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Economic development proposal fizzles

WINSTED — A proposal that would authorize the Economic Development Commission to take the lead in regards to the future of two town buildings died after a lengthy debate at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, June 6.Selectmen Glenn Albanesius and Ken Fracasso proposed that the commission should be authorized by the selectmen to find a way to get the Capitol Products and Lambert Kay buildings back on the tax rolls.The old Lambert Kay property, located on Lake Street, has been town-owned for four-and-a-half years, since being purchased by the town for $1. The controversial deal was approved by voters at a town meeting in October 2002. The former Capitol Products building on 35 Willow St. has been vacant for quite some time since Capitol Products went out of business.According to Tax Collector Arlene Boutin, the company has owed the town $84,203 in back property taxes since 2004.“I would like them to move forward on these properties,” Albanesius said. “I think it’s a natural transistion to try to let them find some possible owners and developers. I would like to empower them.”Neither Albanesius nor Fracasso explained what measures they would take by “empowering” the committee, which led Mayor Candy Perez to question the proposal. “What makes them not empowered right now?” Perez asked Albanesius. “Can’t that happen right now as it is? I would like make sure that the town manager [Dale Martin] remains part of the process.”Economic Development Commission Chairman Bill Pratt told the selectmen that indecision on town-owned properties has become a common problem.“We had one offer to buy a tax lien on the Capitol Products building,” Pratt said. “The person who was offering this was not going to use brownfields money. He was going to remediate the property itself. That offer languished for seven to eight months without a proper response.”“The offer you are talking about was for $2,500 and there were no plans given to us,” Perez said. “It wasn’t that no one wanted to move it, it was just that it was not a viable plan to go forward.”In response, Pratt continued to criticize the selectmen’s handling of town-owned properties.“A commercial real estate broker came up to me and asked why we cannot get decisions out of the town,” Pratt said. “We are in a situation where we are losing credibility with commercial real estate companies when it comes to taking projects to completion. This is because we are going through many different channels to reach decisions on these properties. This is a slow process and right now we are chomping at the bit to move forward.”Selectman George Closson said that there have been delays in the process because of a lack of formal offers.“If there have been formal offers made [for these buildings], it’s been in the form of conversations instead of coming in with a formal piece of paper that describes what is being proposed,” Closson said. “Until something changes, there will be a delay in business.”The discussion about the proposal ended without a formal motion from the selectmen.

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