George Moore reviews a scrapbook containing some of his career highlights at his office in Keeseville.
KEESEVILLE — Two details stand out about George Moore, the local recycling magnate who is entrenched in warfare with Essex County and North Hudson over his rejected bid for Frontier Town, that act as a weathervane as to how negotiations will pan out.
The first is that the businessman, who is 87 and still barks out orders from his headquarters in a modest office building in Keeseville, walks with a limp and won’t undergo surgery to repair his knee.
“It wouldn’t be a good investment,” he said.
The second is the World War II monument he bankrolled in the center of this village just south of Plattsburgh.
The war vet recalled returning to town in 1947 after being stationed in Germany as part of the Allied occupation forces.
An impromptu monument had tipped over into the banks of the Ausable River.
“It was bad and uncaring to leave it down,” he recalled.
Moore said a half-century later, he never dreamed he’d have the wherewithal to plunk a permanent monument in the center of the former milling town.
But he did to the tune of $200,000.
While the figure carved out of the slab of granite is a generic soldier, Moore said the concept was inspired by General Anthony Clement McAuliffe, the troop commander in the encircled town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
Asked to surrender, he responded with a singular word:
The father of eight reclined in his chair as workers and visitors flowed throughout the office — delivery personnel, staffers, family members, drivers. He kept on eye on the Dow and fluctuations in the price of copper.
Above his head hung a small sign:
“Business, like life, is a series of obstacles. Your success is determined by how well you overcome the obstacles.”
“I’ve always considered myself a working man, not a big shot,” he said.
Moore recalled his first business venture: making butter with his grandparents starting at the age of eight. “We’d bring it into town on a horse and buggy,” he said.
He later worked on a local farm for $4 per day.
As World War II dragged on — he joined after a stint working at a Cleveland rayon plant — the 18-year-old was marked as fodder for Operation Downfall, the Allied plan for the land invasion of Japan.
About a million Allied lives were instantly predicted as a total loss.
“I felt cheated that I wasn’t in the war,” he said. “I was training when they dropped the atomic bombs.”
Moore said his wartime experience helped forge his business acumen:
“People don’t realize what WWII was — everything was for the war,” he said. “No new cars were produced, it was all Jeeps and Army trucks. They completed an airplane every hour.”
After being discharged, the Peru native took his savings accrued from various jobs in his early years — ironworker, log supplier, Caterpillar salesman, Liberty ship-loader — and dove into the business world.
One of his first projects was bidding on government-issued surplus vehicles, namely Jeeps.
“I’ve always liked Keeseville,” he said. “When I was in Georgia doing basic training, I promised myself that I would come back.”
His ventures eventually expanded to property development in Florida and attracting business to the area when local factories began to dry up and blow away, including the Grover Hills Mill in the Old Prescott Building.
“Wherever I went, I always had business,” he said.
His local holdings include 82 properties, mostly in Keeseville and Peru area, including the A-Frame in North Hudson, which he purchased in 2004 for $145,000. Records provided by his office show that he paid $135,000 in property taxes last year to Essex County.
‘I ENJOY BEING INVOLVED’
Moore said he has employed a lot of area residents over the year, many who he said were unemployable. Fifty people worked at his main business at its peak.
Now, there are 20. The lion’s share of his scrap metal business, of one the five spokes in his empire, has been handed off to his daughter, Carolyn, and two grandsons, Tanner and Troy Baraby.
“Recycling is a dirty job, but what we’re doing is also good for the environment,” said Troy, who recently returned to the family fold after trying to make it in California as a musician.
His grandfather has no plans to walk away entirely from business and enjoy his golden years.
“I enjoy being involved,” he said.
Moore had fond memories of Frontier Town and cited a visit in the 1950s.
“Kids rode the train that got robbed,” he said. “We heard the Indian pow-wow. It was interesting, they employed a lot of people. But times change.”
Moore said he was focused on business during these family trips.
Now, in his office, he sat surrounded by newspaper clippings highlighting his civic achievements, rescue efforts and economic activities.
He begrudgingly cited volunteer work with the Vision for Hope Clinic in Nicaragua.
“I never liked publicity,” he said. “Don’t like it, never have. Just a working man.”
He leaned back in his chair and his voice softened:
“I’m a hardass, always was. But I’m harder on myself.”
Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow spoke highly of the local fixture and said he stood behind him in his desire to purchase the disputed property from the county for $65,000.
“But he’s a lot like me,” said Morrow before emphatically slamming his fist down on his desk.
Lawmakers went into executive sessions on June 30 and again on Monday, July 7 to discuss the next step forward.
On June 18, North Hudson Supervisor Ronald Moore (no relation to George) approached County Attorney Daniel Manning with the desire to forge an agreement that would avoid a legal battle.
The two huddled around a map of the property and sketched out what the county was ready to offer George.
Manning wrote Bill Russell, Moore’s attorney, a letter announcing the county’s counteroffer:
George, it was proposed, would be allowed to keep three of the four disputed parcels and one-third of the fourth, the largest and one with road access to Blue Ridge Road.
“In order to get to the bridge the DEC is installing for the trails at the outlet of Palmer Pond, the trail has to go to the Blue Ridge Road, across the bridge at the Schroon River, underneath the Northway overpass at Exit 29 and on to the bridge at Palmer Pond,” said Ron Moore.
North Hudson, for their part, would retain the other two-thirds.
The town also requested easements that would grant road access. The proposed right-away would carve out a passage allowing the snowmobile, horseback trails and other recreational activities that the North Hudson leader is seeking to attract to the property.
Russell, in a response dated June 26, said his client agreed to allow access to the road, but nothing else — including the land.
“What good is access if we don’t own the property?” mused Manning.
Russell said while his client was pleased to receive the offer, the buildings on the larger parcel would have to be torn down, leaving little available land for his client to use.
“That wasn’t acceptable,” he said. “We didn’t mind the one easement for snowmobiling because that was discussed. It’s good for the community and good for business. We certainly support anything good for the community.”
‘CLOSED DOOR POLITICS’
North Hudson resident Dan Snyder scoffed at the counter-offer.
“A lot of people really don’t care, it’s a moot point,” he said. “Why would snowmobilers come here? There’s nothing here in North Hudson for them to come to and spend money. There’s no stopping, just driving through and no place to create revenue. Mr. [George] Moore should give us the property. Let us manage our town’s future.”
Sindy Brazee, an outspoken resident who is engaged in litigation with the county on another auction-related issue, said town residents were circulating a permissive referendum to force a vote on the issue.
Brazee said the petition, which was filed on July 7, now has 43 signatures, therefore exceeding the number of 25 signatures for a permissive referendum. She said it is not for or against the acquisition of the parcels, but rather a reaction to what she called the “closed door politics” which affect the town.
The Valley News was provided the cover page of the petition alongside the first and last pages, but not the full document.
Brazee also alleges the town has not been transparent in providing their board meetings and minutes to the public. The resident also said her FOIL request for board minutes and resolutions was stonewalled.
The most recent meeting minutes posted on North Hudson’s website were those chronicling the regular board meeting on May 8.
“These types of actions show a deliberate attempt to keep the public in the dark and out of town business,” she said.