If brew deal fails, county says it still has options
By Jim Poole
Schoharie County still has other choices if the sale of the former Guilford Mills plant to a brewery falls flat.
Although there's still hope for the long-awaited deal for Butternuts Brewery and Long House Holdings to buy the plant, the county is looking at other options.
One option may be to have Treasurer Bill Cherry try to sell the property.
With negotiations having already gone 18 months, chances for the sale waned earlier in March when county supervisors balked at holding a second mortgage on Guilford.
Long House spokesman John Lawrence responded by saying the sale had a 10-percent chance of going through, and supervisors relented a bit by extending the sale deadline to October 15.
But some involved believe that even with the extension, the sale to Long House won't happen.
Mr. Cherry is one of those.
He feels supervisors did the right thing by not agreeing to hold a second mortgage because it's too much financial risk for the county. He also agreed with the deadline extension.
"I just don't think it's going to happen," Mr. Cherry said, "and that's based on John Lawrence's own assessment."
The county's Planning and Development Agency has been marketing Guilford for four years, including negotiating with Long House. If this deal fails, Mr. Cherry would like to try to sell it.
As Treasurer, he's sold many properties at tax sales.
"If six more months make a difference and the sale goes through, fine," he said. "If not, we walk away from it.
"To be honest, give me a shot at it. I've sold a lot of properties, and I can sell one more."
If he were the county's representative, Mr. Cherry would seek a larger down payment than the $5,000 Long House paid on the agreed $2.5 million sale price.
Also, Mr. Cherry would demand a firm closing date instead of the extensions the county's given Long House.
Mr. Cherry said he'd aggressively market Guilford "and reach out to people who have shown an interest in it before," including a food production business and an unnamed large regional firm.
And if there were no buyers in six months, Mr. Cherry would auction the plant, believing he could get "a couple of million" for the factory.
County Planning Director Alicia Terry isn't ready quit on Long House. She believes the county should hold the second mortgage the brewery requested to help the deal along.
"Yes, there's risk, but there's accountability and risk on both sides," Ms. Terry said.
"My goal is to keep this deal alive," and Long House is the best opportunity to bring jobs and economic activity, she argued.
Schoharie County has no other suitors for the plant, Ms. Terry said; conversely, "they have other options," including possibilities in Oneonta and Johnstown.
"It all depends on what may or may not happen between now and October 15," she said.
"As long as we maintain communications and not slam the door, they still want to work with us."
Board of Supervisors Chairman Phil Skowfoe and a sizable bloc of supervisors agree with Mr. Cherry that the county shouldn't hold the second mortgage.
"If this sale can happen, fine," Mr. Skowfoe said. "I don't think the county should hold the mortgage and give away our options. It's not fair to the taxpayers."
But Mr. Skowfoe also believes the county should move quickly if the Long House sale fails.
"It has to go to auction," he said. "The county can't afford to hang on to it."