Troubled waters for Intelligent Fish


By David Avitabile

The sale of the former Guilford Mills plant to Intelligent Fish will happen by June 1 or not at all.
Schoharie County supervisors, who had hoped for a March 1 closing, on Tuesday directed the county attorney to write a letter to representatives of the fish-farming company that “time is now of the essence” and a closing has to take place by June 1.
If there has been no closing by that time, the county will consider the contract null and void, and the company’s $50,000 down payment will be turned over to the county Treasurer’s Office.
Progress has been slow since company representatives agreed to buy the Cobleskill plant last fall for $2.5 million and put down a $50,000 deposit.
Supervisors had initially hoped for a February 14 closing before it was revised to March.
There has been some movement, said Alicia Terry, the head of the county’s planning department, but county officials are worried because the sale is “not moving as rapidly as everyone would have liked.”
The company, expected to provide at least 75 jobs, still has not submitted applications to the village or town planning boards and she has not seen an environmental reviews, she said.
“That will generate some concerns,” she said of the delays.
Intelligent Fish officials were surprised at the county’s actions.
They believed the county would extend the closing time by 100 to 200 days so the company could get the permits and financial details in order, said Dan Smith of Equiventure Capital of New York City, which is working with Intelligent Fish on opening a plant.
“We were surprised that the county wanted to expedite the closing.”
If the June 1 deadline remains “there’s no way” there will be a closing, he said Monday, because of the permitting and water rights issues, Mr. Smith said.
“We’re not sure why the county is trying to force the closing. I was under the impression we had all this worked out and we were going in the right direction.”
There have been ongoing discussions, he said, between the attorney for Intelligent Fish and county attorney Michael West.
Daniel McVeigh of Intelligent Fish also expressed surprise at the county’s decision but thinks a deal can still happen.
“We were shocked,” he said at finding out about the county’s decision. “We were absolutely speechless.”
Company officials have gotten two permits and are only waiting for specifications for several others, he said.
“We’re working with diligence on our end to reduce the time line…We’re trying like hell to turn it around,” Mr. McVeigh said.
The closing can still happen though it may not occur before June 1, he added Monday.
“For them to throw us out now doesn’t make any sense for anyone.”
Adding that Intelligent Fish may need more time, Mr. McVeigh added, “They have to work with us. That [the deadline] was very harsh. They have to be a little patient at the end.”
Although county supervisors may be concerned about the company’s money, officials will get the proof of funds to the county as soon as possible, Mr. McVeigh said.
In addition to the permitting and water issues, there are several problems with the building itself, Mr. Smith said.
The building, he said, was allowed to sit idle and there are several repairs that must be done before the company could move in.
A structural issue must be repaired at a cost of up to $800,000, he said.
In addition much of the roof on the main building needs to be replaced, which would cost about $250,000. In addition, the risers and sprinkler system was allowed to freeze during the winter and would cost about $200,000 to repair. A missing electrical transformer will cost $200,000 to $300,000 to replace.
It would cost “well over $1 million to bring the building up to code, Mr. Smith said.
There were discussions that the company would do the repairs in exchange for an offset on the purchase price.
He noted that the company offered an additional $500,000 for water rights but nothing had been approved.