County of Otsego Industrial Development Agency (COIDA) – Oneonta Rail Yards Acquisition (2021M-38)

Issued Date
February 11, 2022

[read complete report - pdf]

Audit Objective

Determine whether the County of Otsego Industrial Development Agency (COIDA) adequately planned for the acquisition of the Oneonta Rail Yards property (Rail Yards).

Key Findings

COIDA did not adequately plan for the 2017 acquisition of the Rail Yards.

  • The property was acquired based on a $6 million to $20 million development plan, without an interested developer.
  • We found no indication that the Board of Directors (Board) had significant discussions of the pros and cons of developing the property. This would include taking into account the struggles of developing and attracting businesses to other COIDA-owned properties.
  • Subsequent to the property acquisition, COIDA officials learned that a large-scale timber operation would be the only type of local industry that could take advantage of the property as a rail yard and be profitable. The Board decided this was not in County residents’ best interest due to cost and environmental factors.
  • A lack of investment in the County’s infrastructure and economic development, and the County’s demographics, will likely result in the COIDA facing many Rail Yards development struggles.

Key Recommendation

  • Properly plan for property acquisitions.

COIDA officials disagreed with certain findings in our report. Appendix B includes our comments on certain issues raised in their response.