Regarding an article in last week’s Town Times, a few important facts were not mentioned:
1.) The sale of parcels of unused town property, often obtained by foreclosure, began in March of 2019 in order to obtain additional tax revenue for the Tax Collector’s Office.
2.) All land parcels were then reviewed by commissions/boards throughout 2019 to ensure the town had no use for these properties.
3.) A legal notice and bid for surplus property were posted on March 10, 2020 allowing anyone to place a sealed bid for these seven parcels.
4.) On April 16, 2020, the highest sealed bids for the seven parcels were accepted, as is consistent with our municipal bidding process and town charter. The highest of the seven parcels went for $9,500. The lowest went for $1,004. The sealed bid results are available online.
5.) The sealed bid which I placed for one of the parcels was five times higher than the next highest bid for the same parcel. Paying the highest price for a piece of property in a sealed bid process that was open to everyone is absolutely permitted, and the parcel that I bid on was not classified as a “building lot” as some alleged.
6.) Consistent with the initial intent for the Tax Collector, this process raised approximately $30,000 of immediate revenue for the town and approximately $17,000 annually in tax revenue moving forward.
I am extremely disappointed that Democratic Town Committee Chairperson Kristina Talbert-Slagle and two other DTC members attended a meeting with limited facts and innuendo (such as the parcel is a building lot) in an attempt to score political points. As they are keenly aware, serving on a board does not disallow me from owning property or from participating in a sealed bid opportunity that was available to everyone.
At the same time, I truly appreciate the numerous Democrats who contacted me apologizing for their chairperson’s disingenuous actions.
John Szewczyk, DurhamJumpingto conclusions
I feel compelled to comment on the recent storm of negativity surrounding Selectman Szewczyk in the past couple of weeks regarding a recent land purchase.
While seven parcels recently went to public auction in Durham, and was clearly stated on our town’s website – five of which are not even classified as building lots – our selectman put a sealed bid in on one.
The parcels auctioned were excess land that was meant to bring some immediate revenue to the town. There were only a few bids, all of which were under $10,000. The fact there was no reserve on the bids meant the highest bid wins. So have at it.
John Szewczyk placed a sealed bid on a non-building lot for an amount that he could afford, and hoped for the best. His bid ended up to be more than five times that of the next highest bid on the property. So he won it.
For some reason, Selectman Eames had an issue with this, and created a firestorm, based in misleading info to rile up members of the community.
Please take time to understand the facts before jumping to conclusions. There was no ethical or legal violation in what was done.
Mike Geremia, DurhamVery strange
Watching the Board of Selectmen meeting on April 16, I witnessed a very strange event. The meeting was held via Zoom and can be viewed on the Town of Durham’s website.
One of the items on the agenda was the awarding of bids for surplus land owned by the town. The board had published information about the parcels that the town owns, but has no real use for, and solicited bids for the purchase of those parcels.
On the parcel of approximately 11.61 acres located on Crooked Hill Road there were two bids, one from Michael Johanson for $1,004 and one from Selectman John Szewczyk for $6,250.
The bid was awarded to Selectman Szewczyk, with First Selectman Laura Francis and Szewczyk himself voting yes.
How is it possible for an elected official to participate in a vote where they have so clear a conflict of interest?
If Selectman Szewczyk had intended to participate in the bidding process he should have recused himself.
A very strange event indeed!
Chris Balay, DurhamPlaying politics
The misrepresentation by three Durham Democrats at the April 16 Board of Selectmen meeting in which I was in attendance is very disheartening.
As the former Durham Republican Town Committee Chairperson I worried about building the party by discussing platforms and policies, not misrepresenting facts or improperly attacking the other side.
The Democrats were completely out of line in this situation.
Republican Selectman John Szewczyk’s sealed bid was over five times higher than the next highest bid for one of the seven properties listed through the tax collector’s office. Only the highest bids were then accepted.
Further, the lot in which he bid on is not designated a building lot, despite claims to the contrary by Democrats.
Selectman Szewczyk doesn’t lose the ability to own land or partake in something open to the general public simply because he serves on a board.
As far as the question of recusing himself from voting on this matter, as one of the three members of the Board of Selectman – a board by Town Charter with no alternates – John Szewczyk has a duty and obligation to the Town of Durham and its citizens to vote.
Shame on the Democrats for attempting to make this a political issue.
William LaFlamme, DurhamSupport small business
First of all, thank you to those of you who have shown your support to our restaurants and other essential businesses during this challenging time.
These small, independently-owned establishments are the backbone of Durham.
The situation is getting better with the reopening of select industries, but there are still business owners who have not been given the green light to reopen. Please think about these businesses as you go about your daily routine. They have had expenses to pay and families to take care of during the whole time they have been closed.
Not all businesses have been able to receive government assistance or qualified for special loans. Some business owners have offered online shopping with shipping or shared photos of their products on social media for sale and curbside pickup.
These businesses most likely will not reopen until June, if they are able to open at all.
Numerous businesses are in a service industry; therefore, they don’t sell tangible items. We are all facing challenging times and may not have disposable cash to purchase non-essential items or services, but if each of us contacted these businesses and purchased a gift card or item for sale, they may have a better chance to survive.
“What if I buy a gift card and the business closes?” Under Connecticut law, gift certificates and gift cards issued by Connecticut businesses will most likely be covered under the law.
If you want to keep our small businesses – the ones we go to for support and donations to our non-profits, community organizations and schools – please consider reaching out to them to buy a gift card or make a small purchase.
It isn’t always about the need; it is about supporting our neighbors and independently-owned businesses. They are not chain retail conglomerates or large healthcare institutions. They are our friends and family.
Janet Morganti,No thanks
In regard to the Readers Opinion of May 8 by Sue VanDerzee, I must point out some incredible wrong conclusions she draws regarding lessons to learn after the coronavirus passes.
She writes about a new normal, where, “Maybe the newly clear skies in China and Los Angeles and elsewhere because of shutdowns due to the coronavirus, show us what our skies could be like all the time if we stopped using fossil fuels.”
Does she not realize the massive economic collapse which would occur if we implemented her nightmare? It’s bad enough that thousands are out of jobs, but to use this tragedy to push a green agenda that would throw America into the Stone Age is unthinkable.
She concludes with, “It is perhaps fitting to turn to China, where this pandemic originated, for some wisdom.” Turn to Communist China for wisdom? A country which only 73 years ago murdered between 75 and 100 million of its citizens during the Communist Revolution?
I will gladly join American patriots and just return to normal when this gift from China passes.
David Glueck, Rockfall