PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield town councilors will vote Tuesday on whether to accept payment on three tax-acquired properties.
The payments of taxes and water and sewer liens of $2,609 on a Pleasant Street property, $1,169 on a First Street property and $475 on a Notch Road property would waive foreclosures on these properties, which occurred Jan. 23.
Town Manager D. Dwight Dogherty was shocked that so many residents lost their properties to the town this month.
“The town acquired seven properties as a result of 1995 tax liens or sewer liens maturing automatically on Jan. 23,” said Dogherty on Friday. “I have never seen as many properties acquired at any one time, especially those with mortgage holders.”
Dogherty couldn’t resist questioning whether folks were feeling the strain of local taxes or state taxes. “I am not certain whether this surge of automatic foreclosures is merely a coincidence or an indication of the burden the property taxpayer is being asked to shoulder vs. the amount being raised through the state income tax and state sales tax,” he said.
The town manager commented that the amount of money owed the town, in some cases, appears insignficant. One resident lost his home because he owed $468.
“The effects upon the former property owners could be devastating if they are unable to raise the funds necessary to prevent the town’s asserting its right of possession,” he said.
In other business, Pittsfield will be the last of six Somerset County towns to vote on approving an interlocal agreement to seek grant funding for countywide economic development.
Councilors will be asked to vote on approving the agreement with Fairfield, Madison, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Jackman to seek a Maine Small Cities Community Development Block Grant. The grant is nearly in the bag, said Clyde Dyar, Fairfield’s economic development director.
“We have been invited to Phase II of the funding process,” Dyar said Friday, and pending providing state officials with some documentation and other data, the study will be funded at $10,000. Dyar said Kennebec Valley Council of Governments will likely be selected to conduct the study. Fairfield is the grant’s host community.
“We will be looking at everything from new businesses to tourism,” Dyar said. “We will be studing what should be done and build a strategy for economic development in our county.” The study will include the county’s assets as well as its shortcomings. The strategy will be key for future development programs. The grant will also include creating a Web page for Somerset County.
Dyar said that even though the six largest Somerset County towns signed the agreement, every town in the county should benefit from the study.
The council will also likely discuss a Jan. 15 theater committee vote not to increase theater ticket prices now or in the near future.
Raising ticket prices had been suggested by some councilors as a way to balance the cost of air-conditioning replacement at the theater this year.
In its report, the community theater committee said the company that rents Pittsfield the films takes between 35 and 70 percent of all ticket prices.
“The town would only realize a small percentage of any increase,” the report concluded.
The price of an adult admission at the community theater is now $3.
The committee also voted not to hold any fund-raisers to offset capital improvements, another council suggestion. “Histocially, it has only cost an average of $1 per [Pittsfield resident] per year to operate the theater. It is important to remember that this operation is unique in that it is a service provided by the town and does not operate like a privately owned business,” the report stated.