Woodstock manufacturer Ametek Rotron is planning to spend some time before the planning board this coming year. It will be the first time the international company with defense industry contracts will be in the local news for more than a decade of its 70-year history.
“Ametek Rotron, as a result of a high rate of growth experienced over the last decade, as well as the predicted growth in the coming years, intends to expand our Woodstock operations with up to 25,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space on our 98+ acre Woodstock Campus,” wrote the company’s Facilities Manager and Shipping/Receiving Supervisor Matt Cline, following corporate “vetting” from up the ladder earlier this month. “We anticipate that through this expansion, we will continue to expand our workforce both by adding new jobs in manufacturing and by attracting regional talent to our Engineering and Operations teams.”
News of the expansion was first indicated when the state’s Regional Economic Development Council (RED-C) announced its latest round of Consolidated Funding awards for 2019. Ametek Rotron was listed for a little over $620,000 in development funds for the coming year.
According to the REDC project descriptions released in December, 2018, “Ametek Rotron, an aerospace and defense manufacturing company will undertake infrastructure upgrades of electrical subsystems and design and creation of a new advanced manufacturing facility specializing in brushless electronics for conventional and military applications.” Two grants were awarded the company, for $424,000 and $180,000.
Woodstock Planning Board chairman John LaValle noted in January that he was expecting the company to come in over the coming months with an application for an addition which he had heard would be conjoining existing buildings, and to correct a past mistake on the town’s part regarding designation of the company’s property on its zoning maps.
Back in the first decade of this century, around the time that the nation was slipping into what became known as the Great Recession, Ametek Rotron was in the midst of a largescale clean-up of toxic spills from earlier years that had been uncovered in the early 1980s. Excavations were dug around the 98-acre site made up of two main manufacturing plants with ancillary administrative buildings, laboratories, parking lot areas, and a fire pond, bordered on the north and south by residential properties on large wooded lots, on the west by Route 375 and the Fernwood Garden apartment complex, and on the east by wooded land. The state Department of Environmental Conservation had found that neighboring wells, and possibly the underlying aquifer, had been contaminated with a number of solvents that had entered local soils and groundwater. A deed restriction for the Rotron property was created that included perpetual monitoring of the situation on a monthly, semi-monthly and annual basis.
In 2011 the DEC deemed that the “Remedial Construction at the site is complete…” and that “the NYSDEC has also determined that the Rotron-Woodstock site no longer presents a threat to public health and the environment…”
But local anti-war activists also questioned the company’s contributions to the defense industry. It was revealed that the small company started just after World War II in Dutch immigrant J. Constant van Rijn’s garage to develop, patent and build high-intensity electronics cooling fans had not only grown as the aerospace industry developed a need for such high-end cooling mechanisms, but become a U.S. defense industry supplier as it was sold to other companies.
Nearly a decade ago, as the site clean-up finished its main efforts, Ametek Rotron’s long-touted support for the local arts scene and its community minded generosity with its facilities and employees who are active in the Woodstock Emergency Rescue Squad, giving them time off to answer calls and allowing the Squad to keep a vehicle on site to facilitate quick response time, the company also heard from these local activists who showed old promo and other films of Rotron’s earlier days in town accompanied by the question: How could Woodstock support a player in the economy of war?
Site plan review
LaValle, a former town supervisor from the 1980s, during those years when the discovery of Rotron’s chemical spills helped lead to a push for a town sewer system, as well as new zoning, talked about how the company could again become a key employer in town. He didn’t expect any controversy, noting how professional Rotron had always been and remembering a day when it seemed every other home in Woodstock used Rotron “muffin fans” to spread heat each winter.
Ametek Rotron Facilities Manager Cline said, in his statement last week that his company had been awarded CFA grants from the New York Regional Economic Development Council in support of its expansion plans and that, “with this funding we intend to bring forward to the Woodstock Planning Board, at some point in 2019, a formal site plan for review and approval by the Planning Board, and if necessary the Town Board and Residents of the Town of Woodstock.”
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Town of Woodstock and our neighbors,” Cline added in his statement about the upcoming expansion in his statement. “But also kindly ask for your patience while we determine the best possible path forward and continue our internal planning and design work on this site expansion project.”
The company refused to comment on current company monitoring of its past spill areas and defense industry questions.