CANAJOHARIE -- Montgomery County is poised to demolish the eastern half of the former Beech-Nut baby food plant in Canajoharie at a cost of $953,000.
Tuesday night the Economic Development Planning Committee of the County Legislature voted unanimously to hire Binghamton-based demolition contractor Gorick to take down the remaining structures on the eastern half of the 29-acre site. The company will also remove asbestos and other debris from from the entire location.
The county and the village have received a combined $6.5 million in state grants, plus a $300,000 grant from National Grid, to redevelop the location.
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the original estimates for the eastern side demolition were $2 million. He said Buffalo-based LiRo Engineers, whom the county hired for $475,000 in July, wrote the bid specifications for the demolition, and Gorick came in at the best price.
County officials said LiRo was chosen from among the 12 firms that bid on the engineering study because of the work the company did on the 800,000-square-foot Spaulding Fibre site in Tonawanda.
Ossenfort said saving money on the demolition has freed up more funding for redeveloping the site. "Because of the time of the year, and the visibility of the project, we received over 10 bids. It was a very competitive process, so we secured the lowest bid for under $1 million. That really frees up money for the western side of the site," he said.
Ossenfort said he's excited about the possibilities for rehabilitating the location.
"For example, right now we're conducting a traffic study, a bridge study of the bridge over there that provides access to the sewer plant. We're assessing the water way, to see if we can get small kayaks and boats up that as part of the overall site plan. We can potentially use some of the restore NY money to solve drainage issues on the site, so to have that extra money to use for some things on the west side is about as good a news as we could hope for," he said.
Rehabilitation of the former plant, long the heart of the village of Canajoharie, has been a priority economic development project for Montgomery County. Beech-Nut's parent corporation, Switzerland-based Hero Group, relocated the company to a new plant in the town of Florida Business Park in 2010. It eventually sold the old plant to a series of owners that removed valuable metals and left an asbestos-filled mess behind, plus unpaid taxes.
After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the asbestos clean-up lean against the property, the county was able foreclose on it in 2017.
Originally, Montgomery County had hoped to begin demolition at the site by November of last year. County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said one holdup for the project has been getting all of the necessary approvals from New York's State Historic Preservation Office. He said the Beech-Nut plant was originally built in the late 19th century and is what he called a state "historic zone, so the agency has to sign off on any demolition or changes to the property. He said the county is now going through the same process for the western part of the site, where the office building part of the plant was located.
"Actually, all of the village of Canajoharie is the historic zone," Rose said.
The county plans to restore some of the buildings on the western part of the site.
County officials said they expect the demolition of the eastern part of the site will be done by May. Rose said the county is marketing that end of the location for a private sector development project.
Rose said it remains uncertain what Montgomery County will do with the western side of the former plant. He said the determinations made by State Historic Preservation Office over the next several months will guide the potential reuses for the western side.