Charity storage site poses Cobleskill business conflict
Old mill proposed as brewery location
COBLESKILL Tons of furniture, clothing, housewares and appliances, most of it used, still sit in neat rows inside the former Guilford Mills factory building in Cobleskill, part of a massive collection of donations offered for victims of Tropical Storm Irene.
Outside, roughly 35 FEMA trailers sit in neat rows, taking up thousands of square feet of parking space.
Schoharie County officials are now contemplating what to do with it all, even as flood victims browse to find goods for their newly rebuilt homes, because the county at long last has a chance to sell the massive site.
Esperance Supervisor Earl Van Wormer told the county’s Board of Supervisors on Friday that Long House Holdings principals are growing concerned with the fact that the grounds outside is encumbered by a lease with FEMA to store the disaster housing units, and inside, the building is packed with 18 months worth of good will.
Some of the goods donated for Irene victims are beginning to be sent downstate for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The County Board on Friday agreed to make contact with FEMA and Schoharie Area Long Term, or SALT, the organization that’s coordinating flood recovery in the valley, and begin dialogue on clearing Guilford for sale.
Long House Holdings LLC, a sister company to Butternuts Beer & Ale in Otsego County, is in line for $750,000 in state economic development assistance to develop a brewery.
The 460,000 square-foot facility, shut down in 2001, could become the workplace for 100 people if the deal goes through. The company is tentatively scheduled to close on the $2.5 million purchase in late May or early June.
Planning Director Alicia Terry said the facility’s status as a storm-relief depot can be of concern to banks and others as the company pursues investors.
Currently, two Schoharie County sheriff’s deputies are paid to guard the site and make sure nobody makes off with the FEMA trailers. The sheriff’s current contract, which has been renewed several times, expires at the end of March.
SALT director Sarah Goodrich later Friday said the donation center has always been on tentative status, knowing that the facility was up for sale. She said she expects discussions to take place on either keeping the donation center active where it is or finding another site.
Those goods are still needed and people continue to come into the center. Currently, they are mostly flood victims who have completed rebuilding their homes but have nothing inside them.
At the donation center, VISTA volunteer Lovey Lee, a former local radio personality, continues to help people find items they need. She and two other volunteers run the unheated site.
It recently supplied several tractor-trailer loads of items like flood cleanup kits, bottled water, mops and building supplies to downstate residents. Goodrich said the delivery to Sandy victims was made possible with the help of staff at the state Comptroller’s Office under a relationship that started when Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli arrived with a crew to help clean up after Tropical Storm Irene.
Lee, who is stationed at the donation center, was prompted to volunteer by the flood’s impact to her 78-year-old mother’s Middleburgh home.
“She lost everything,” Lee said.
For now, she said the group of volunteers intends to continue taking in goods and sending them out to the needy until a decision to do otherwise is made.
“We’ve served over 500 families in the last six months,” Lee said.
Lee said people who need items for their home can send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.