I am writing this column in response to the Dec. 7 article titled, “Waterville takes first vote to OK tax program transfer to future Hathaway site owner.”

First, our family would like to thank the City Council for approving our bid on 8 Grove St. We are very excited to begin improvements and bring some integrity back to the building.

However, as appreciative as we are, it is overshadowed by offensive and slanderous comments made by City Council members.

Councilor Jackie Dupont claimed that our properties were “in various states” and further implied that if we did secure the bid we may not make appropriate improvements. This was not only inaccurate, but it was an insult that we cannot take lightly. Brown House Properties employs 18 full-time employees whose sole mission is to maintain the properties. The comments at the council meeting were not just an insult to our family, but to our 18 hard-working employees too.

We were told the article was incredibly kind, and it did not mention all of the inaccurate claims of the councilors. We greatly appreciate the efforts of our mayor, Nick Isgro, who attempted to realign the focus and professionalism of councilors by saying he “took offense to labeling Brown House Properties as a slum lord.” We do understand that these comments do not reflect the opinions of all councilors or the mayor, however, to be called a slum lord by a member of the council is the most disheartening and offensive thing anyone could possibly say. Our family appreciates the councilors who stood behind the mayor on this topic.

Brown House Properties takes great pride in what we do as a family for the community. Our mission is to provide safe and quality housing within the community. Some of our properties upon purchase were inhabitable or condemned, and because of our determination and hard work they are up to code and provide a quality home for families.

To further this point, our properties are subject to various inspections throughout the year, by the fire department, code enforcement, insurance companies and housing authorities, among others. We often times have to accommodate a stricter standard in our properties than our personal homes.

We own 52 properties within the city and our company alone pays mroe than $100,000 in city taxes. To hear these demoralizing comments from our elected officials toward our family, our legacy, hard work, blood, sweat and tears is unacceptable. We do not own any property out of state; we purposefully do not own anything more than 20 miles from our office on First Rangeway so we can personally manage our properties.

Mayor Isgro has reached out to us and made it very clear that the opinions of councilors in no way reflects his personal opinion or the overall consensus of the council.

However, the damage has been done — the words are in print, it echoed through the ears of all who were present at the meeting. If you Google “Brown House Properties” at any point in the future you will find an article that insinuates our properties are not cared for and the term “slum lord” is attached to our name.

Words cannot express how discouraged and confused we feel. We live in Waterville, raised a family in Waterville, our adult children and their spouses help manage the business, our young grandchildren have a nursery in the office and are there with their parents all day. We have literally invested our entire lives in this city, and it is difficult to articulate just how disappointed we are.

Sherwood Booker is co-owner and founder of Brown House Properties.

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