Owning Property Sucks

So, I bought this building last year, and it’s far from what I’d call a “fixer-upper.” Despite this, it still needed a bunch of work. For starters, the oil tank was buried. For some reason, this is deemed a Bad Thing by lenders and insurance agencies, although the folks at the State didn’t seem to think so.

So, for starters, I had to remove the oil tank, and that required putting it inside, which necessitated putting up a firewall in the furnace room so the tank could be there. Furthermore, we remodeled the upstairs to convert it to an apartment. Halfway through the remodeling, we were informed that I’d need to pay for a building-wide sprinkler system or a full set of stairs from the third floor off the back of the building. Either way, this is not a cheap venture. So, instead, we’re moving. On average, I paid about $4,000 a month for rent for the time I called this place home. Swell.

To add insult to injury – that’s one of my favorite sayings… think “Hey, you in the cast! Nice tie!” – I got the property tax bill today. Apparently since we decide to live here, our town Listers, following the rules of Act 68, set a homestead value of $100,000 on the apartment. Wow. We redid some floors, added a tub, a washer, dryer, and kitchen full of appliances, and BAM! $100k of higher taxes. Awesome. My average monthly rent just went up.

The (very, very faint) light at the end of the tunnel is that I should be able to drop the homestead property tax rates on my other house in town as (unless things have changed) I can only be “living” in one place at a time. Yes, that’s right – because I’m not living there, my taxes will be lower. Right – folks who live here have the privilege of paying higher taxes than folks who don’t. Thanks, Montpelier. That makes a hell of a lot of sense.

So today, we’re having some work done in the alley, having the dirt dug away from the building. Over time, dirt has built up along the side of the building, causing water to seep through the bricks in to the building. Furthermore, when there are heavy rains, water leaks in under the door, ruining the nice new floor we had put in last year (to make up for this very problem…).

While digging, our digger hit the line coming from the water main. Awesome! Fortunately, Bobby Hyde and Bruce Newell of our town road crew were on site very quickly and remedied the problem within a couple of hours. Thanks, guys! I appreciate the prompt response.

On the Road Again

I attended this evening’s meeting of the Bethel selectboard. I’m sure Chris Constanzo will write up everything in the Herald this week, so I will only focus on the specific issue that I raised.

Once again, the condition of the roads was raised. Toward the beginning of the discussion, Chair Neal Fox said he was happy that he had observed improvements in the road since our last meeting.

Town Manager Del Cloud got noticably irritated at the discussion, and I’d say selectman Rick Benson was as well. I have to say, I don’t blame them! I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of constant criticism either. However, if this is what it takes to get some results, then maybe it is the only way.

Later in the discussion, the selex and the Town Manager pointed out that lack of money was the cause of the problems. The point of clarification I requested was here. If the roads have gotten better, that seems to contradict the theory that the lack of manpower and money is the cause of the issues we have with the roads. It cannot be both ways.

So the question remains – is the condition of our roads caused by a lack of manpower and equipment, or is it something that is easily remedied by some other means which the selex could not elaborate on this evening.

So again, I put the question out to the people of Bethel. Have you noticed an improvement in the condition of the roads in Bethel over the last couple of months? Are they better? Worse? No change? Check back here soon for a survey on this topic.

Vandalism

For the fourth time in less than a year, my building downtown, which houses my business, as well as several others, has been vandalized. Not counting when a drunk driver crashed his truck into the front of my building after having too much to drink at the Bethel Depot (a fact that I am sure they would dispute, claiming he was drunk before he arrived), the building has, on three other occasions, had balusters kicked out by someone who obviously has too few IQ points to be allowed to wander the streets without a chaperone.

I am offering $250 for information which leads to the identification of the individual or individuals responsible for this or any other significant destruction of private or public property in downtown Bethel.

Because of these acts, I have installed security cameras all around the building. So, next time you think of being naughty in downtown Bethel, remember to smile first.

All Things in Moderation

After being elected moderator of last night’s school budget meeting, I have newfound respect for Carroll Ketchum and other town meeting moderators who have served before him.

Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are thorough, and at first, quite confusing, but once you get an understanding of them, they actually start to make sense. However, when put to the test, under pressure in front of two hundred or so voters, I lost track of some of the basics which seemed so self-evident just a few minutes before.

Further confusing was the helpful but sometimes conflicting advice offered to me by the town elders. Recommendations, which at first made perfect sense when given by one person, suddenly seemed absurd when contradicted by another in a different light. I would like to thank the constructive input I received from Neal Fox, Barbara Wood, Chris Constanzo, David Allen, and others, who gave me their insights and experience from past meetings to help me muddle through the process.

Obviously, I will be examining Robert’s Rules in more detail if it looks like I’ll be called upon to moderate again in the future. Despite the fact that I felt fairly inept at the podium, I was told repeatedly that I did a good job. I have to think that some of the praise was simply people being nice to me, but maybe there’s hope.
Fortunately, the townspeople were tolerant as we went along, and did eventually vote for an amended budget that passed by a significant majority.

Also, I’d like to thank Carroll Ketchum for his phone call this morning. Carroll, rest assured that, as far as I’m concerned, the position of moderator will be yours for as long as you want it.