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Officials undecided on $360,000 grant for GM site

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MASSENA - Officials are undecided on the future of a $360,000 state grant intended to help redevelop the General Motors-Powertrain site.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the Brownfield Opportunity Area grant for Massena in March. The funding is part of $3.45 million earmarked for 15 communities across the state. The Massena grant will be used for a 485-acre area, including the 220-acre GM property, state officials previously said. St. Lawrence County and the town of Massena jointly applied for the planning and marketing grant over a year ago.

The county had originally planned to create a local development corporation, an entity which could market and sell the site, with the funds, Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said.

But after the county applied, the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Trust (RACER) assumed ownership and began marketing the site on its own. RACER has already created a marketing document for the site and distributes it at trade shows.

“All these tasks we identified which we were going to do are already done,” Ms. St. Hilaire said.

The county and town don’t want to send the money back, Ms. St. Hilaire said.

“To do that would be a waste of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “No one wants to give back the $360,000.”

At the recent North Country Redevelopment Task Force meeting, Peter Walsh of the state Department of State reassured officials the grant could be repurposed. The town and county could use the funds to market other nearby areas, he said.

“What do you have happening on the properties adjacent to the GM site?” he asked. “You could be looking at sites of concern that are strategic that are within the vicinity of the GM site.”

“We make every attempt to work with the grantee to specify the work plan so it’s hitting the mark,” he added. “We certainly don’t want to be reinventing anything. We want it to bring value and advance your objectives of redevelopment.” Mr. Walsh said the money could also be used to fill in any gaps in the existing marketing plan for the GM site. Ms. St. Hilaire said she was also examining whether the money could be repurposed to enhance infrastructure on the GM parcel.

“The grant is changing completely,” she said. “It’s very organic and very different than what we applied for.”

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he wanted to make sure all parties interested in the GM site were on the same page before the BOA grant was spent.

St. Regis Mohawk Chief Ronald W. Lafrance previously said that government was interested in redeveloping the site. But the Mohawk Council withdrew its participation at task force meetings several months ago, and RACER will not confirm or deny the government’s interest.

The town and county should find out more about RACER and the tribal council’s intentions before they proceed, he said.

“I’m not quite sure how we proceed with some of the BOA stuff until we know who some of the players are,” he said.

RACER Assistant Redevelopment Manager Patricia Spitzley said using the BOA grant will be a good investment.

“I think you guys are on the right track in looking at the BOA grant,” she said. “Whatever you do only increases the marketability of all the properties in ... Massena.”

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