Board members learned that the town’s financial situation may not be as bad as had been reported at their last meeting. At that meeting, finance director Christine Richter and town manager Scott Murphy told board members the town could be as much as $200,000 short in recovery funds thanks to a number of circumstances, including the unexpected and unbudgeted repair of the Beaver Brook Bridge at the foot of Castle Hill.
This week, Murphy told board members that almost $500,000 in FEMA revenue hadn’t been taken into account in the initial assessment.
The latest figures show the town has received $728,845 in donations, insurance, and FEMA reimbursement. Another $107,971 in insurance payments is expected. After paying off $553,575 in emergency borrowing, the town would still have $283,241 left for “outstanding payables” totaling $190,558, leaving the town about $92,684 in unexpended recovery funds. However, a significant portion of the “outstanding payables,” $93,172, is for engineering expenses associated with the Haynes Road Bridge project. Murphy said the town is still pursuing reimbursement for the engineering costs. If they’re successful, the town could have more than $185,000 in recovery funds left.
Additionally, despite Tropical Storm Irene, the town ended fiscal year 2012 (ended on June 30, 2012) with a general fund surplus of $11,313, and a highway department surplus of $131,662.
“We’re in a much better position than we thought last time,” Murphy told board members, “and we hope to be a little bit ahead at the end of all this. But this is a moving target – these figures are accurate, but things could change.”
“I’m feeling a lot better than last time,” quipped board member Jim Burke.
According to the figures, the overall spending on Irene-related work in Wilmington is $2,626,389. The figure includes FEMA expenditures of $1,412,283, insurance expenditures were $1,130,952, and federal highway expenditures of $83,154.
Meg Streeter asked Murphy and Richter for a more complete and itemized look at expenses and revenue. “I feel like this is still confusing. I’d like to know what we’ve expended as our share, I’d like to know what the donations were, what we’ve gotten from FEMA, and what the insurance has paid.”
In other matters, the board discussed town-owned Haystack lots in the vicinity of Mount Snow Airport. At a previous meeting, Hermitage Inn and Hermitage Club owner Jim Barnes presented a proposal to expand the airport to accommodate small jet traffic. Barnes requested a donation or sale of the town-owned lots, as well as a loan for the expansion. Board members told Barnes they’d take the matter up at a subsequent meeting.
Barnes made a similar presentation and loan request of the Dover Selectboard.
Over the past several years, the town has collected scores of undeveloped lots at tax sale. The lots were created decades ago under Haystack’s master plan and Act 250. Some of the lots had belonged to individuals, many of whom stopped paying their tax bills over the years as it became apparent that development was dormant. Many of the lots taken at tax sale belonged to the developer, the now-defunct Stratfield Associates.
The airport runway extends into Wilmington, and is surrounded by a number of Haystack lots, as well as lots intended for common use by the hypothetical Haystack village residents.
Wednesday evening, town attorney Bob Fisher gave board members a color-coded map of the tiny 0.2-acre lots, indicating those that are town-owned, and those that are privately owned.
But Fisher told board members that some questions still remained. In particular, he noted, there was 800 feet of runway in Wilmington that he can’t determine is deeded to Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines, the airport’s current owner, despite the fact that the piece appears on maps as far back as the 1970s. “There’s some reference to a portion of the runway that covers land that was then Haystack Corporation,” he said. “But it’s difficult to know if they’re talking about that 800 feet. If it belongs to Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines, they have the distance they need to upgrade the runway.” Fisher said the common land was another work in progress.
“That’s the ownership (issues),” Fisher said. “As far as what to do with it, that’s why they pay you the big bucks.” Selectboard chair Tom Consolino suggested the board get more information on Fisher’s questions before making a decision as to how to proceed.
“What land is Jim Barnes asking the town to donate?” asked Burke, looking at the map.
“We don’t know that,” said Consolino. In the past, the board has discussed creating a policy and plan regarding town-owned properties, and Haystack properties in particular, however, no policy is currently in place. But Streeter indicated she would take action on the matter in the absence of a written policy.
“We like to get (town-owned land) back on the tax rolls,” Streeter said. “The board has talked about a policy, but in the interim, I’m not going to suggest we wait another couple of years for (a policy).”