Fulton doling out more money for Nestle site

The Fulton Common Council Tuesday approved spending another $100,000 to have local contractor Rowlee Construction Inc. clear debris from the former Nestle site. Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the first $100,000 approved last month would likely run out today. Pictured above is the northwest corner of the 24-acre site Aldi agreed to purchase from the city in 2015. 

FULTON — Fulton officials approved spending another $100,000 to clear debris from the former Nestle site to pave the way for a future Aldi grocery store.

The Fulton Common Council hired local contractor Rowlee Construction Inc. last month to clean up debris left at the site by Infinity Enterprises — the initial contractor hired in 2015 who backed out of the demolition earlier this month — in an effort to prepare the site for Aldi, which is slated to begin construction on a new store later this year.

In May, officials approved spending no more than $100,000 to clear the site for Aldi, but said the contract could be extended with further council approval.

Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the first $100,000 approved May 18 would likely run out today, prompting the decision to authorize another expenditure of $100,000. Rowlee began working at the site May 26 after receiving approval from the state Department of Labor. 

“We capped it not to exceed $100,000 and he’s going to hit that,” Woodward said. “We want to keep him going while he’s got all the equipment there.”

City officials initially estimated the project would take at least two weeks to complete, and the mayor said he believed it would take approximately another week to have the Aldi site cleared and ready for construction.

“Probably around Wednesday or Thursday we’ll be far enough along on the portion of the Nestle site where Aldi wants to go that we can tape it off and their contractor will come in and start prepping their site for construction,” Woodward said.

The former Nestle site has sat mostly vacant since the company closed the factory in 2003. The city didn’t acquire the property through tax foreclosure until 2015.

In October 2015, Infinity Enterprises agreed to demolish the buildings at no charge, but secured the rights to all salvageable materials on site. City officials have said the company suffered major financial losses on that deal before backing out in early May.

Woodward has said Infinity removed 75 percent of the buildings and asbestos before leaving the site.

Council President Dave Ritchie, C-2nd Ward, who wasn’t on the council when it hired Infinity, commended the past council for “stepping up and trying to do something.”

Ritchie said he would likely have come to the same decision and tried to have the demolition done with as little cost to the city as possible.

“Unfortunately some things didn’t work out and we’re going to have to make some other decisions, but we need to get that property taken care of, get it on the tax rolls and get it developed,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie said the city is likely to incur further costs, but the demolition is something city officials need to see through.

Woodward said the council took some risks deciding to demolish the former Nestle buildings, but added the city is further ahead now than many other New York cities saddled with vacant manufacturing buildings.

“One of the reasons nobody does anything with them is because of what you’ve seen since we started — the frustration, the criticism,” Woodward said. “But that’s not a reason to stick it with future generations.”

Woodward doesn’t believe the city made a mistake hiring Infinity. He said the other contractor that bid on the project in 2015 bid $3.8 million, and he feels there would have been a number of change orders that increased costs due to the discovery of asbestos containing materials not listed on the original survey.

“Now we’ll find out what it costs to get the other four (buildings) down,” Woodward said. “I still think we’re going to be under what the high bid was significantly when we’re done.”

Rowlee is tasked with clearing the debris from the site, and city leaders say another contract will be awarded to demolish the remaining buildings after the Aldi site is prepared.

Rowlee is charging $4,627.50 per day, plus $103.50 per hour for the use of 10-wheeled hauling trucks and $138 per hour for 18-wheeled haulers.

In addition to hiring Rowlee, the city will also be required to pay tipping fees at the county landfill and for air monitoring due to the remaining asbestos on site.

City officials have asked the Oswego County Legislature to grant a discount on tipping fees to help alleviate some of the disposal costs. Much of the debris from the site is considered asbestos containing material, and disposal costs are nearly double that of normal construction and demolition debris.

Members of the county Infrastructure, Facilities and Technology Committee unanimously approved the discount last week, but the measure would still need to be approved by the full legislature June 15.

Officials plan to pay for Rowlee’s work using part of $700,000 in bonds the council issued in March for the demolition of various city-owned buildings.

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