Company official: Car-Freshner will move out of Watertown if meat plant gets approval

Daniel Samann, general counsel of Car-Freshner, announces the company would leave the Jefferson County Corporate Park over odor concerns if the $20.6 million USDA meat processing plant is built, after an informational meeting Tuesday at the Watertown Town Hall. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Daniel Samann, general counsel of Car-Freshner, announces the company would leave the Jefferson County Corporate Park over odor concerns if the $20.6 million USDA meat processing plant is built, after an informational meeting Tuesday at the Watertown Town Hall. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

WATERTOWN — A senior Car-Freshner company official promised Tuesday night that he will start pulling his company out of the Jefferson County Corporate Park on the same day a proposed 42,000-square-foot meat processing plant gets approved in the park off Coffeen Street.

Concerned about the odors emanating from such a facility two doors away, Daniel Samann, general counsel for the Watertown-based company, told the town of Watertown Planning board that his business could not coexist with the proposed meat processing plant because of the sophisticated fragrances tested by the manufacturer of pine tree-shaped air fresheners.

Having the meat processing plant as a neighbor would interfere with fragrance testing in Car-Freshner’s state-of-the-art labs, he said. The company, which has quietly invested in its 260,000-square-foot facility over the years, has too much at stake, he told the Planning Board.

“The aroma industry is very important to us,” he said. “Even the smallest of summer odors makes it very difficult for us to do our jobs. … I don’t want this to happen.”

Proposed by a group of local investors under the name New York Meat Co. LLC, the $20.6 million facility would serve dairy and livestock farmers within a 100-mile radius of Watertown. It would have 57 employees and play an important role in the north country’s agricultural industry and economy, said Jay M. Matteson, Jefferson County agricultural coordinator.

Mr. Samann spoke at an informational meeting about the project put together by the Watertown Planning Board, with about 20 residents, town officials, the entire Car-Freshner management team and others in attendance at the Watertown Town Hall.

Mr. Samann’s comments promising to relocate Car-Freshner out of the park surprised the group of developers and economic development officials involved in the project, they said later. He also said the plant would be moved outside the city of Watertown but close enough for his employees to commute.

Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency CEO Donald C. Alexander said he did not expect Mr. Samann to make comments so vehemently opposing the meat plant. Stressing that the project is still in its early stages, he promised to listen to the concerns of Car-Freshner and other corporate park tenants.

“We’re economic developers. We create jobs and we will take all of their concerns to heart,” he said afterward.

After the meeting, Mr. Samann and Mr. Alexander met in the middle of the room to talk about the project. Mr. Alexander, who had never met the company official before Tuesday night, said he assured Mr. Samann that the developers would address the company’s concerns.

After meeting with them last week, Mr. Alexander said he already had heard from tenants with concerns about the project.

During a nearly 30-minute presentation, Mr. Matteson gave details about the project and the impact it would have on the local farm industry. He said all the meat processing operations, from start to finish, would be completed within the confines of the plant, with about 30 percent of the region’s 385,000 dairy livestock ending up at the site.

The facility has been planned as a three-phase project in which the building would be expanded to about 62,000 square feet in the second phase and 110,000 in the third. It would have the capacity to harvest about 100 cattle a day, along with 200 to 300 smaller animals including calves, sheep, pigs and goats.

To be a good neighbor, the developers also are looking at special air purifier systems to be installed in the plant that would cut down on odors, he said.

Livestock now travels to large meat processing plants in Pennsylvania. A plant in Ticonderoga is the closest one, Mr. Matteson said. In the north country, small facilities with 50 or 100 cows dot the region.

Contending there’s a stigma attached to meat processing plants, Mr. Matteson said people may have a misconception of the old Southern slaughterhouses, where livestock are kept outdoors and can cause issues for neighbors. But modern meat processing plants are not like that, he said.

But Mr. Samann said he could not imagine that the odors, blood and decomposing livestock would not have an impact on his air freshener business.

The development of the proposed facility, next to the FedEx building at the corporate park, is being led by West Carthage developer Michael E. Lundy, CEO of Lundy Development Corp.

“I think it’s simply a matter of understanding the facts,” Mr. Lundy said.

Planning Board Co-Chairman Thomas E. Boxberger plans to arrange for town officials to visit a similar plant to see what they are like. While going through the site plan approval process, town planners also will carefully consider the environmental quality review and noise, odor, water usage and quality of life issues, as they do with every other project that comes before them.

He promised to let the public know about the status of the Planning Board’s reviews.

In addition to Mr. Lundy, potential investors in the project who are members of a steering committee are Ronald C. Robbins, owner of North Harbor Dairy; Stephen G. Winkler, owner of Lucki 7 Livestock Co. in Rodman, and Ronald F. Porter, Adams.

 

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer