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EVEN WITH MILLION DOLLAR ENDOWMENTS, COUNTIES, VILLAGES AND TOWNS ARE SAYING NO THANKS....BUT NOT HERE IN CROTON:
AN IMPORTANT LETTER FROM ROBERT WINTERMIER, with permission from this week's Gazette:
To the editor:
Last week’s articles in the Gazette (“New Proposal Eyed for Bank for Savings Building (Ossining)) and the Journal News (“Land gift overload: Donated properties too costly to maintain” and “Counties: Parks must bring in money to offset tax burden”) substantiate the claim by opponents to the Gouveia property acquisition that there is a high municipal cost to maintain “gifts” even if they are subsidized for millions by the donor.
For example, the Bank for Savings remained vacant since Mr. Gouveia purchased it in 2001 (Yes, he’s Mrs. Gouveia’s husband). It is speculated that he spent nearly $500,000 to renovate the building. In 2004, he “gifted” it to Ossining. Ossining estimates that it would cost $2,900,000 to renovate the building.
Currently, there are three bidders for the building; a brewery, “Events Hall” and a corporate fertilizer headquarters. The outcome remains uncertain. I suspect that cost, taxes, traffic and parking are key bidder concerns (Note the Gouveia property similarities).
The Journal News articles identified numerous Westchester “gifted” properties that are or could drain Westchester financial resources from other critical county needs.
One example is Rocky Hill; a 13-acre property in Chappaqua. Annual maintenance costs are about $150,000 for a gardener, tree work, repairs, water and new plants. Annual taxes are $39,540 (Note the Gouveia property similarities). Westchester declined the donation because it can’t afford the expense (and I suspect the lost tax revenue) in today’s economy
Another example is Merestead; a 140-acre estate in Bedford. It's been a financial drain since 2000. Now the county faces a multimillion-dollar repair bill including $5,000,000 to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) plus a $500,000 bond to do design work prior to the capital improvement. A maintenance endowment of $8 million declined to $4,142,233 by the end of 2013. Annual Maintenance Costs were $351,449 for year-end 2013. Estimated lost annual taxes if privately owned: $172, 400. County negotiations are underway with a non-profit organization to manage parts of Merestead.
What can we learn from Westchester’s experience with “gifts”? Here are a few lessons: (1) maintenance staff requires expensive skilled laborers, (2) endowments may not last, (3) many experts and officials in historic preservation say that the best way to maintain and save these historic parks and properties is to form public-private partnerships around the properties, (4) there is not enough foot traffic at these sites to generate supporting revenue, (5) leasing the property to a private group such as a bed & breakfast while retaining ownership is another option, and 6) Federal rules, like ADA, add to renovation costs (Gouveia may require renovating buildings, roads, etc.).
To summarize, the county is saying “no thanks” increasingly to wealthy benefactors who want to gift their property to the county as parkland. In this era of belt-tightening budgets and property owners burdened by the highest taxes in the nation, it's simply too expensive to maintain donated property, even if the “gift” includes a multimillion-dollar endowment.
Unfortunately, Croton’s Board of Trustees still doesn’t get the message. To date, they still don’t have many of the answers to the problems facing other county parks such as what will we do with the property, what are the costs and expenses, and how will we solve the problem of getting rid of the property if it becomes a “pig in a poke?”
If you share my opinion or have others, don’t leave it up to the “other guy (gal).” Come to the next Board meeting to express your anger at the wasted time and expense this “gift” has cost taxpayers so far. If you don’t, you may be part of the problem or so wealthy, you don’t care how your taxes are spent!
YOU MAY ALSO HAVE AN INTEREST IN:
--JOEL GINGOLD'S LETTER ON GOUVEIA & THE MAYOR/TRUSTEE GALLELLI'S "EXPLANATION" OF THEIR ACTIVITIES https://www.facebook.com/notes/croton-united/croton-united-member-joel-gingolds-letter-to-the-editor/323113674512337
--BRIAN POWERS LETTER ON GOUVEIA & THE MAYOR/TRUSTEE GALLELLI'S "EXPLANATION" OF THEIR ACTIVITIES http://everythingcroton.blogspot.com/2014/07/an-important-letter-from-brian-powers.html