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The Telegram
  • Who’s responsible for Quackenbush site? Interested parties claim they’re not

  • Two and half years after a $2.5 million state grant was lost, nobody wants to claim responsibility for the former H.M. Quackenbush site. The buildings sit in the center of downtown Herkimer creating an eyesore for many and a legal debacle for others.

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  • Two and half years after a $2.5 million state grant was lost, nobody wants to claim responsibility for the former H.M. Quackenbush site.
    The buildings sit in the center of downtown Herkimer creating an eyesore for many and a legal debacle for others.
    The Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency — the name on the deed — claims name-only title.
    The mortgage holder — Blockworks LLC — denies any responsibility.
    The agency’s executive director, Mark Feane, said determining who is responsible is difficult.
    “That’s been the million-dollar question” he said. “Again, who is?”
    The saga
    H.M. Quackenbush began as an air-pistol, machine-tolls and nickel electroplating manufacturer before metal finishing became its primary business. In 1998, there were 100 employees.
    Determining the ownership dates back to when Quackenbush filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and eventually shut down its operations. About a month after closing, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered toxins and performed a $1.9 million federally funded cleanup that was completed in 2006.
    Feane said that in 1996, the agency set up a 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement. This caused the agency to remain on the title. Typically, he said, when the property tax relief has expired, the name-only title gets transferred back to the property owner.
    “In this case, the company abandoned the facility leaving us with nobody to transfer the title back to,” Feane said.
    In 2008, Blockworks LLC purchased the mortgage on the property with plans to bolster the facility.
    “Our plan was to find a buyer who would rehabilitate the property, take down (buildings) that were necessary to take down and get the property on the tax rolls to be used for what it was built for,” said Bruce Ward, a real estate agent for Blockworks.
    Ward said he’s not responsible for maintenance of the buildings and said he isn’t sure who is.
    “The village seems to think they have responsibility,” he said, referencing the community’s pursuit of a $2.5 million Restore NY grant through the state Empire State Development Corp. in 2009. “They’ve certainly put their finger in the pie several times to act as if they have responsibility.”
    The development agency’s attorney, Michael Stephens, said there’s pending litigation involving the property with the village, county and the development agency.
    He did not comment further.
    Sparking conversation
    While discussions among the interested parties fizzled in 2010, Ward and county Legislator Gary Hartman — who was a village trustee involved in the grant efforts in 2009 — expressed interest in sparking dialogue once again.
    Mayor Mark Ainsworth said Ward reached out to him last week.
    “It is in the center of our town, so we’re certainly willing to sit down with anyone,” Ainsworth said. “I would hope to rehabilitate it so it can be usable again.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Hartman, D-Herkimer, said he has plans to renew the conversation as well.
    “The one reason I got on board was because of walking by there, it bugged me,” he said. “One reason I’m ready to go for it again is because it’s so frustrating that we could have done something and for minor reasons on one person, we couldn’t.”
    Ward said Blockworks was left out of the grant application process, and spoke out against it during a village public hearing.
    Looking to the future, Ward said he’s open to all ideas when it comes to what to do with the property.
    Local business owner Steve Ponte said the best bet would be to knock down all the buildings.
    “For anybody to invest — tear down and start new,” he said.
     

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