FULTON, NY – As concerned community members question the status of demolition at the former Nestle site and ALDI Inc.’s plan to potentially bring a food store to Fulton, city leaders shared some disconcerting news on Tuesday (June 3).
“The property owner is AWOL,” Mayor Ron Woodward said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “He won’t answer any calls. … ALDI’s still says they’re going through with it.”
The mayor made his remarks in response to questions posed during the Common Council regular meeting public session by Oswego County Legislator Frank Castiglia, D-Fulton, about the former Nestle site and ALDI’s plan to bring a food store to the city of Fulton.
Castiglia said he has received calls from residents in the neighborhood who are concerned that there does not appear to be any activity going on at the site now, nor has there been since the onset of winter.
While several buildings have already been razed, more are in the state of partial demolition, and others are still standing on the site of the former chocolate manufacturing facility.
Much of the protective plastic attached to perimeter fencing was dislocated over the winter months, exposing the piles of rubble on the site.
Woodward said during a council meeting in April that he had been in contact with Edward Palmer, president of Carbonstead LLC, which owns the 23-plus acre former manufacturing plant.
During that meeting Woodward said the owner had informed him that asbestos removal – the next step in the demolition – was halted over the winter due to the amount of water needed to facilitate the process.
“Now that winter is over (Palmer) said his crews are back on the site every day working,” Woodward said at that time.
Palmer’s scrap company had been dismantling buildings on the site, but it was reported in November that he was sentenced to six months of home detention after he pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act by improperly removing friable asbestos insulation from pipes in one of the buildings.
Castiglia noted on Tuesday (June 3) that he has not seen any change in the condition of the site and neighbors have told him there is nothing apparent going on, and he reiterated the food store has set a July 1 target date for groundbreaking.
In his personal quest for answers about ALDI’s tolerance for the apparent lack of activity by Carbonstead LLC, Castiglia said he made contact with an ALDI’s representative Tuesday.
“My first question was, ‘What is happening with ALDI’s here in Fulton?'” Castiglia said. “His first words were, ‘It’s not good.'”
Castiglia said when he pressed the representative, later identified as Lewis Kipling, a regional real estate manager for ALDI, as to why he felt that way the legislator said the response was, “We can’t deal with the owner.”
Meanwhile, the mayor said during the meeting that ALDI’s engineering project manager was in his office on Monday to update him on the project.
“They brought all their prints in this week,” Woodward said.
In April, the scope of the project was laid out for councilors and residents during an overview presented by ALDI Inc.’s civil site engineer Bergmann Associates project manager Kurt Charland.
“Prior to ALDI starting construction there are existing buildings that will be razed and debris removed from the site,” Charland said during that meeting.
The store would be located on 2.2 acres of the approximately 24-acre parcel.
An attorney for Palmer said during that meeting that the pending deal is an outright buy, with ALDI purchasing the proposed acreage from his client.
After Tuesday’s council meeting, the mayor noted that the property owner is behind in his property tax payments and the city is investigating its legal options to take possession of the parcel for back taxes.
“We agreed to let him make a $260,000 payment a few months ago, but he hasn’t paid anything since,” Woodward said.
Fulton city taxes were due February 28.
According to the city’s tax records, the total amount currently owed for taxes and penalties on all nine of Carbonstead LLC’s properties is $998,736.71.
Woodward added that the process of seizure for taxes is lengthy and could take months, or up to a year.
Oswego County Today asked a spokeswoman for ALDI Inc. to confirm Kipling’s comments that project was in jeopardy; the status of the ALDI proposal in Fulton; other areas that might be considered for a new food store to serve this community; and if ALDI would consider taking over the former Nestle’ property from Carbonstead LLC to complete demolition in order to build the new store?
In her email response on Thursday, the public relations assistant account executive said, “At ALDI, we want to be conveniently based where ALDI shoppers are located. In choosing locations, we look at several variables, including population density, proximity to competition, cost of the property and traffic patterns. The Nestle property is still one of several locations that ALDI would consider for the Fulton community.”
Fulton is located midway between the ALDI food store on Route 104 East in Oswego and the store on Route 31 in Clay.
Attempts by Oswego County Today to reach Palmer have been unsuccessful.