No deal for Butternuts


By David Avitabile

The long-vacant Guilford Mills plant is back on the market.
After hearing a plea from John Lorence of Butternuts Beer and Ale for an extension Friday morning, Schoharie County supervisors agreed to put the county-owned Cobleskill facility back up for sale.
Treasurer Bill Cherry will be heading the marketing effort.
Butternuts officials agreed to buy the plant nearly two years ago for $2.5 million.
It appeared that a closing was all set for this week, but two New Jersey investors needed more time to review details, especially surrounding a possible tax-free status under the state's new Start Up program.
Supervisors, who gave Butternuts until October 18, to close on the purchase, discussed and debated the issue and then voted to put the former factory back on the market.
A subsequent motion to extend the purchase agreement to January 15, 2014 was defeated.
The property is now open for all potential buyers, including Butternuts, though the contract agreed to in 2011 is no longer on the table.
Citing how close the deal was to completion, Mr. Lorence pushed supervisors for an extension Friday morning.
"I stand here today deeply disappointed with the actions taken by the Schoharie Board of Supervisors. After witnessing activities of this board over the past 12 months, I have come to realize the board does not comprehend the breadth and depth of this re-development project."
The project has been misunderstood, he explained.
"This is not, nor has ever been a purchase deal; it has always been a re-development project."
Butternuts was taking over a building larger than it needed to bring in multiple businesses to create many jobs, he added.
"If we work together, this troubled property located in a beleaguered community can become a job creator and bright spot for a county that had had more than its fair share of distress."
The project was a marathon, but is almost done, Mr. Lorence told supervisors.
Bob Mann of Blenheim responded that the board has given Butternuts a lengthy extension.
"Why now should we be willing to extend" again?, he asked Mr. Lorence.
He pushed Mr. Lorence on how long it would take for everything to be finalized.
Dates and deadlines are detriments, Mr. Lorence answered.
The company, he noted, has not stood in the way of any other potential buyers.
"We will not stand in your way."
Mr. Mann wondered if the county could enter into an agreement with Butternuts for a fixed deadline.
"We're willing to work together as a partnership," Mr. Lorence said.
Gene Milone of Schoharie pushed for the property to be put back on the market.
Noting that the county has already gone past the deadline that Butternuts had agreed to in the spring, Mr. Milone made a motion that Guilford Mills sale be turned over to the Treasurer for marketing.
Butternuts officials can still buy the plant, supervisors noted.
"If they have the necessary funding, no one's going to turn them away," Mr. Milone added.
Before the vote, Mr. Lorence asked that the current agreement be left on the table.
Mr. Cherry countered that keeping the current purchase agreement in place would "tie his hands" and he could not market the property with that in place.
"I have to be able to start fresh," Mr. Cherry noted. "We do have options. I'm optimistic."
The property, which has basically been left vacant since Guilford Mills left in the end of 2001, has essentially been off the market for four of five years, Mr. Cherry continued.
An ill-fated potential sale to Intelligent Fish preceded this current proposed sale.
A "sale pending" sign has discouraged realtors from bringing in any other buyers, noted Sandy Manko of Sharon.
Tom Murray of Cobleskill argued that the plant has been on the market throughout.
"This has always been for sale. It's always been on the market."
The property was poorly marketed by the county's real estate agent, Carl Barbic of Seward told supervisors.
He also questioned the tax-free status sought by the company calling it an effort to "fool people to think it's going to be the greatest thing in the world."
Seven supervisors agreed to put the vacant plant back on the market, four voted against the motion and three were absent. There is no supervisor from Wright at the county level.
Voting against the motion to put Guilford back on the market were Mr. Mann, Mr. Murray, Dan Singletary of Jefferson, and Harold Vroman of Summit.
A motion by Mr. Murray to extend the agreement to January 15 was defeated. Those supervisors who voted against putting the former factory on the market voted in favor of extending the agreement.