Ruby’s Gold Mine closes

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PARIS – Like many a used-up mine before it, Ruby’s Gold Mine has been closed down.

But its shutdown is not for lack of gems. The swap shop at the bottom of the hill below the transfer station still has odds and ends, furniture, a mirror, a vase or two, board games and stuffed animals to give away.

Rather, the closing of the small building with a tiny budget has more to do with politics, according to the directors who have helped oversee Ruby’s Gold Mine since it opened a little more than a year ago.

“The final straw that broke our back is somebody went down and said (to the Paris tax assessor), ‘They’re not a nonprofit.’ And you gotta go get a special license to be a nonprofit,” Arthur Hill, the Mine’s treasurer, said Tuesday. “We didn’t do that because it cost too much money. We barely struggled to stay alive as it was.”

Ruby Vaughn of West Paris started Ruby’s Gold Mine to help needy families acquire household items and children’s toys. And it also appealed to people who just liked to collect discarded stuff.

All the items were donated, and all were displayed without price tags. Instead of selling the objects, the Gold Mine asked for donations in a ceramic pig jug. And often, money was scarce. Last year, the board of directors had to ask Norway and Paris officials for help in paying the annual $615 insurance bill.

Bruce Hanson, who sits on the Norway/Paris Solid Waste board of directors, said the building could not legally have continued operating without either becoming a nonprofit or paying taxes.

Norway/Paris Solid Waste Inc., a nonprofit itself, leased the land to Ruby’s Gold Mine for a nominal fee and had a 51 percent stake in the property.

“I think it is a concern allowing somebody for-profit to be operating on property owned by a nonprofit,” Hanson said. “All we wanted was that they were operating within the parameters they were supposed to be operating in.”

He said the Gold Mine’s board had been told repeatedly that they must acquire their nonprofit status.

But Henry Male, secretary for the Gold Mine’s board of directors, said it would have cost the organization around $1,000 to obtain a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which exempts organizations from paying property taxes.

“We took in $60 one month,” Male said, adding that some board members had made out-of-pocket contributions to pay for part of the building’s construction.

No one on the board had a recent phone number for Vaughn. The Mine’s last day was Jan. 13.

Kevin McGillicuddy, Paris’s tax assessor, said in an interview that Hanson informed him before the new year that the Gold Mine was located just over the Paris town line and that it had an ambiguous tax status.

After learning of its recent closing and evaluating the situation, McGillicuddy said the Gold Mine does not owe back taxes because the property has automatically returned in full to Norway/Paris Solid Waste.

Hanson said the board would discuss the issue at its Tuesday night meeting, and that he hoped the shop would not sit idle.

“I think a nonprofit would be excellent in there, as would a church or the Boy Scouts of America, or the Salvation Army,” Hanson said. “I think those kinds of things are at most transfer stations, those swap shops, and run on different scales.”

Male said that the Gold Mine was meant to be of help, both to people who could use the items and also to the transfer station.

“Our basic idea was to provide things for people at no cost or by donation and stop destroying good items in the hopper,” Male said. “We tried to save them money, Norway/South Paris Solid Waste, by recycling these things. We just couldn’t please.”

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