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Abandoned Plant Targeted for Demolition

By Joyce Kryszak

Tonawanda, NY – A joint public and private effort is underway to bring down the abandoned Spaulding Fibre plant in the City of Tonawanda. But experience has shown it may take awhile to get rid of the industrial albatross.

For Erie County lawmaker Charles Swanick this site looks all too familiar.

Swanick led an effort four years ago that, after decades, brought down Tonawanda's obsolete grain elevator. He said the abandoned Spaulding plant is beginning to take on a lot of the same characteristics.

"The writing on the walls, the broken windows, the ddangers, the kids are in it, and the fire department's now having to come in," said Swanick. "And it's just going to cycle down like any old, broken buildingthat needs to be take down. What's unfortunate here is the private sector walked away legally."

A federal judge two years ago ruled that the company would not have to pay for demolition or remediation of the more than forty acre site.

That leaves the bulk of the work - expected to cost several million - to the City of Tonawanda.

Swanick said they can't do it alone. So, the calls went out. Niagara Mohawk has chipped in with a $300,000 grant. And the town of Tonawanda a few years ago added the site to its empire zone.

Town Councilman Ray Sinclair said the economic benefits have no borders.

"We are not an island, it's a line on the map that says this is the town, this is the city," said Sinclair. "What it will do is create jobs and I am certain that a lot of those jobs will come from our town. So, it's not just a provincial City of Tonawanda project - it's a Western New York project."

A similar deal was arranged between the town and Amherst that allowed Geiko to come in. Officials say the Spaulding Fibre plant, because of the incentives and its location, is another highly desirable site for development.

Officials are also seeking state and federal funding. But with money only slowly trickling in, they wouldn't venture a guess about how long it might take to tear the plant down.