Sullivan selectmen deny another abatement request

SULLIVAN — The Board of Selectmen Monday unanimously denied another abatement request at its regularly scheduled meeting. Henry Whitmore Jr. and Debra Whitmore requested that their property located along Route 1 be granted a property tax abatement, arguing that the property was unequally assessed, and that the assessment should reflect the market value.
Selectman Roger Wakefield explained the property’s assessed value is $264,000, but the couple purchased the property for $164,000. “[The Whitmores want] us to change the valuation based on the sale price. Doesn’t work that way,” Wakefield said.

As previously reported in The American, the board denied last June an abatement request by Deb and James Knowlton, who requested a change in their property tax assessment due to the approximately $340,000 disparity between their Route 1 property’s assessed value and its fair market appraisal.
Following the town’s denial, the Knowltons took their request to the Hancock County Commissioners, who also denied the request.

After the commissioners’ denial, the Knowltons filed suit in Hancock County Superior Court seeking property tax relief. Board members said they were not concerned with denying another abatement request following the Knowltons’ lawsuit. The board also discussed updating its building permit application after a building originally permitted as a residence turned into a commercial business.  Harbormaster Michael Pinkham, who was in attendance, told the board that the applicant “filled out what the building permit in the town of Sullivan required.” “[The applicant] really has no permission to do business,” Wakefield said.

“He does by what he filled out,” Pinkham said, noting that board members could not retroactively change the application they approved, but they could avoid future issues by updating the language on the building permit applications. “The trouble is, you’re beating a dead horse,” Pinkham said to Wakefield, saying the discussion is contributing to longer meeting times and residents leaving before meetings are over. Town Manager Stacy Tozier told The American that the town “needs to get things modernized,” and is working with the code enforcement officer, Rebecca Albright, to update the applications.

In other business, Fire Chief Ben Gilley spoke with the board about coming up with a plan to replace a tanker as well as “Rescue 1,” a truck used to carry technical rescue equipment and emergency medical services equipment.

Gilley reported that the tanker is a 1991 model and was originally scheduled to be replaced in 2011. A new tanker will cost $305,000, he said. The truck is a 2001 model and is due to be replaced this year according to the department’s replacement schedule. A new one will cost $323,000. While Wakefield and Gilley agreed replacing both in one year is unrealistic, they discussed getting together to formulate a plan for how best to proceed, noting the Fire Department may need a warrant for a special town meeting to finalize any plans.

One option discussed was using reserve funding to pay off one vehicle and taking advantage of the current low interest rates to purchase and make payments on another engine.  Additionally, the board heard a report from Don Snoke from Age-Friendly Sullivan about his attempts at getting more Sullivan residents connected to the internet. Snoke said Spectrum recently quoted $105,000 to wire 1.4 miles of road in Sullivan, which would cost $15,000 per household to pay for the infrastructure. “That’s a non-starter,” he said.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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