Cobleskill Mayor to lobby supervisors for Butternuts


By Jim Poole

Anyone who wants Butternuts Beer and Ale to buy the old Guilford Mills plant in Cobleskill should be at the Board of Supervisors meeting Friday.
That's what Cobleskill Mayor Mark Galasso is hoping as he plans to ask supervisors to do an about-face with the brewery.
Mayor Galasso will ask supervisors to revisit their stance on a mortgage in the brewery's purchase of the county-owned plant.
"This is a county-wide issue," Mayor Galasso said, pointing to the dozens of jobs the brewery promises to bring in.
"Everyone benefits if it succeeds. Everyone loses if it doesn't. This is win-win or lose-lose."
Cobleskill Partnership Inc. board members agreed Tuesday morning to support Mayor Galasso. (See related story.)
It's unclear whether supervisors would reopen discussion, though board Chairman Phil Skowfoe said he's willing to listen.
Gathering supporters to attend the 9am board meeting in Schoharie, Mayor Galasso will ask supervisors to reconsider their June decision not to take a second-position mortgage on Guilford.
The original deal--signed 18 months ago--would sell county-owned Guilford to Butternuts for $2.5 million. The county would hold the mortgage and Butternuts would have no payments the first three years.
To make improvements at Guilford, Butternuts sought $1.3 million in financing from a bank, which wanted that loan in first position, meaning if the brewery failed, the bank would be paid back first.
Supervisors then refused to have the county mortgage in second position, fearing the risk was too great.
Mayor Galasso hopes to convince them to reconsider.
"You want risk? The county took a risk when they took over property management," he said, referring to the county owning Guilford.
"They took a gamble, and I agree with them. But if you assume the risk to get the reward, you've got to follow through. You can't get cold feet."
Butternuts needed the $1.3 million loan to make improvements for a tenant at Guilford. Wal-Mart was to be a tenant for five months but backed out when the improvements couldn't be done by August 1.
Getting a tenant is a key to the deal because Butternuts won't use the entire plant, Mayor Galasso said.
"To make the deal work, they need to sublet," he said. "They've made it harder for them to complete the deal."
Even if the brewery fails, Mayor Galasso argued, the improvements--if made--make the factory more attractive.
"There's negligible risk," he said. "The increased value offsets the loan risk.
"The county must assume risk to be pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-growth."
Supervisors must first approve a motion to reconsider their June action and then--if it comes to that--agree to put the county's mortgage in second position.
That's unlikely to happen, but not impossible, Mr. Skowfoe said.
"I just don't see it. It's not good fiscal sense," he said. "I've talked to lending institutions, and they think we'd be insane to do it."
On the other hand, Mr. Skowfoe is willing to let Mayor Galasso have his say.
"I listen to everyone," he said. "I'd be remiss if I didn't listen."
Mayor Galasso hopes supporters turn out for the 9am meeting, which is open to the public.
"I've reached out to everyone I know," he said.
Mayor Galasso said he was to seek support from the Cobleskill Village Board Tuesday night.