

Town officials await $891,000 in the first round of insurance rollouts and a monetary return on scraps sold to Tri-City Recycling in Schenectady. The full cost of damage hasn’t yet been determined. 

Due to fire and smoke damage, the remainder of the Minden facility will eventually be torn down. Reese doesn’t expect the town to make headway on reconstruction efforts until at least 2024.

Offices for the town clerk and assessor on Jan. 3 moved into the village of Nelliston’s municipal building, a space offered by Mayor Debra Gros in the immediate aftermath of the blaze. The Highway Department has operated out of a trailer outside the municipal building since late December.

“This is working in the sense that this would work quickly for them, but they need a garage,” said Reese. “”It’s kind of not the best of conditions.”

Reese aims to lease garage space from Fuccillo Chevrolet of Nelliston for the Highway Department within six to eight months. He’ll also need to find space for town offices. A rental agreement resolution could be up for vote at the Town Board’s Jan. 19 meeting, according to the town supervisor. 

The town is legally bound to keep meetings and court operations within jurisdiction. Both functions are currently held out of the Fort Plain Senior Center.

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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