Following a tour and assurances that things would look a lot different by spring, the Schoharie County IDA Wednesday gave Imperial Baths owner and developer Sharon Springs Inc. a six-month extension on a sales tax break.
Under a June 2016 agreement with the IDA, SSI is exempt from some sales and use taxes.
That agreement actually expired this June; in September Project Manager John Kim asked the IDA to extend the exemption to the end of 2019.
The extension granted Wednesday only runs through March 31, 2019.
“Then, in the spring, we can sit down and see where things are at,” said IDA member Joe Trapani of Sharon, “Whether there’s any additional financing. That we’re all doing what we should be doing.”
If things look good then. Mr. Trapani suggested, the IDA could consider another six-month extension or even another year.
SSI had hoped to have the Imperial Baths rehabbed and reopened as a Korean-style spa by this past summer, but problems with its bank, general contractors and shoddy work and lawsuits, along with the difficulty and requirements of restoring historic buildings has slowed the process considerably, Mr. Kim told the IDA members as they toured the site.
Now, they’re on track to finish the work by the end of 2019, he said, “As long as we don’t have to stop again. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
Even if the bank troubles remain, owner Q Sung Cho has enough of his own financing to move the project into the spring, Mr. Kim said.
“We’re close. Mr. Cho is adamant about pursuing this project,” he said.
Mr. Kim said SSI has hired a full-time on-site construction manager to better oversee things.
From Main Street, it’s hard to see the progress SSI has made, but as he took the IDA through the building and out on to the grounds at the rear, Mr. Kim pointed to site work along Brimstone Creek that’s created natural waterfalls, a new roof and windows on the Imperial Baths, and cement pads enclosing piping and mechanicals.
Wednesday, crews were also working on the Sulphur Temple, a village icon.
Saving it has been a condition of the village’s support, said Mayor Doug Plummer.
Still one of the project’s biggest cheerleaders, Mayor Plummer told the IDA that DEC had surprised the village—lead agency on a $1 million Restore NY grant for the project—and SSI with an inspection just a few days ago “and they were very pleased with what they saw here.”
Following the tour, Mayor Plummer talked about the village’s support of the project and the impact it and the 100,000 visitors annually it projects could make in the village.
“We all know it’s been staggering around for 12 years,” he said, “but once Mr. Cho got control, things really started moving. We constantly hear ‘It’s not going to happen,’ but the village is very committed to helping out in any way it can.”
A little more cautious, Deputy Mayor Denise Kelly acknowledged the almost-daily questions she gets, “But from what we’re able to witness, there has been continued progress.”
After the IDA approved the six-month sales tax exemption extension, Mr. Kim said he’s confident he’ll have good news—and something to show—when they meet again in March to review it.
“I’m confident I’ll be able to tell you where the funding is coming from and the construction deadline,” he said.
“I’m excited that next time you come, I’ll be able to show you some progress. I’m sure a lot of things will be done.”