Six residents attend forum
WINSTED — Only six residents attended a community forum at Town Hall organized by the Winchester Republican Town Committee, which was held early Saturday morning, July 16.Committee Chairman David Cappabianca led the meeting.“We wanted to have this meeting at a different time to try to reach a different group of people who may not be able to attend during the week,” Cappabianca said.Other residents who attended the meeting included Selectmen Glenn Albanesius, Cappabianca’s wife, Heather, Brian O’Heron, former Republican American reporter Bryan Sundie and Joe Marchell.The main topic of discussion was the many vacant commercial buildings in town, including the recent purchase of the long vacant Capitol Products building on 35 Willow St.Laurel City Revamp, a non-profit organization formed by Selectman Michael Renzullo, recently purchased the building.According to Tax Collector Arlene Boutin, Capitol Products has owed the town $84,203 in back property taxes since 2004.Renzullo, on behalf of his organization, made an offer to the town to purchase the tax liens on the building for $25,001.“What I am seeing is that these guys who can’t sell these buildings have a great opportunity to give it to nonprofits because they don’t have to pay taxes,” Marchell said. “I see that as a problem. The [nonprofits] are going to rent out the buildings and not pay taxes.”“I’m not so sure how to prevent that,” David Cappabianca said. “The selectmen, acting as the town’s board of finance, have to decide whether or not taxes can be waived. If a nonprofit comes in and buys a building outright, there is nothing you can do about that.”Cappabianca was very critical of Renzullo and his organization at the meeting.“Mr. Renzullo has shot himself in the foot,” Cappabianca said. “If he doesn’t get the tax lien [reduced], what can he do with the building? There’s a town statute that says that if you don’t pay property taxes, the town will not give you a building permit. It’s a catch 22. I think these people are trying to form nonprofit corporations specifically for the purpose of evading taxes.”Albanesius did not criticize Renzullo or his organization as harshly as Cappabianca and Marchell.“I give him credit for coming up with this idea,” Albanesius said. “I don’t think it’s a well-structured idea, but at least he is thinking.”Albanesius said that a primary reason many of the commercial buildings in the town are vacant is because the town has not done a good job of marketing itself.“But I do know that the [Economic Development Commission] has done well in reacting to opportunities,” he said. “I know that there are a number of plans sitting up in the town manager’s office that have been in there for years. I think the town needs a vision of what it wants to look like. Then I think we should go out and take that vision to the public to show it. I don’t think we have ever done that.”Marchell said one reason some of the plans Albanesius referred to never got off the ground is due to the town’s bureaucracy.“If a building is empty for more than six months, you will have to go through the whole 9 yards to get something done, including creating site plans and getting building permits,” Marchell said. “At a merchant’s meeting I went to, there were people there who wanted to bring a lawsuit against the town and the building inspector. They are frustrated because they have been trying to get something done. Also, the state has been rated as one of the most business unfriendly states in the nation, and that impacts us on a local level.”A topic that was not discussed at the meeting was potential candidates for this November’s municipal election.Before the meeting, Cappabianca said that the party has candidates lined up, but would not comment on who they are.He added that the the Republican Party’s caucus is scheduled for Monday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.