Agency denies release of funds due to failure to follow grant requirements
A $516,000 Federal grant for the expansion of Ginsberg’s Foods in Ghent has been rescinded by the State, due to the company and Columbia County’s failure to follow strict procedures set forth in the grant requirements.
According to a news release from the community group GhentCAN, which obtained a letter documenting the State’s decision, the final approval of funding was denied on January 11th. The main reason given was a regulation which prevents grantees from beginning construction prior to final approval and release of the funds.
The letter from the Vice President of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, which can be downloaded as a PDF via this link, states firmly that “the Request for Release of Funds cannot be approved [due to] the transfer of the property to the business and construction starting at the site… The consequence of [these actions] is that the Federal HUD funding cannot be used for the ‘project.’”
Furthermore, the transfer of land from the County to Ginsberg’s was also apparently performed prematurely—both action leaving the State no choice but to cancel the grant under its rules.
The findings by the State indciate that evidence of premature construction was found on the website of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, or CEDC, which was involved with obtaining the grant funding and approved transfer of 33 acres to Ginsberg’s for just $1. (The value of the land has been estimated at roughly $275,000.) The State letter indicates it also performed site visits and obtained information from local residents.
The relevant State regulations are apparently both clear and strict, leaving the State no choice but to cancel the grant.
Numerous residents driving past the expansion site off Route 66 had noticed in November and December that work was underway at the site, without realizing that it was in violation of the grant regulations. According to GhentCAN, residents noted excavation activity, including the “removal of dirt and gravel from the site”; the creation of “an access road”; and the presence of “various construction companies and personnel.”
Trucks belonging to the Colarusso company were noted by some passersby, which was of note as the company’s president has been a longtime CEDC member who voted in favor of benefits for the project. Colarusso’s name no longer appears on the CEDC board roster as of its December minutes.
GhenCAN also noted that Columbia County appeared to be well aware of these rules, having signed an October 20, 2015 certification agreeing that “no physical alteration to individual sites can occur nor can funds for those activities be committed or expended until receipt of an environmental clearance letter.”