EASTON, Conn. Jim Wright said that even though the town is obligated to pay its first principal payment on the South Park Avenue property, it should start planning for the land's future if the New England Prayer Center does not come up with the money to purchase it.
"It's a perfect site near the parkway. ... We should have a plan going forward," said Wright, an Easton resident who suggested a research-and-development facility.
At a town meeting Monday, the town voted to approve a $191,000 appropriation to pay the first principal payment on the South Park Avenue property. The first payment of $307,500 is due July 8, and $116,000 is currently available for the payment, said John Campbell, treasurer. Had the town voted "no" to the appropriation, Easton would have defaulted on its payment to the lenders.
"It's fuzzy. It continues to be fuzzy and now it's fuzzy and costing a lot of money," said Bev Dacey of Easton, who said she feels held "hostage" knowing this money could have been spent on Easton's infrastructure. "There are a lot of people in Connecticut really, really hurting. People in town hall are losing a job for a pittance of the $300,000 we have to pay."
Campbell said the appraised value of the property when purchased was about $8 million, and Val Buckley of Easton said the appraised value of the property now is about $1.5 million. The town paid more than $6 million for the property in 2008.
"It's all a function of the approved use," said First Selectman Thomas Herrmann. Selectman Scott Centrella said the property is assessed as farmland and that is why it is set at $1.5 million.
Chris Neubert, an Easton resident, asked the Board of Selectmen "how long can the prayer center tie this land up?" Because a third party has filed an appeal against the New England Prayer Center, it can extend its purchase agreement for another three years. In that time, it can pay only half of its lease-to-purchase agreement which is $75,000 per year, instead of $75,000 every six months.
"I'm making a contribution to not only my church but to the New England Prayer Center. I just hope they're praying for me," said Neubert.
If the appeal is settled, the New England Prayer Center must purchase the property by Jan. 10 or July 10 of that year, or else the town will decide what to do with the property.
What do you think the town should do with the South Park Avenue property? Leave your comments in the box below.
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