Claremont Seizes FairPoint Building for Failure to Pay Taxes
Claremont — The city has begun taking properties for back taxes and the first one on the list of 19 was the current FairPoint Communications office building on Broad Street.
FairPoint did not make any tax payments in 2009 and under state law, a municipality is required to take a property when taxes are delinquent more than three years. In a report to the City Council earlier this month, Finance Director Mary Walter said FairPoint owes $56,350 from 2009 on the parcel.
“We had public notices of the taking by tax deed and notified them by registered mail but got no response,” City Manager Guy Santagate said yesterday.
The city clerk’s office recorded the tax deed at the Sullivan County Register of Deeds on Wednesday.
The nearly 16,000 square foot brick building along with equipment and .38 acres is assessed at just over $1.2 million.
Phone and email messages left for a FairPoint spokesperson were not immediately returned.
Despite the back taxes from four years ago, the clerk’s office said the telecommunications company paid in full its first quarterly tax payment in April of $26,627 on all of its taxable property which is valued at about $3 million and includes the office building, poles and conduits and right-of-way easements. In 2012, the company paid $108,589 and the year before, $102,832. But only $19,000 was paid in 2010.
The taxes paid 2011 and 2012 were specifically for those tax years and not for the 2009 or 2010 back taxes.
FairPoint’s purchase of Verizon’s landlines in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont became effective in March 2008 and in October 2009, the company filed for bankruptcy protection after it was unable to restructure its debt. The company came out of bankruptcy in 2011.
Walter said yesterday the city now has two options: hold the property for three years or put it up for tax sale.
“I’m not going to recommend we hang onto these properties,” Walter said. “We don’t want to be in property management.”
If a tax sale is held, the city has to give the property owner a 90-day notice and within that time frame, the owner can notify the city it wants to pay the taxes. But Walter said all taxes, not just those that are delinquent more than three years, have to be paid to redeem the property.
Santagate said part of the bankruptcy settlement was that the company had to pay all its back taxes.
The only other parcel taken by the city as of yesterday was about 25 acres at the site of the former Customized Structures on Plains Road. Assessed at $123,000, the total owed, including interest and penalties, is $42,000.
Walter said they are continuing to conduct final title searches before tax deeding other properties, which include nine homes and seven vacant lots.
At the council meeting on May 8, Walter said several of the property owners have told the city they no longer want the property.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.