As Tonawanda Coke shuts down, town trying to get head start replacing company

Posted at 6:33 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 18:33:46-04

Tonawanda Coke is not even shutdown yet, but Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger is already talking about what he wants to see there next. One suggestion might raise a few eyebrows.

"Now don't laugh at this. What about the new Bills stadium? Everything is right there," Emminger said Monday. "I'm being serious. Why not? It's a 150 acre site. It has infrastructure."

Emminger said he is trying to think "outside the box" to make sure the Tonawanda Coke site does not sit unused for very long. He also brought up the potential for commercial or industrial uses.

"We are looking to repurpose the site as quickly as we can," Emminger said.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is closely supervising the plant's shutdown, to be sure nothing happens to jeopardize the safety of employees or the surrounding neighborhood.

"A comprehensive investigation of the site will also be immediately launched to identify any contamination at the site and develop a cleanup plan through a transparent, public process that ensures community input at every step," the agency said in a statement.

There is no timetable for how long it might take to cleanup the site. Supervisor Emminger said Monday he expects the shutdown to be complete by the end of the week.

Around 100 people are losing their jobs as a result of the plant's shutdown. The New York State Department of Labor is reaching out to employees to provide job placement services and information about unemployment and medical benefits.

"I tell them to try and stay positive," Emminger said. "There are jobs out here in Western New York. The economy is going well in Western New York."

According to Emminger, the impact on the town's tax revenue will be minimal when compared to how much it lost with the closing of the Huntley Plant in 2016. Tonawanda Coke pays about $70,000 in taxes, whereas the Huntley Plant was paying the town around $2 million.

Tonawanda Coke released a statement Monday that reads in part, "Sadly, largely due to the financial obligations of its criminal sentence, significant and unanticipated expenses, the loss of a funding source, and the multiple and coordinated enforcement actions brought by various government agencies, Tonawanda Coke cannot continue operations."

You can read the full statement, where Tonawanda Coke claims the shutdown should have been kept confidential, here.

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