BY TOM BELL

State House Bureau

The state apparently has sold more than one property in Thomaston for a fraction of its assessed value without any marketing to the public.

Two Portland-based developers bought the former state police barracks last year as part of a plan to redevelop the adjacent site of the former Maine State Prison. They paid $104,000 — less than a quarter of the property’s current assessed value.

Thomaston Assessor David Martucci said he doesn’t believe the property ever was marketed. He said he never saw a for sale sign on the property, which he passes every day on his commute.

He said the 2.6-acre property is prime real estate. This month, he assessed the value of the building and land at $480,000.

In June, the state sold three houses and five acres on Ship Street Circle in Thomaston to Patricia Barnhart, the warden of the Maine State Prison, for $175,000. Martucci visited that site in January and assessed the property at $458,000. The property never was put on the market.

The state is now voiding the sale because it violated a conflict-of-interest law.

Martucci said the police barracks parcel is valuable because it is on Route 1 and is zoned for light commercial use, such as a restaurant, a gallery or a neighborhood store.

In their deal with the state, the developers also got the right to negotiate the purchase of a maintenance building behind the barracks before the state offers the building to the public.

The police barracks is now leased to the Strong Insurance Agency.

Martucci said he assessed the property this month because it is now in private hands and going on the tax rolls. The new assessment took effect July 12.

Because he hasn’t visited the property since its sale, Martucci used data that the Maine State Police provided. He said he is scheduled to visit the property in early August to confirm that the data is correct.

The state sold the property in November to Kevin Bunker and Richard Berman, owners of Developers Collaborative. The company planned to develop a mix-use project on the former site of the Maine State Prison. The town owns that 15-acre site.

The developers have since abandoned the project because market conditions made it economically unfeasible, Bunker said in an interview. He said he doesn’t recall whether the property was marketed publicly.

Bunker said that he negotiated with directly with Chip Gavin, director of Maine’s Bureau of General Services in the Baldacci administration, and that town officials were involved in the talks.

Bunker said the $104,000 purchase price was based on an independent appraisal by the state. He said the developers bought the property because they wanted to control the parcel, which borders the prison site and could have been incorporated into the development.

He said Gavin “was trying hard to get as much money as he could out of it.”

Betty Lamoreau, acting director of the Bureau of General Services, said she is now examining records of the police barracks sale and could not say whether it was marketed.

She was surprised when told of the town’s assessed valuation of the property. She noted that an assessment of a property’s value for tax purposes isn’t the same thing as market value.

In 2009, the state sold two houses and an office building on Main Street to Carl Danielson for $141,000.

Martucci said he believes that price represents the true market value, because the sale was well advertised. He said that “for sale” signs were placed on the properties. He said the buildings were in poor shape.

Danielson tore down the office building, which had mold and rotting wood, and repaired one of the houses, where he lives today. He plans to restore the other, according to Martucci.

Tom Bell — 699-6261

[email protected]

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