By Dan Hust
CALLICOON The man behind the sole remaining bid for the acreage near the closed Delaware Valley school in Callicoon is a local resident and NYC business executive who’s looking to start a beef cattle farm.
Rich Winter told the Democrat yesterday that he already owns a former dairy farm adjacent to the 58 acres he’s interested in acquiring from the Sullivan West school district.
“We’ve put a lot of work into the old Bauer farm,” he said, the “we” referring to his collaboration with a local farmer.
Winter owns a home in Callicoon but also lives in New York, where he’s CEO of Auriga USA, LLC, a subsidiary of a Spanish financial services and brokerage firm.
According to Auriga’s website, Winter was a founder and CEO of Xzerta, LLC, a residential mortgage trading and advisory firm that was acquired by Auriga in January 2010.
His interest in local cattle farming, however, is more along the non-profit kind, as Winter said he hopes to provide the beef to charitable food banks and the like.
“Personally, I’m enjoying learning about farming,” he related yesterday, adding he would like to see agriculture expand throughout the county a place he treasures for its beauty and quiet.
Whether the DV acreage becomes part of his farm remains to be determined, however.
At a meeting of the school board on Thursday, SW Supt. Ken Hilton recommended the board accept Winter’s $205,000 bid, as the other bidder Ilwon Kang withdrew his $100,000 bid when it became clear he’d have to compete with Winter in an auction.
Kang is nearing completion of his due diligence on both the DV and Narrowsburg school buildings, for which he successfully bid $3 million last year. Last week, Kang said he remains interested in turning DV into a boarding school but is also keenly interested in learning Winter’s intentions for the adjacent 58 acres.
Winter said he doesn’t know much about Kang’s plans for the DV school and thus wouldn’t comment on them.
But he’s curious too about what the SW board will do.
Minus absent member Rose Joyce-Turner, the board on Thursday unanimously agreed to table the vote on accepting or rejecting Winter’s bid.
“Why are we rushing to do this tonight?” board member Ken Cohen asked his colleagues prior to the vote.
Cohen didn’t like the secrecy surrounding the bid and wished to find out more about Winter first.
“I too have reservations about making any rash decisions,” agreed board member Rose Crotty, who mentioned rumors that the timber on the DV acreage could be worth up to $100,000 in logging rights.
She considered Winter’s bid “rather low, to be truthful” though an initial solicitation of bids on the land, with a minimum $400,000 bid requirement, was unsuccessful.
Board member Joan Glase wasn’t a fan of the logging idea, but in the end, the board agreed it was prudent to at least have a forester and/or logger determine the nature and value of the standing timber.
“I wouldn’t want to sell it without knowing this,” board member Noel van Swol stated, who agreed with Crotty that the property’s likely worth more than $205,000.
“We have the legal right to refuse the bid if we think it’s too low,” confirmed Hilton.
“It’s less than $4,000 an acre that’s not a lot,” observed Cohen.
Winter yesterday said he wished the board had acted that evening but would await its decision, noting his bid can’t be withdrawn anyway until May 16, at the earliest.
The next official school board meeting is set for Thursday, May 19 at 7 p.m. at the high school in Lake Huntington.