Letter: Land deal will be a major cost

To the editor,

At the Board of Selectmen meeting on Oct. 15, Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik, presented a proposal for the town to purchase a piece of land from O&G Industries for $1. While this may sound like a great deal, it comes with a lot higher of a cost and possibly detrimental terms.

This sales agreement is more like a lease. After 15 years, O&G has the right to purchase the property back from the town for $1, or the two sides can agree to defer for five more years with the option to again buy it back for just $1. But this isn’t a simple dollar-for-a-dollar deal. Where this deal goes bad is when the actual costs involved are understood.

The deal was pitched with the idea that the town would use this land for bulky waste (leaves, brush, etc.) as a replacement for the land previously used next to the town garage which is now home to solar panels. In order to do so, the land needs to be prepped. The taxpayers will have to pay for permits, clearing of the land, fencing and other costs.

On top of the land prep costs, the town will lose the tax revenue for the property. At the current annual rate and value, the town will lose over $79,000 in tax revenue in the next 15 years if the deal goes through; more if it extends to 20 years.

So why is there a clause for O&G to buy the property back from the town after 15 years? They must see potential in the property. O&G is not incompetent; they wouldn’t have been a successful company since 1923 if they didn’t know what they were doing.

One might argue it’s the town’s choice as a temporary solution. Over the next 15 years, it sounds like an alternative plan is to move the solar panels to the roof of the town garage and resume the old bulky waste program. But upon further review, there are more solar panels than town garage roof. The building will also likely need to be significantly reinforced to support the weight of the solar panels plus the weight of additional snow trapped by the panels above and beyond that which would be on the current flat roof. What would the cost of all of this be?

If it’s really about a way to take care of the town’s bulk waste, then this conversation wouldn’t have ever happened if Bielik hadn’t gone against the Board of Finance and other well-informed citizens to go ahead with the solar panel project in the first place. Even worse, Bielik wanted to approve the land agreement at the October meeting without going to a public hearing based on the guise that this major taxpayer expense is only a $1 deal.

So how much money are these solar panels bringing in? Enough to compensate for the land deal? Not likely. Bielik’s proposed land deal is a very expensive bandage to his solar panel predicament at yet another major cost to the taxpayers.

Shawn Styfco

Beacon Falls

The writer is a member of the Beacon Falls Republican Town Committee.