OAKLAND — Apart from discussing opening a senior center in Regional School Unit 18’s former superintendent’s office, the Oakland Town Council took action on a number of other issues Wednesday at its meeting, including granting a tax abatement to a resident who had been overcharged for several years and selecting a construction manager for the town’s new fire station.

Councilors unanimously voted to refund $1,671.47 to Heath Brockway, an Oakland homeowner whose residence had been overvalued by the town assessor, Kathy Geaghan, for roughly five years. Geaghan experienced numerous difficulties in reaching Brockway at his 93 Madeline Drive property over several years.

“She goes out there every year,” Town Manager Gary Bowman said. “There’s been a dog in the yard and she hasn’t been able to get (to the door) or no one is home. When she finally got into the house, she found it hadn’t been done nearly as much as she thought.”

As a result, Geaghan lowered its valuation from $130,100 to $62,300 last year. Brockway, who previously had been unaware that he had been overpaying the town, sought reimbursement for the years he paid Oakland more than was necessary in property taxes.

“When I went through — it’s not much more than a shell,” Geaghan said. “I mean there was open studding, there was very little plumbing, no heating system other than a fireplace, wood stove, and so I reduced its value on April 1 … so its valuation dropped from 2017 to 2018; and so when (Brockway) came to me a few weeks before the initial abatement request, he said he wanted to … go back five years.”

Under state law, municipal officers can abate up to three years of taxes stemming from irregularity in assessment from the date of commitment, which Geaghan said was July 2018, if the mistake stemmed from “illegality, error or irregularity in assessment” as opposed to an error in the actual valuation. Geaghan said her mistake falls into the former category.

“It was an error I made in my judgment. Not so much an error in valuation, but an error in my judgment based on the depreciation or the unfinished factor,” she told the council.

No councilors opposed the decision to refund Brockway despite some confusion about the state law. “I have a hard time following that, but I trust your good judgment,” Councilor Bob Nutting said.

“To be honest, it’s the right thing to do,” Bowman later said. “We try to take the high road on everything.”

In other business, Oakland councilors discussed whether to put properties that the town foreclosed on up for sale or to explore whether the land could provide something valuable to Oakland residents if retained by the town. One is a 21.2-acre parcel on Middle Road and the other is a roughly 100-acre plot on Oak Street, Bowman said Wednesday.

“There’s opportunity out there for public-private partnerships when it comes to housing, solar energy. There’s all kinds of opportunities that lie out there for taxpayers, and I’d look to look or at least consider some of these possibilities,” he told the council.

Councilors Harold Buzzell and Dana Wrigley voiced approval for this idea, and the board voted 5-0 to postpone the decision about what to do with the properties to a future meeting.

According to Bowman, the Middle Road property generates $1,317.78 annually in taxes, which the town loses by retaining ownership.

The council selected Winthrop-based JF Scott Construction to manage the building of a $2.6 million fire station voters approved at the polls in November. Bowman said four contractors submitted bids on the project, but officials narrowed the decision down to Fairfield’s Sheridan Construction and JF Scott before ultimately selecting the latter. The proposed fee for JF Scott’s construction management services amounted to $253,773.

“The next step is to start lining up (sub)contractors to start doing the job,” Bowman said. “This is the big one, though, and construction management from this point forward will put the trades out to bid for concrete work and electric and wiring work. It’s a long, arduous process.”

Bowman said that the cost of the construction management falls within what the town was expecting to pay. As for meeting the goal of breaking ground in April and staying under budget, Bowman noted that “everything is looking good right now.”

JF Scott Construction oversaw the building of Oakland’s $1.05 million police station in 2016 on Fairfield Street, in addition to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Alfond Center for Health in Augusta and Thayer Center for Health in Waterville.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the council also re-elected Mike Perkins as the council’s chairman and Wrigley as its vice chairman. This marks both Perkins’ and Wrigley’s 12th year in these positions. Bowman announced that Budget Advisory Committee member Chuck Sweigart was vacating his role after selling his home in Oakland to embark on a cross-country trip with his wife in their new camper. The council unanimously voted for Donna Doucette to fill his role. Doucette previously served on RSU 18’s school board for 21 years but resigned after conflicts with the district about its switch to mass customized learning in 2013.

“She was a very hardworking lady on the School Department committee, and I think we ought to nominate her for the Budget and Advisory Committee,” Wrigley said. “She’d be an asset to our committee, I’m sure. She’s very careful with her coins.”

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @megrobbins

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: