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FairPoint, Claremont Meet, But No Agreement on Back Taxes

Claremont — FairPoint Communications and the city said that no agreement was reached when they met last week to discuss the city’s recent decision to seize FairPoint’s office building on Broad Street because of taxes it didn’t pay in 2009.

City Manager Guy Santagate said they discussed a range of issues, including the tax deed, but came to no resolution.

“The door is always open to talk,” Santagate said, adding that the interest of the Claremont taxpayer is foremost in the city’s mind.

“We are going to take steps to protect the taxpayer,” he said regarding any negotiated settlement.

FairPoint officials said they would take a similar approach with respect to their rights.

“The actions the City has taken are inexplicable and FairPoint will do whatever is necessary to protect its property in light of the City’s actions,’ FairPoint spokesman Jeffrey Nevins said in an email Friday.

The company’s New Hampshire state president, Pat McHugh, said in an email that the seizure by the city could have larger ramifications for customers and FairPoint.

“We are also very concerned that the City’s move against the property could lead to the interruption of E-911 services and that the city would be held accountable for any damages to the equipment in our Central Office,” McHugh said.

Now that the focus is on litigation, Nevins said the company would not comment further.

The city seized the property last month because FairPoint failed to pay $56,000 in taxes that were due in 2009. By state law, a municipality has to tax deed properties when taxes are delinquent more than three years.

The company was in bankruptcy at the time and had filed an abatement on taxes for its rights-of-way, though not the building. Though it emerged from bankruptcy in 2011, FairPoint said the abatement has not been resolved and therefore they do not need to pay the taxes.

Two day after the city clerk’s office recorded the tax deed, FairPoint’s attorneys filed a notice in the Register of Deeds office stating that the property at 199 Broad St., “is the subject of bankruptcy proceedings and a continuing injunction as part of reorganization under Chapter 11 dated Dec. 29, 2010.” The building is currently assessed at $1.2 million.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.