HARTFORD – Town assessor Michael O’Donnell gave scant hope to property owners who want their taxes lowered because the water level in Lake Anasagunticook has dropped drastically this summer.

Approximately 20 people listened at Thursday night’s selectmen’s meeting as O’Donnell of John E. O’Donnell & Associates in New Gloucester explained that the law does not allow tax reductions for short-term events such as fluctuating water levels. The water went down last June after the April tax commitments had been made.

It is now into the second year that some residents have had no use of the lake. O’Donnell explained that the key is some people, not all people, have been affected.

David Bowen said, “I have had no use of the lake, but I won’t file for a rebate because I have faith that Canton will have the lake fixed as soon as possible.” But, he added, “What if it isn’t fixed?”

“Then you probably would be due a rebate,” O’Donnell answered.

Most of the nearly two-mile-long lake lies in Hartford; the rest in Canton, where a lake-outlet dam on Whitney Brook has deteriorated so badly the state has ordered it opened indefinitely. Canton took ownership of the structure this summer and plans to take action to restore the water level in the lake.

O’Donnell outlined two options for the board to consider: Do nothing for now, or have properties reassessed one case at at time by O’Donnell for a fee.

Because only one lakefront property has been transferred this year, O’Donnell said he has nothing on which to base the impact of the low water level.

He said the town is still at a 93 percent ratio of assessment-to-sale price.

Bob Calawa pointed out that if property assessments go down, the tax rate goes up and the whole town will pay in higher taxes.

Daryl Boness said it isn’t only lakeshore people who are affected.

“Anyone who wants to dock a boat is affected,” he said. “You can’t say that one formula fits all.”

O’Donnell said no tax abatement could be requested until tax commitments had been made and then they have six months to apply.

The board voted not to make any adjustments in tax bills now.

Another long discussion ensued over Selectman Jack Plumley’s request for a policy for trees cut along the town’s right of way. Plumley wanted Road Commissioner Jeremy Johnson to get a signed paper from the landowner if they didn’t want the wood.

Johnson saw no need for the paper, but Plumley said it was to protect the town.

The other board members said they wouldn’t act until they saw complaints and a draft policy. Plumley said he would draft one for review.

Judy Hamilton requested a date for a special town meeting to approve the Comprehensive Plan.

Plumley said he was not ready to approve it because it did not reflect some ordinances and he didn’t want the town bound by it.

Hamilton said it was just a guideline for the town.

After much debate, the board voted 2-1 to send it to an attorney. The cost of an attorney was questioned and Plumley said he would ask the price before committing.

Turner Town Manager Eva Leavitt was present to invite communities to share a code enforcement officer because the depressed housing market has brought a lighter workload. A decision was table for more information.



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