Rutland Herald (VT)
September 25, 2013
Section: NEWS

Future of Omya in Proctor properties unclear

   By Josh O’Gorman

PROCTOR — There were many questions but few answers during a public forum to discuss the possible acquisition of properties from Omya. About 25 people filled the community room Monday night at the Proctor Free Library for a meeting to solicit public opinion on a proposal for the town and the College of St. Joseph to take over properties being vacated by Omya.

There was very little new information; Omya has offered to give away, at no cost, the lab building at 39 Main St. and the marble building at 61 Main St., as well as the Beaver Pond property.

The offer is attractive to both the college and the school, officials who spoke Monday night said.

CSJ President Richard Lloyd said his school is looking for lab space to expand its course offerings as the school unrolls a new health studies major.

“We have a lab, but we are not equipped to teach the chemistry and physics classes needed for health studies,” said Lloyd, whose school is looking for space for the fall of 2014 is also considering renovating existing space at CSJ or installing some portable classrooms.

Select Board Chairman Vinnie Gatti told the public the town could use a small portion of the marble building — one-third of the second floor — to relocate the town office, which is not handicapped accessible and lacks adequate vault space.

After their brief synopses, Gatti opened the floor to the public, whose greatest concern was the loss in tax revenue. The property tax on the lab building is $13,410. For the marble building, the property tax is $14,782. If the buildings are occupied by the town and the college, the resulting loss to the tax rolls would be $28,192.

Doing some quick math, Gatti estimated the 900 households in Proctor would see a $33-a-year increase in their property taxes. But, that loss could be offset by renting the remaining space in the 30,570-square-foot marble building to businesses.

Selectman Lloyd Hughes said he has spoken with two businesses — one he described as “pretty good size” — that might be interested in relocating to Proctor.

One resident asked about the possibility of CSJ moving into the marble building as well, and suggested the town contact Castleton State College, which is looking to expand outside its campus.

Another resident asked about the heating and upkeep costs, and the condition of the buildings themselves. Gatti said the town has received a $50,000 economic development grant, which could be used to pay for an engineering study to determine what the buildings could be used for and how much it would cost to make the necessary upgrades to relocate the town office.

Gatti said there are no agreements in place, just discussions in the very early stages, but one possibility would find CSJ responsible for all heating and upkeep costs for the lab building, and if after five years they want to move out, the town would be offered right of refusal to take that building too.

The Beaver Pond property was discussed briefly. Gatti said he’d like to see the return of beaches and benches and removal of milfoil.

“For me, that’s a million-dollar piece of property that is going to waste,” Gatti said.