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Council repeals partial tax exemption

April 21, 2010
BERLIN — With many of the councilors who previously voted against the measure absent, the council rescinded the partial tax exemption for new commercial and industrial construction.

Councilors Tim Cayer, Ryan Landry and David Poulin were all absent from Monday night's meeting. These three councilors, along with Councilor Tom McCue, were able to keep the ordinance rescinding the tax exemption from passing two weeks ago. On Monday, however, Councilor McCue was the lone vote in opposition to the measure. Councilors Bob Danderson, Mark Evans, Lucie Remillard and Michael Rozek all voted with Mayor Paul Grenier in support of repealing the tax exemption.

The last administration passed the exemption in an effort to lure development to Berlin. It gave companies constructing new industrial or commercial buildings a tax break over five years. Councilors opposed to the tax break were concerned the two biomass companies vying to build projects in Berlin might try to take advantage of it. Councilors in favor of it said repealing it would send the wrong message, that Berlin wasn't business friendly. They also said if the biomass companies made payments in lieu of taxes, which both have indicated they would favor, the exemption wouldn't even apply.

No company has taken advantage of the credit to date.

The council also got a list of properties that were deeded to the city for not paying their 2007 taxes. The list contained 39 properties, including multi-family units, land and single family homes.

Owners have 30 days to notify the city that they intend to pay their back taxes, city finance director Blandine Shallow said, otherwise they become the city's. If an owner says they intend to pay the back taxes they then have 15 days to do so, she said.

"I think this is a perfect opportunity for some of these dumps we've had for decades," Mayor Grenier said. Some of the liens almost make him jump for joy, he said. "These properties cost us more than they owe us in taxes," he said.

The total owed the city is $113,850.

The council also rejected an offer posed by the Berlin Education Association to reduce their salary and benefit increases for the next several years in order to achieve the council's budget goals.

The council will likely hear from a number of bargaining units in the coming weeks, Mayor Grenier said, as they return from discussions with their members to discuss what they can offer the city.

The council also authorized the city manager to sign an agreement with the company putting on the Robin Hood Road Rally, pending approval from the city attorney. The company will use city departments to put on the event, but it will pay for the services it needs.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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