35 DISCUSS DISTRIBUTION CENTER
On Schenevus’ Door
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
SCHENEVUS – Since the news broke on AllOTSEGO.com Thursday, Jan. 26, companies seeking distribution-center sites have already begun calling county Rep. Peter Oberacker to express interest, he told the 35 people who packed the Maryland Town Board’s meeting room this evening.
“We’ve been contacted,” said Oberacker, the Republican who represents the towns of Maryland, Worcester, Westford and Decatur. “Nobody’s committed, but we’ve been contacted.”
Still, he encouraged people not to get too excited yet about development of the 170-acre site on the east end of this hamlet at the I-88 exit, which could bring an estimated 250 to 500 jobs here. “It’s not going to be all unicorns and rainbows,” he said.
But upbeat townspeople were having none of it at the lighthearted 90-minute meeting, where attendees eagerly blue-skied about what might be.
If 300 tractor-trailers will be going in and out of the site, why not attracted a Truck Stops of America complex? Why not a nice restaurant? Why not a Stewart’s?
How about sprucing up the existing Mirabito’s now? Town Board member Brian Bookhout asked Bill Mirabito, one of the company’s principals, who attended to tell the town, if it needs natural gas, his firm stands ready to provide it.
When Town Supervisor Harold Palmer noted John Tauzel, who rents the acreage from NYSEG retiree Ron Kinch, “is not going to have the fields to grow corn on anymore,” the farmer replied, “and I’m not going to have any rocks to pull off them either.” The crowd laughed.
“I will not miss picking those rocks,” said Tauzel, a past veteran school board member. “I give Mr. Kinch a lot of credit,” adding, “if this is an opportunity for Ron, I’m all for it.”
At the outset, Palmer said he met last Thursday, Feb. 2, with Sandy Mathes, CEO of Otsego Now, the county’s economic-development arm that is initiating the undertaking, and that Mathes will attend the next town board meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday the 20th. Given the capacity crowd this evening, that meeting may have to be in a larger venue, he said.
In Mathes’ absence, Oberacker, who served as town supervisor before joining the county board a year ago Jan. 1, took the floor and – as the official who originally recognized the Kinch site’s possibilities – shared what he knew, observing that, in addition to contacts from businesses, “I’ve been getting inundated with calls and e-mails (from residents) – some good, some not so good. But it’s started some people thinking about things.”
He continued, “if this bring 100 jobs” – or 50 or five – “into the town, I’d be excited. Let’s say, there’s an opportunity for more than five and less than 500.”
While “we’ve never used this corridor for the transportation of goods,” he continued, “I think it’s got a lot of promise.” He pointed out the site is four hours or so from Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and I-88 is a logical connector.
Mega-retailers – like Walmart in Sharon Springs or Target outside Amsterdam – typically look to construct a one-million-square-foot building, which requires about 100 acres, so the Kinch property would be more than adequate, he reported.
Oberacker recounted that, as town supervisor, he recognized the site’s possibilities and made a pitch several years ago to Dick’s Sporting Good, then looking for land. The company picked a site near Binghamton, but encouraged the town official, adding that the site must be “shovel ready” to attract a purchaser.
In his meeting with Mathes, Palmer said he asked him that plans be put in place to train young people who may not want to go to college in such skills as operating a forklift so they could qualify for distribution jobs and stay in the area.
He also asked that Otsego Now help the town identify and develop sites along Route 7 for subsidiary development – like the truck stop, for instance – that might be spawned.
And he engaged with audience members about the need to begin enforcing county codes to upgrade properties in the hamlet, and to work on clearing up the ruins resulting from a couple of recent fires. Otherwise, people will say, “I want to work here, but I don’t want to live here.”
The SEQR process – the state’s environmental review of the property – is scheduled to start March 1, but he reported the town this must upgrade its comprehensive master plan, which dates back to the 1990s, to make it eligible for state grants to prepare the site. Mathes has said that Elan Planning of Saratoga Springs, which helped Cooperstown and Richfield Springs update their plans, will also lead the process here.