Besides screwing up a workable budget, the Select-board is also morally bankrupt..
Submitted in the Opinion Section of the Keene Sentinel and published today June 08,2012
Fortunately, the law allows selectmen discretion in this area, and I was pleased that in several cases I could be instrumental in working out solutions that both settled the tax debt and allowed people to keep their homes. Those are called win-win situations.
Sadly, not all members of the board were so eager to find such solutions, and one was almost lustful in his zeal to seize property.
There were also many pieces of property that the town had owned for years and had just sat off the tax rolls. Most were little bits and pieces. Some of these were auctioned, and it was common practice that abutters, as the most likely competitive bidders, were made aware of the auctions.
One decision the board made was to auction the tannery property, taken for taxes many years earlier. The town manager chose to ignore the board’s direct instructions and instead listed the property with a Realtor.
“Back room” support of board members allowed his action to stand unchallenged, and the property still sits idle, yielding neither sales revenue nor taxes.
Recently, the select board voted to auction off a small lot with a double truck garage at 50 Rabbit Hollow Road, earlier taken for taxes. The board also decided to set no minimum bid.
Although the board may have met the bare legal requirements for posting, the auction came and went with hardly anyone knowing about it.
Abutters, who might have been willing to pay the most, were not notified.
The property was purchased by Selectman Gus Ruth for $12,533. The assessed value is $119,300. (Back taxes, at 18 percent annual interest, are forgiven when property is auctioned).
This was a lose-lose situation. The property owner lost and the taxpayers lost, first by not recovering back taxes and then by not receiving a better price for the property.
The only winner was Ruth. It will be interesting to see whether he benefits from use of the property, or if he just flips it for a tidy profit.
SUSAN M. NEWELL