Residents opt to demolish IP Mill

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 04-25-2023 3:14 PM

ERVING — Residents overwhelmingly supported a one-time capital exclusion to fund demolition of the former International Paper Mill when polled during a public discussion at Erving Elementary School on Monday evening.

The $3,700,000 override, paired with a $600,000 Site Readiness grant from MassDevelopment, would fund a near-full demolition of the vacant complex, save for a pump house. Should the town move forward with the proposed capital exclusion, residents would see an increase of $2.45 in their tax rate for one year, while the commercial tax rate would increase by $4.03. The funding option, one of six outlined at Monday’s forum, would minimize the payment window and avoid drawing from Erving’s capital stabilization fund.

The property at 8 Papermill Road, valued at nearly $1.49 million between the land and buildings, has sat vacant for two decades. After a century that saw eight buildings built from 1902 to 2000, International Paper “suddenly shuttered the mill” before selling it “to a private developer who left the complex vacant and delinquent on property taxes,” Kurtz said previously. The town, which took control of the property in 2014 and has since failed to procure a developer, has cited safety concerns, insurance difficulties, development potential and other reasons for making its demolition a key priority in recent years.

“We’ve narrowed it down to saying if we’re going to do it, we don’t have the capacity in our levy limit to do it, so we would have to do some version of an override,” Selectboard member Scott Bastarache said before introducing the six funding options.

Option A, the most popular scenario, received around 20 votes from the group of roughly 30 people in attendance, whereas options B through F each received no more than three votes. It would fund the entire $3.7 million not funded with grant money through taxation, while only affecting one year of taxes and forgoing the need for a loan. Aside from a $2.45 residential tax rate increase, this scenario entails a $245.27 tax impact for homes valued at $100,000, as well as a $584.60 tax amount for average-value $238,352 homes. Furthermore, aside from a $4.03 commercial tax rate increase, this scenario entails a $402.53 tax impact on CIP for every $100,000, as well as a $1,610.12 tax impact relative to an average commercial value of $400,000.

Options B and C would also forgo capital stabilization expenditure, but would stretch out the spending window with a loan through a debt exclusion of three or five years, respectively.

“The top three are if we were to utilize the $600,000 grant that would leave $3.7 million left that we would have to spend to tear down everything,” Bastarache explained. “If we took out no money from stabilization and we just utilized our own funding sources to do an override or an exclusion, those are the figures you would see.”

Meanwhile, options D through F proposed parallel one, three, and five-year spending scenarios, but in exchange for lower tax increases, entailed capital stabilization money funding half the cost.

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“The general opinion about taking things from stabilization is that we have a lot of things coming soon,” Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith explained, reasoning that pulling from the capital stabilization fund could impede the progress of forthcoming capital projects.

All figures presented at the forum were estimates aimed to fall within 5% to 10% accuracy, Assessor Jacquelyn Boyden clarified.

The Selectboard, Finance Committee and Capital Planning Committee opted not to vote on a funding option following the public discussion. They reasoned that waiting until after Annual Town Meeting on May 10 to take a vote would not only allow them to “digest” what was discussed, but allow a clearer sense of what the overall town budget looks like following Town Meeting decisions. Once voted upon, the chosen funding option would be brought to Town Meeting for appropriation.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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