RUMFORD — Essex Avenue resident Don Boucher said he is frustrated with selectmen delaying action for six weeks on his offer to buy a tax-acquired property on Falmouth Street. 

He said he’s so angry he’s working to recall Chairman Greg Buccina, whom he blames for the delay.

After waiting as directed by the board and going through the steps the board required, Boucher learned from selectmen at Thursday night’s meeting that they decided to put the property out to bid and unanimously rejected his $1,000 offer.

“It was a lot of running around for nothing,” Boucher said Friday afternoon. “To me, if they would have just told me ‘no’ in the first place, I wouldn’t have even thought twice about it. But the way they went about it was the most Mickey Mouse thing I’ve ever seen.”

Buccina responded Sunday by email to Boucher’s accusations.

“It is unfortunate that getting policies in place can take more time than it seems necessary to people who are impacted by the process,” Buccina said. “The policy — adopted and now in place — will make it fair and unbiased in the disposition of properties acquired by the town in the future.”

He said the policy “will allow all citizens an opportunity to evaluate the options to acquire a town-owned piece of property and give selectpersons a more efficient and quicker way to dispose of that property.

“As far as Mr. Boucher is concerned, I would be frustrated also,” Buccina said. “He has put forth a good effort to secure a vacant piece of property and set forth a plan to make improvements to and give purpose to what now is a vacant building.

“I’m quite sure Mr. Boucher will end up as the owner of the property in question, but the policy we have developed and sanctioned needs to be followed,” he said. “Again, I understand his frustration in the time that it has taken to set the process in motion, but that is what equity takes — time.”

He said as far as responsibility goes, the board collectively by majority makes decisions on most matters, “but as the board chair, I will take responsibility to ensure the process and policy of town-acquired property be carried out as it is defined within the policy.

“As far as wanting me recalled, that is up to Mr. Boucher,” Buccina said. “I still believe the process deserves the time it takes and it’s unfortunate it has impacted him as it has.”

Boucher said he and his wife, Michelle, started talking about buying the property in June. It is across from their house. They spoke with Town Manager John Madigan.

Madigan, Boucher said, told them to make an offer. They did and selectmen took it up July 24.

At the selectmen meeting June 19, a proposal was made to have an ad hoc committee develop a policy for the disposition of tax-acquired property.

Rumford had more than 25 such properties at the time and people, including selectmen, were getting upset that nothing was being done to rid the town of blighted buildings that owners just walked away from without paying back taxes.

Some buildings, like 21 Falmouth St., could be renovated, sold and returned to the tax rolls. Money made from selling these properties could be applied to the demolition of others that are in much worse shape.

Selectmen decided June 19 to hold a workshop on the proposal an hour prior to their July 24 meeting, which they did.

During the July 24 meeting, Buccina read the Bouchers’ proposal to buy 21 Falmouth St. for $1,000. It is a multifamily house and the Bouchers said they would gut the two upper floors and convert the first floor into a secondhand shop or thrift store. If that failed, they would convert it into a single-family home.

Town records in the assessor’s office show that the structurally-sound building at 21 Falmouth St. is assessed at $72,223. That is based on the 1999 revaluation because Rumford hasn’t done one since then, so buildings aren’t being taxed fairly, a clerk in the office said Friday. Taxes are $1,700 annually, Boucher said.

The house was built in 1917. The land is assessed at $3,500. Town Manager Madigan said during the July 24 meeting that taxes owed total $4,666.87, based on taxes from 2007-2009. He said the building, which has been vacant since 2007, was tax-acquired and taxes haven’t been assessed since then.

The Bouchers’ proposal was the first such offer since then for the property. Selectmen agreed then that they shouldn’t consider offers on tax-acquired properties until they adopted a policy to deal with them. They tabled action on the Bouchers’ offer for two weeks until the policy was adopted.

“They wanted me to wait while they changed the rules to what I was doing,” Don Boucher said. It wasn’t the first time he’d been put off, he said.

He accused selectmen and a few town employees of jerking him around when he first went before the board with a complaint in March that a businessman was plowing snow from Ralph’s Store on Cumberland Street onto his property. Eventually, the town removed the snow.

Don Boucher told selectmen July 24 that he was concerned about the poor condition of buildings and properties in his neighborhood, including town-owned properties.

Selectman Brad Adley told him the board tried to put through a Property Maintenance Code that would have made property owners maintain their land and buildings to code. Voters, however, rejected it.

Selectmen on Aug. 7 approved the new tax-acquired policy with amendments, revisited the Bouchers’ offer and took no action on it. Instead, the board told the Bouchers they had to go through the Tax-Acquired Ad Hoc Committee tasked with implementing the new policy.

The application process determines if a bidder is financially able to acquire and maintain another property.

“The application process asked all kinds of crazy questions that weren’t applicable,” Don Boucher said. He said he’s never been late on any tax, water and sewer bill payments.

“Even though I own my building outright and I’m basically self-employed as a business, they wanted pay stubs from me and my wife for this and that. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Don Boucher, a Rhode Island native who has lived in Rumford for about four years, has worked in the housing construction business for 34 years across the nation and owned several companies. He renovates buildings for a living.

Finally, though, he filed the application only to be told selectmen wouldn’t revisit it until Sept. 4.

At that Sept. 4 meeting, Buccina bore the brunt of Boucher’s anger. Boucher was yelling at Buccina, calling him shortsighted for turning down his offer. He said, “I’m trying to do something good for the town.”

And after Boucher left the room, Buccina said, “There’s going to be bumps in the process and it’s frustrating for this person now. We need to give (the policy) the chance it deserves.”

Ad Hoc Committee member Bob Chase said 21 Falmouth was tax-acquired in 2006. “There was no interest in it until we started the (policy) process. We’re trying to get the ball moving.”

The board voted 5-0 to reject the Bouchers offer.

“I’m trying to make it a productive piece of property,” Boucher said Friday. “And to have me jumping through more hoops after I’ve already jumped through the hoops, it’s crazy. It’s not right.

“Selectmen are supposed to serve us, but they do more of a disservice, because they’re not up front with you,” he said. “All they had to do with me when I submitted the first proposal and they wanted to develop a policy, they should have said, ‘All proposals are being denied. Once the ad hoc policy is adopted, then we will accept new proposals at that time.’

“If they had done that, I would have washed my hands of it,” Boucher said. “But it’s the way they went about it. The town manager he agrees with me, you know. I feel I’ve got a vested interest and no one else is doing it, because they’re so frustrated with trying to deal with this town.”

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