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What you need to know for 08/18/2017

Great Flats preserve in Rotterdam to expand

Great Flats preserve in Rotterdam to expand

Edmund and Josephine Kriunas died more than a decade ago, but the rotted homes they left behind stil

Edmund and Josephine Kriunas died more than a decade ago, but the rotted homes they left behind still stand today near the entrance to the Great Flats Nature Trail.

The husband and wife left no known heirs when they died a year apart from one another. And the structures they owned were anything but desirable — one of the homes was reportedly used as a dog kennel before town officials had it condemned in 2000.

Since that time, the homes have been left open to the elements and become a haven for interlopers. One of the structures — a historic Dutch colonial — was further damaged during a series of arson fires set by former a Schonowee volunteer firefighter around the 67-acre Great Flats preserve.

But sometime this summer, the sad legacy of sagging buildings the couple left behind will be demolished so that the 5.8-acre property can be added to the sprawling nearby preserve. County officials foreclosed on the property and are now poised to start a $70,000 demolition project to clear the land, which rests just beyond the parking area for the trail head on West Campbell Road.

“We are going to dedicate it as parkland and transfer it to the town of Rotterdam,” County Attorney Chris Gardner said last week.

Half of the demolition cost will be covered through an environmental benefits project fund. Ray Gillen, the county’s commissioner of Economic Development and Planning, said the funding had to be specifically earmarked for a project to improve the environment and was subject to review by the DEC.

“We had to find a project like this that met their requirements,” he said. “This did.”

The county Legislature’s committee on Environmental Conservation and Parks favors the project. The full Legislature is expected to adopt a resolution approving the demolition of the Dutch colonial and an adjacent brick ranch house this week.

Edmund Kriunas apparently bought the Dutch colonial home from the state just prior to the construction of Interstate 890 during the 1970s and had the structure moved to his property. The couple lived in relative anonymity until paramedics discovered the condition of the older home when the husband fell ill in May of 2000.

Amid the garbage stuffed in the debris-choked home, code enforcers discovered 55-gallon drums containing various liquids, including human and animal feces. Town officials contemplated demolishing the home, but decided hire a company to cleanup the mess and bill the couple instead.

But the husband died less than two months after being moved from the home. His wife died almost exactly a year after her husband’s death, leaving no heirs and their blighted property in legal limbo.

The already sagging Dutch colonial was further damaged when former firefighter James Devine lit fire to the structure near its rear entrance. Devine was later convicted of the arson and served five years in prison before being paroled in 2010.

Former Republican Supervisor Steve Tommasone discussed acquiring the property to add to the nature trail. County officials were hesitant to help the effort, citing a failed Republican plan to develop a recreation center near the nature trail in 2006.

The county also declined to take ownership of the property because of asbestos contamination in one of the buildings. Gardner said they wanted to devise a way to clear the property without leaving taxpayers entirely on the hook for the expense.

“We didn’t want to take title to it until we had the game plan to limit our liability on this,” he said.

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