ConAgra to announce first layoffs in September

MAYVILLE – The first wave of letters notifying termination of employment for ConAgra workers is about to hit the mail.

Beginning in September, the first round will be sent to a portion of the 425 employees working at the food processing facilities in Dunkirk and Fredonia.

Letters will be sent throughout the remainder of 2014 and into February of next year, which is when the company is expected to be fully removed.

On Wednesday night, county legislators on the Planning and Economic Development Committee had the opportunity to ask Kevin Sanvidge, executive director of the Industrial Development Agency, questions about the company’s departure from the area, which was announced in March.

“To them, it was a small little thing. They’re a $40 billion company and the decision was made in Omaha without giving any thought to Fredonia or Dunkirk, New York,” Sanvidge said.

Since the announcement was made, he and Vince Horrigan, county executive, have been outspoken about their efforts to find a new purchaser for the facilities.

Sanvidge said ConAgra has hired Pyramid Brokerage of Buffalo to sell the real estate.

“They let us bring people through the building, but ConAgra has not given them the go-ahead to sell,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating on my part. We do have some level of interest in both properties.”

Sanvidge added he is in constant contact with ConAgra representatives for updates.

“We’re going out there and we’re on the offense,” he said.

Legislator Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, said he had heard of roughly 30 workers who had found alternative employment so far.

“We’re kind of at ConAgra’s mercy in a way, but they’re a very big consumer products company and it’s in their best interest to handle this as best as possible,” said George Borrello, R-Irving. “They want people to have confidence in buying their brand and I would hope they want to handle this as best as possible, and cause the least amount of harm.”

“I think they do, but I don’t think it’s highest on their priority list, and that’s just my opinion,” Sanvidge said. “But they are very responsive to us and we talk to Pyramid too. We’re working hard.”

In other matters, 11 applications were received for the 2015 round of 2 percent occupancy tax funding for lake and stream protection.

The Waterways Panel reviewed and prioritized the requests and recommended the legislature arrange for the Department of Planning and Economic Development to set up State Environmental Quality Reviews at each site.

A total of $205,062.60 was suggested by the seven-person panel for the projects, which were recommended for Dewittville Creek; Goose Creek in Ashville; Canadaway Creek in Dunkirk; Dutch Hollow; Camp Findley; the Findley Lake dam; and Findley Lake.

“When we have these projects, they really come together because we have the right background and we have the right studies,” Horrigan said.

In order for the SEQRs to take places, the full legislature must approve the resolution.

The County Legislature will hold its regular meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the legislative chambers of the Gerace Office Building.