County to get $2.9 million in eco development $


By Patsy Nicosia

Christmas came Thursday for a half-dozen local municipalities and organizations when they learned they'd share $2.9 million in state economic development grants.
Sharon Springs Inc, which was awarded $1 million to restore the Columbia Hotel, was by far the biggest winner in the Regional Economic Development Council competition.
But other significant grants also went to the Villages of Schoharie, Richmondville, and Cobleskill, and to the Cobleskill Agricultural Society.
"It was all about jobs, jobs, jobs," said Sharon Springs Mayor Doug Plummer, who was among those in Albany when Governor Cuomo announced matching grants totaling $700 million.
"We're absolutely thrilled for Sharon Springs Inc. and what their project will mean to this entire region. They're talking 30-50 jobs and we have the people to fill them."
In June, SSI held a ribbon-cutting to kick off the restoration of the Imperial Baths, a $9.1 million project funded in part by a $1 million Restore New York grant and a $5 million Small Business Administration loan.
The Imperial Baths renovations are projected to be completed in December 2017; winter will be the spa's busy season.
Kevin Lee, project manager for SSI, said work at the Columbia will begin in the spring; they're also in the process of applying for a SBA loan, he said.
Mayor Plummer said SSI's award was a little bittersweet for the village, which wasn't successful in its own application for funding for the water and sewer improvements needed, in part, to service the new spas.
"But we're looking again at other possible sources of funding," he said. "Maybe SSI's REDC grant will be the piece that finally makes that click."
In Richmondville, Mayor Kevin Neary was working in New York City when he got a text telling him to check his email.
When he did, he found the village has been awarded $598,000 for water main replacements, $37,500 to help construct a trail from Radez Elementary to Dollar General, and $23,750 to inventory its infrastructure for a total of $659,250.
"It was a very pleasant surprise," Mayor Neary said, especially the $598,000 in funding that will allow the village to complete Phase 2 of upgrading its 1956 water distribution system along River Street to its wastewater treatment plant.
"This-all of it-is going to help us move into the future. It will mean a total upgrade."
In Schoharie, $382,288 will help the village move ahead with plans to create a multi-use trail along the Schoharie Creek, where there will be two trailheads with parking, a canoe and kayak launch, a nature trail and more.
"I never thought we'd see this in my lifetime," said Village Trustee Larry Caza, who gave consultant Nan Stolzenburg and the group she worked with credit for securing the grant.
"I've lived here for years and I've never been on the creek," he said. "We don't have access. Now that we will, this opens up so many possibilities," including a link to an even more ambitious trail SALT is pursuing.
Mr. Caza said the village expects to hear by spring whether it's also secured a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, money that would provide the final piece of the funding.
"All in all, it's one more thing to let us know we're recovering," he said.
A $24,000 grant to help create a commercial kitchen at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds may be one of the more interesting projects funded.
Cobleskill Agricultural Society Treasurer and Director Brendan Becker, who wrote the grant, said the kitchen could be rented out for events like on-site weddings as well as to farmers looking for a Department of Health-approved facility for processing their products.
Mr. Becker said they've been talking with the Cobleskill Fire Department about the possibility of combining the kitchen with a renovation of their booth at the Fairgrounds, something that could help in "matching" the grant.
"It's exciting," said Fair President Doug Cater. "Even though it's a small project, it's a way to increase revenue and bring more people to the area-something we're always looking at."