January 20, 2022

City to foreclose on Apex site

Cortland wants to clean up location, get it back on tax rolls

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Debris covers much of the site of the former Apex Tool mill off Cleveland Street in Cortland after the manufacturing buildings were recently leveled.

The city of Cortland will foreclose on an abandoned industrial site on Cleveland Street and work to get it back on the tax rolls, and producing jobs and products once again, Mayor Scott Steve said Wednesday.

Steve plans to have the Apex Industrial site at 43-47 Cleveland St. in Cortland cleaned up by the end of February, if Cortland’s Common Council approves.

“What I want to do is to get control of the site, clear all the debris off the site,” Steve said. “Then test any kinds of contaminants in the ground and get the site marketable and take back some good businesses to the property.”

The site has been closed for six years following Apex Tool Group’s 2015 decision to close and consolidate with other facilities in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Before closing, the facility employed 110 people, who made components like wire rope, chain fittings and overhead lifting devices.

The history of businesses at the site date back to 1834, starting with the Henry B. Brewer Co. which made harnesses. That company became the Cortland Carriage Goods Co., Inc., in 1897, and was later consolidated in 1917 as the Brewer-Titchener Corp. In the mid-1980s, the company was purchased by Cooper Tools. In 2012 it became part of Eaton Global Corp. and was sold to Bain Capital in October 2012 for about $1.6 billion.

A California-based investment firm, Abacus Financial, bought the site in 2019, though further details could not be obtained.

The 7.8-acre site, built in 1974, has been owned by Cortland Holdings LLC, which hasn’t paid the property taxes for three years, said Laura Morak, the city finance office’s senior account clerk.

Apex Tool US Real Estate Holdings LLC paid $45,290 in property taxes in 2018. The Cortland County Real Property Tax Office reports the site is assessed at $1.38 million.

Steve said the property has had several owners.

Steve said previous developers had no intention of building, but salvaged the site.

“They get all the copper and good money items and make money from it. And they sold out the property and then left the town,” Steve said. “And another group came in and did the same thing.”

Garry VanGorder, executive director and CEO of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency, said the latest owner’s crew left town late last summer without removing the construction and demolition debris.

“The IDA shares the mayor’s sense of urgency to get this resolved as quickly as we can. It has our full attention,” VanGorder said Wednesday.

Steve said he wants to fix the problem. “I am trying to get it from the current owner,” Steve said. The site is in bad condition, may have contaminants and is infested with rats. “We’re going to clean it up and get it back to the tax roll,” he said.