By S.D. Plissken | March 8, 2019
According to the Town’s Avitar listings, the Plummer’s Ridge Schoolhouse No. 1 property at 1116 White Mountain Highway is valued at $89,600. That includes $29,800 for 0.18 acres of land, $59,000 for the Schoolhouse itself, and $800 for its 10’x15′ wooden shed.
The “Blue House” property across the street at 1121 White Mountain Highway is valued at $168,300. That includes $40,400 for 2.64 acres of land, $124,200 for the house itself, and $3,700 for its “features” ($749 for its 18’x20′ wooden shed and $3,000 for its Fireplace 1-Stand). (I know the features do not add up).
Now, we all know that Town valuations are questionable at best. Few will ever realize the inflated bubble prices that the Town asserts for tax purposes. But, for the sake of argument, let us suppose their valuations are accurate.
Board of Selectmen (BOS) Chairman Thibeault proposed “selling” both properties – valued together at $257,900 – to the Milton Historical Society (MHS), on whose board he sits, for $2. The whole BOS was on the verge of rubber-stamping this proposal as a Warrant Article on this year’s ballot.
It so happens that BOS Chairman Thibeault and the MHS’s own Vice-Chairman Thibeault are the very same person; just as BOS Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings is a member of that same society. Outgoing Selectman Lucier has never announced his affiliation, if any there be, with the MHS.
An audience member asked if the BOS were not concerned with the apparent conflict of interest: BOS members arranging to virtually “give” away “Town-Owned” property to a private society in which they have an interest.
Mr. Larry Brown, helpful as always, pointed out that it was for the board alone to decide if they had a conflict of interest. According to Mr. Brown, it would not be a conflict of interest if they received no money and did not hold paid positions with the society.
The audience member pointed out that money need not be the only consideration. Which is why legal boilerplate is often included in real estate deeds that mentions also “other valuable considerations.” Thank you, Mr. Brown. (You have an opportunity of thanking him yourself, if you wish: he is a currently a candidate for a seat on that same Board of Selectmen).
That proposed Warrant Article did not go forward. Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings and Selectman Lucier apparently saw the problem and voted “nay” in a rare 2-1 split. (Chairman Thibeault dug in his heels).
Nobody with a lick of sense supposes that the Town will ever realize anything like its fantasy valuation of $257,900 for the two properties at an auction. The “Blue House” was seriously overvalued. (Its original Corcoran valuation of $208,600 dropped by 19.3% to $168,300). It has developed serious problems since. But those are the absurd values that the Town claimed as being valid when it was busy over-assessing, overtaxing, charging penalties and interest (I have heard 18%, like some kind of insane credit card), and finally seizing the property.
Even so, the Town will likely realize much more than the $2 that Chairman Thibeault was proposing – the difference being at least some tens of thousands of dollars. And that difference – four orders of magnitude – belongs to the taxpayers.
So, “No” Means “Yes” Now?
At this most recent BOS meeting, that of March 4, 2019, the BOS, Town Administrator, and Town Assessor went around in circles again on “Town-Owned” properties. (They seem to enjoy covering always the same ground).
There are three-year properties, for which the dispossessed owner will get nothing at all; less than three-year properties, for which the dispossessed owner might get some residue; as well as phantom properties, slivers, old fire stations, gifts versus seizures, etc., etc.
Chairman Thibeault: I think the ones that we’ve had for three years were all set to go for auction. The only one that I would not support selling was the 1121 White Mountain Highway … until there’s further discussion with the Historical Society and what that could potentially become … but other than that, all the three-year ones?
Well, we knew the Chairman never “supported” selling that one – at a market price – because he wanted to give it away to his other board. He lost that vote. Even the other selectmen could see that it was a “questionable” proposition, but the erstwhile Chairman just can not give it up.
Not Yours to Give
Thanks to these same selectmen, there are fewer saved dollars – less actual capital – going spare in Milton these days.
Whether fairly or foully obtained – these “Town-owned” properties belong now to the taxpayers. The BOS has no right to give away taxpayer properties – valued together at over a quarter-million dollars ($257,900) – to Chairman Thibeault’s buddies at the Milton Historical Society for a measly $2. For philanthropically-minded selectmen: these properties are just not yours to give.
If the Milton Historical Society wants to pony up the $257,900 right now, or even bid some much smaller amount at a “tax-title” auction, they can make it happen. The BOS can set the auction date and the society can start its fundraiser.
Or the Chairman, who feels that the taxpayers just cannot give enough, can prove the strength of his own “support.” He can take out another mortgage on his own home, buy the properties in question, and donate them to the Historical Society himself.
Lilley, Floy. (2012). Not Yours to Give | Davy Crockett. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=daay8yvgsGM
Town of Milton. (2019, March 4). BOS Meeting, March 4, 2019. Retrieved from youtu.be/-io2f380xjE?t=3478