Ellenville goes to pot

With all the illegal drugs circulating around long-depressed Ellenville, you’d think the last thing county and local officials would welcome as “economic development” would be a marijuana factory. Next thing you know they’ll be building an AK-47 factory.

But seriously, and apparently, Maryjane could be the future of Ellenville, key in the creation of some 400 “well-paying jobs” with benefits at a vacant factory held by the village. Once, two generations ago, those kinds of jobs were available for anyone willing to work.

A cannabis-manufacturing company out of California announced plans last week to covert the long-abandoned old Schrade Knife Factory, which once housed Channel Master, into a cannabis-growing factory.

The press conference, complete with county executive Pat Ryan behind his familiar portable podium, offered high hopes for the project, but precious little detail. Golden State’s Cresco wasn’t much help. Executives wouldn’t even tell reporters if they’d purchased or placed a binder on the 70-acre, 300,000-square-foot property.

Also unclear was what the county did to lure this company from some 3,000 miles to tiny Ellenville (2010 population, just over 4,100). Could have been the selling price, as yet undisclosed. Even a casual perusal of area real estate would indicate terrific buys.

I got the impression that this weekly edition of THE BIG STORY was more a case of premature expectation, a bit undefined, too vague, considering what’s been told the public and with miles to go before they might reap. The ever-optimistic Ryan estimates Cresco could get to work sometime next year. On a property they don’t yet own.

Next step, should it get that far, is for developers to demand massive millions in county, school and local tax relief in the form of Pilots (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) by the mis-named county Industrial Development Authority.

But before anybody calls me a hopeless pessimist, a few steps back are in order before kissing each other on the lips just yet.

Ellenville as noted, has been a basket case for generations, the Appalachia of Ulster County. Recent efforts to revive the village have either been too little or dead on arrival.

Remember Ellenville’s bid for the billion-dollar casino that eventually went to Sullivan County?  “Nice try” does not begin to describe that bungled effort.

Then there was former county executive Mike Hein’s “Ellenville Million.” Hein and the county legislature put up the million, all right, but it wasn’t near enough to even repave the village’s torturous Main Street. Curiously, Ryan, who now pledges undying fealty to what he calls “this painful place,” has not followed up on Hein’s feeble effort. Ryan has his development sights set on the former IBM plant in Lake Katrine, in any case.

There is too the stigma attached to establishing a plant to produce dope  in Ulster’s backyard, some 30 miles from the county seat in Kingston. Sure, it’s legal, but that doesn’t make it universally popular. One wonders how this project might be received if it were to be located, say, at the former IBM plant, lately TechCity, or at the failed Belleayre Resort in Shandaken. For sure, there’s plenty of room there.

NOTES – I know politicians like to hawk good news even as they disappear when it hits the fan, but freshman Republican state senator Mike Martucci from Orange County extolling the virtues of a place he probably couldn’t find on a map clanged a bit.

Then there was county comptroller March Gallagher grabbing podium space on a subject well beyond her official purview. Comptrollers are supposed to just watch the books, but our ubiquitous March travels in circles well beyond basic duties. With her expanding resume one might suspect she’s running for county executive.  Imagine if she had a Republican challenger?

I get the Democratic strategy, a sort of synergy, where all candidates bask in each other’s glory, but by now all too obvious and wearing. Stay in your own lanes, folks.

On a positive note, Ellenville Regional Hospital administrator Steve Kelly’s tenure has been one of the few bright spots in recent Ellenville history. Kelly, who served his apprentiship at Kingston Hospital, resurrected the flagging medical center, added some attractive senior citizen units and produced one of the showcases in the region. Now, there’s somebody who deserved a spot on the podium.

                                                                                                ***

ARMOR UP – I’ll cut to the chase: I don’t like the idea of armored vehicles prowling the streets of my adopted hometown. But last week, the city council approved and the mayor will sign legislation to purchase a military vehicle to patrol Kingston. A dozen years old, but presumably well-maintained, it will cost $100,000. But it’s a federal grant, so who cares.

I care. It sends a negative message, especially to newcomers to our community and those who might want to invest in some of our many vacant stores.  That we even need an armored vehicle is worrisome enough. That they’ll be rumbling around our high-crime areas is downright troublesome.

Is there another way? Well, let’s not bring back the mounted patrol or cops on bikes.

The mayor might have one answer. Appearing on the Me and Mario radio show on WGHQ last Friday morning, Mayor Steve Noble confirmed he wants more police foot patrols in troubled areas. He’ll recommend three additional officers (on the 71-member police force) in his forthcoming 2022 city budget, at a cost of about $100,000 per copy (including benefits) per copy.

That those officers and their colleagues will require special training goes without saying. If that doesn’t work, bring in the tanks.