Plymouth proceeds with tax sales, approves ARPA grants

At their May 2 meeting, the Plymouth Selectboard covered a host of topics and items, ranging from tax sales to the lot at Johnson’s Farm Road. Photo provided

PLYMOUTH, Vt. – At the May 2 meeting, the Plymouth Selectboard approved the waste and recycling contracts with ABLE Waste, agreed to proceed with the Hawk Properties tax sales, and approved ARPA grants for small business improvements to help make the town look a little more appealing.

Art Lynds from ABLE Waste presented five-year contract renewals to the board for both waste and recycling. There were increases to both contracts, mainly for rises in disposal and trucking costs. Solid waste went from about $96 per ton to $120 per ton this year, and recycling increased from about $117 per ton to $123 per ton. The rates are based on an estimated average tonnage, and fluctuate with volume. The board approved the rate increases and contracts with ABLE, which are effective July 1. They also re-appointed Lynds to be the district representative for Plymouth.

Steve Ankuda, the town’s tax attorney, recommended the town postpone the second set of tax sales for the Hawk Properties, because Hawk Inn, the Restaurant, and the main Hawk Properties, have a signed purchase sales agreement with a closing date set for June. The pending sale closing date was originally set in May, and has already been postponed. The board expressed their concerns for further delays, questioning how long they should wait on a tentative sale before moving forward. Town attorney Bill Meub is representing one of the parties, so getting legal advice from him is a conflict of interest.

Board member Keith Cappellini commented the owners didn’t pay their taxes and were “asking for some leeway… but it’s not up to us to grant that leeway.” The property owners have 12 months after the tax sale to buy the property back and make the sale.

Selectman Rick Kaminski questioned how the tax sale would affect the closing of a property, to which the board didn’t feel that it would have any impact on a potential purchase. If they do close in June, the purchasing party can come forward and pay the fees and still take ownership of the property.

Cappellini continued, “The deal might actually fall apart,” and the board would still be left to sell the properties with delinquent taxes.

Chair Jay Kullman noted that the owners have dealt with some hardships in the past, but ultimately agreed, “Nobody has given me a compelling reason [to postpone the tax sale]…if I’m going to vote on this, my responsibility is to the town.” Kullman continued, “Unless an attorney can tell us how it will benefit the town by delaying this, I’m wanting to proceed.”

The board voted unanimously to move forward as planned with the Hawk Properties tax sales. The date will be confirmed and announced at the next selectboard meeting.

Kaminski also noted that tax sales will be conducted every two years; “This won’t be dragged out every five years anymore.”

Kaminski then gave an update on the town building renovations project with a budget breakdown: design development $72,756, commissioning $14,775, permit and copying $10,000, inspection and testing $10,000, contingency $10,000, and construction estimates and materials $843,000. They are soliciting contractor bids at the next meeting, looking for them to be around $843,000.

The renovation plan continues: Execute a contract and have contractors order materials to lock in those prices now, as well as store those materials that have long lead times to get. The projected start date of construction is April 1, 2023 with a completion date of Oct. 1, 2023. “The flow should be really efficient during construction, because we know we have all of our materials right here,” Kaminski explained. He noted the pre-bid walkthrough was informative, and they communicated the project very well to the bidders. “There is always going to be hidden conditions [in any renovation project], but we tried to anticipate what we could.”

Kullman then proposed to use a portion of the ARPA funds to make grants available to small businesses and nonprofits for painting, landscaping, and to help make the town look a little more appealing. Good Commons, Salt Ash Inn, Echo Lake Inn, the church, and the Inn at Waters Edge are all examples of businesses that would be eligible for the grants. Kullman suggested that they allow a grant of up to $7,500 for each project, with a maximum of $40,000 of the ARPA funds used on these grants. The application process would also require that the applicants suffered hardships from Covid.

The idea for the ARPA grants pairs nicely with the downtown village center development program that Kullman has been working on, designating specific downtown village areas to be recognized by the state. After some discussion, the ARPA grant proposal was approved to move forward.

Revisions and adoptions need to be made to the Town Policy manual, however the board agreed that this was more of a formality and other pressing issues were more of a priority. They tentatively agreed to look at those revisions in August.

Kaminski reported on a lot that the town owns out on Johnson’s Farm Road, and proposed logging a portion of the lot to create a parking lot for the ATV trail. Currently, residents are parking their vehicles and trailers on the side of the road to use the trail, which is causing a bit of a roadway concern. There is potential to get multiple uses out of the lot, which could include hiking trails or other recreational purposes. The board would like to hear from the town on the potential of the approximately 61-acre lot.

Kaminski also reported the road commission crew was having storage issues with town equipment. Highway Department head Larry Lynds had a solution to buy two 20-foot storage containers to store necessary equipment, and make way in the barn for the tractor, which is currently being stored at the fire department. At $3,000 each, the town has it in the budget to buy the containers. Kullman said he was all for getting more storage if that’s what the crews need, but not to feel obligated to move the tractor unless the fire department needed the extra space.

The town is soliciting paving bids for summer paving for Crimson Hawk and two sections of Lions Hill. Kaminski also discussed Bridge 40 on Billings Road due to an email from a concerned resident. Kaminski pulled the report, and it does need new guardrails and curb repairs. The town currently has a $200,000 structure grant, which is designated to repair Stickney Bridge 39 with the funds available July 1. They can apply for another grant next year for Bridge 40.

There have been four “great interviews” with well-qualified applicants for the Town Clerk position, and two applicants have “risen to the top,” Kullman reported. Further discussion took place in executive session.

The next selectboard meeting is May 16 at 6 p.m.

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