Before tax sale, Moriah nabs property

— Within spitting distance of this town’s water treatment plant at the edge of Bartlett Pond is a sprawling half-acre abandoned eyesore that the supervisor of this rural town says is a threat to public health.

In contrast to the tidy-looking treatment facility with beige tin siding that filters water for several thousand community residents, the adjacent property, which straddles an embankment and Bartlett Pond Road, contained three moldering wooden structures in a muddy yard strewn with rusty detritus and piles of trash.

Several tattered signs — Beware of Dog! No Trespassing! — flapped against the wet birch trees last week.

Supervisor Tom Scozzafava made an argument to the board of supervisors last week that the county should hand over the neglected lot to the town as a safeguard of public health.

After some sparring, they gave it to him.

“We want to protect the water supply that protects a few thousand people,” he said. “This is critical.”

Scozzafava said his town couldn’t afford the minimum $23,000 bid at the county tax auction scheduled at the end of the month on top of the estimated $13,000 that it would cost to clean up the “disastrous” compound.

“We can’t even gate it off because we have an easement going into the plant,” he said.

Some lawmakers questioned the precedent that giving towns county-owned land would set.

“If every town wants property so they can turn it around to make a profit off it, then it’d put the county in further bad financial shape,” said Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston. “I think giving property away isn’t in the best interest unless it’s in extenuating circumstances.”

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said he had no problem with the transfer but questioned why Moriah didn’t put pressure on the previous owner by sending over a code enforcement officer to crack the whip.

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