ON THE RIGHT LANE: Stiffed by a TIF

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“Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” James Madison, fourth U.S. President.

This column depends entirely on how the Windham town councilors voted on an issue at the April 26 council meeting. But I feel no matter the outcome of that vote, it is still important to watch what the town councilors are doing or not doing with our money.

They should have voted on whether or not to give a tax-increment financing zone for the developers of Mallison Falls Mill for residential development. That’s something I believe is a crime against taxpayers and yet some in government will call residential development something which it is not, commercial development. After all, building a complex of a hundred or so apartments will have a definite long-term impact on public infrastructure such as police, fire and schools as well as roads and traffic problems.

When this TIF was first proposed, one heard the term “affordable housing” used a lot. Well, mysteriously that term seems to be disappearing, although it is my belief that affordable housing is used to confuse taxpayers that it is low-income housing. Now this TIF is proposed to also help pay for the restructuring of the new South Windham fire station, which has somehow now gone over the bond issue approved by voters.

Don’t worry, our local government in Windham has already figured out where to pilfer that money from. What’s even weirder, but not illegal, is that the same company, Hardy Pond Construction, wants to do the project at Mallison Falls Mill while receiving the bid to do the work at the South Windham fire station.

I had to mention that fact because the proposed TIF gives an almost $3 million tax break while some of the other property taxes would be used for public infrastructure like the South Windham fire station. Of course the problem I have is that the general fund in Windham gets very little out of the project and we are already facing a property tax increase as it is.

Remember when elected and appointed local officials used to tout that the expansion of businesses in Windham will reduce residential property taxes? Now it sure looks like a lie to me when they want to create even more TIF zones for whatever projects they can dream up. What scares me here is that I do not see the majority of town councilors awake on this issue, but maybe I am wrong.

If a TIF is not strange enough for you, at the same meeting the Windham town councilors should have voted either to sell or lease the Gambo soccer field complex to the Windham Youth Soccer Association. For me it’s a no-brainer in the sense of what’s good for the children in Windham. Don’t worry because the issue of either selling or leasing the Gambo soccer complex ultimately might just show some no brainers on the Town Council. I believe that the Windham Youth Soccer Association has proven themselves worthy of owning the Gambo soccer fields after decades of maintaining the fields themselves and spending somewhere in the neighborhood of half-a-million dollars and willing to put even more money into those fields every year.

I feel that way because all one has to do is look at the poor state of the Windham Skate Park, which was recently condemned because of its sorry state. As usual, the town manager goes into the difficulty of maintaining such things as the kick plates on the bottom of the ramps but fails to mention if any money has been spent on maintenance. I could be wrong but I believe the Town Council put something like $5,000 a year into maintaining the skate park. If the town can’t maintain the skate park as small as it is compared to the Gambo soccer fields, how in hell can the town maintain anything at all?

My wife and I have put a lot of money into maintaining and improving our home by doing lots of prior planning. Why can’t the town of Windham?

Lane Hiltunen of Windham wishes John Balentine “happy trails” as he travels the roads of Maine.