Just beyond the Champlain Canal, an expanse of rail track, concrete, empty buildings and fencing may look to some like the relics of a Superfund cleanup.

To Neal Orsini, however, it’s a blank slate of possibility.

As president of the Fort Edward Local Property Development Corp., Orsini is one of the owners of the former General Electric Co. dewatering site, which was used to process sediment during the Hudson River cleanup project.

WCC, the original owners, gifted the land to the new LPDC in December.

What was originally built to cart away contaminated soils and remove PCBs from water could turn into the economic boon for Fort Edward, the LPDC believes.

“I think it has unlimited potential,” Orsini said.

Members of WCC formed a new limited liability corporation called Fort Edward Development, and through that will be paying the taxes on the property and managing and marketing it. Fort Edward Development will also share 50% of any revenue generated on the property with the LPDC.

The public learned more about the LPDC at a public meeting on April 16, but little is known about the for-profit company it is partnering with.

On Thursday, Orsini organized a tour of the approximately 80 acres the LPDC now owns for a Post-Star reporter, village of Fort Edward Trustee David Cutler, and Michael Dickinson, a member of the Fort Edward Local Development Corp. (separate from the LPDC).

John Davidson, a spokesman for WCC, led the tour due to his familiarity with the site.

Much of the infrastructure, including the 4 miles of private railroad track with a switch to the Canadian Pacific Railway, is top-of-the-line, Davidson and Orsini said. It’s a desirable location, too, being on the canal and on a rail line that goes into Canada. There’s also enough property to expand the rail track.

There’s a rail car weigh station, which Davidson said needs some work, but is still an asset to the property.

The group passed a power substation the LPDC now owns. There is also an 8-inch water line coming in from the south end of the property. Davidson said the site has plenty of power and water. Stormwater treatment is also already incorporated.

The concrete padding on site is over 2 feet thick, which is thick enough to send up the new Titan III rockets built for the U.S. Air Force, Davidson joked.

The site still does not have natural gas, nor does it have a sewer line.

Two empty buildings — one about 42,000 square feet and the other about 25,000 square feet — are cold inside, with no natural gas connections to provide heat.

GE didn’t need heat, Davidson said, because most of the dredging and cleanup work happened in the summer months.

Both those things Orsini hopes can be rectified.

He’s also hoping to straighten out the entryway to the industrial park. A temporary bridge and roadway was installed for the dewatering site, and while Orsini said both are of good quality, the ownership and maintenance of both are up in the air.

He’s worked out a verbal agreement between the town of Fort Edward Highway Department and the Kingsbury Highway Department, Orsini said. The bridge and part of the road are in the town of Kingsbury, but Fort Edward crews have agreed to plow and maintain the road for now, while Kingsbury crews have signaled they’d help out on a different Fort Edward road. Orsini said there’s been no written agreement yet.

WCC still owns and pays taxes on over 100 acres of surrounding property. Some of it is agricultural land that WCC leases to farmers. Overall, there’s about 200 acres between WCC and the LPDC that could be developed.

Davidson said WCC would consider lumping all the parcels together for a project if it made sense.

“We’re open to almost anything that’s economically viable and good for the community,” Davidson said. “We have a great partner. So far, we’re excited about what the LPDC brings to the table.”

SMS Rail Lines is the LPDC’s only tenant so far.

Chad Henry, an engineer for the company, said things are going well so far for the new agricultural grain transfer station SMS Rail has set up.

The company ships in canola, a kind of pungent, brown animal feed, from Canada. It’s offloaded at the industrial park onto trucks that ship the feed to area farmers, mostly in New York and Vermont. Henry said business is busier in the winter months when farmers need to purchase more food for their livestock.

Henry said about four to five trucks get shipped out a day during the winter, carrying between 30 and 34 tons of feed.

Orsini said he’s been in discussion with SMS Rail Lines about expanding its services in Fort Edward.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


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