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Bristol takes Mica building for back taxes

Michael Capone is named Town Administrator

June 03, 2010
BRISTOL — It has been a busy week for the Town of Bristol. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Bristol board of selectmen announced the selection of Michael Capone of Canterbury as the new Town Administrator, effective July 5.

"We are excited to have Michael on board as he comes with years of experience as a town administrator and selectman," said Select Board Chair Rick Alpers in a letter to town employees. "Michael brings to the position great skills in general management and finances. We believe that he is going to be a great fit for our community."

Bristol Fire Chief Steve Yannuzzi is serving as Interim Town Administrator until Capone arrives in July.

In what many residents hope is the beginning of a new chapter for the now infamous Mica Building in Bristol's downtown Central Square, the Board of Selectmen last week moved to take the former factory building at 8 Central Street as part of tax deed proceedings, along with four other properties in town.

The building has been abandoned and deteriorating for many years. Last year, it was condemned as a public safety hazard, requiring the evacuation of nearby residents and the popular Mill Ice Cream Café and Fudge Factory next door until it could be shored up and made secure by property owner John Suldenski. Legal proceedings over the case dragged out the process for many months, at considerable cost to the Town of Bristol.

In discussing their decision at last Thursday's regular board of selectmen's meeting, the board made the point that Town Clerk Raymah Simpson has made many attempts to collect back taxes from the property owner and has not had success in working out a satisfactory arrangement. Tax deeding a property is generally used only as a last resort in cases where all attempts to make arrangements with a property owner have failed. There are no residents or tenants at any of the properties that were taken for taxes last week.

Board chairperson Rick Alpers was the only board member at last Thursday's meeting that opposed the tax deeding of the property at this time. He expressed reservations about the liabilities involved in owning the property and keeping it safe and secure until such time as it can be determined what to do about the building. He suggested he would prefer to continue to put pressure on the building owner to take care of the property.

"Given the current situation with the budget, I am worried about where we are going to get the money to take care of this building," said Alpers. "If we own it, it is our responsibility."

"I feel it has been our responsibility since it became dangerous," said fellow board member Joe Denning. "I don't know what the total answer is, but I think this is the first step. It is our responsibility to do what is in the best interests of the Town of Bristol and the public safety. If we are going to spend a lot of money to enhance downtown Central Square, then it is time for that building to come down. It doesn't make sense to spend all that money if the building is still there."

Board member Jeff Shackett agreed. "I have lived in this town all my life and that building has looked the same for years, decades even. If we thought that the property owner was complying in good faith to pay his taxes, if we thought he was going to do something to improve the property, then we might not be having this discussion. But if we don't do something, this building will be sitting here as a problem 10-12 years from now. I understand that the building is a liability, but I think we have to secure it, and go to town meeting to ask the townspeople what they want us to do with this building."

Board member Phil Dion pointed out that the Town found money to pay for all the litigation around the Mica Building last year and will have to find money to do something about the building now. "It may take a warrant article to get funds to do something about the building, but the first step is to take the building. If we sat on it when we should have tax deeded it, then we would be held liable in any event," said Dion.

Some residents have suggested that the building is beyond repair and should be torn down to make way for a parking lot or green space by the Newfound River.

In other business, the board approved a request by Silver Shores for two additional moorings out beyond the swim line at Avery Crouse beach. However, they also agreed to convene a select board meeting out at the beach to review the situation in detail to determine if there is some reconfiguration of the Silver Shore's dock in order to safely add two slips, without pushing the swim line further to the West or crowding the Big Catch shorefront to the east of the dock.

The discussion about what to do about the Silver Shore moorings has been ongoing since beach shorefront owned by the Town was reduced in wake of a court decision awarding additional shorefront to the Swiss View Condominiums. The board of selectmen held a public hearing on the matter earlier in May, with some residents expressing concern about additional moorings blocking the view from the beach if they are located in the lake beyond the Avery Crouse shoreline, but Silver Shores is entitled to the moorings or slips by longstanding agreement with the town. All parties agreed that safety is a paramount concern and expressed confidence that they will continue to work together to come up with the best solution for everyone concerned.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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