WINDHAM — The Town Council during a workshop meeting on Aug. 6 discussed setting a minimum bid for the town’s tax-acquired properties that are set to be sold.

Also on Tuesday councilors discussed developing a disorderly property ordinance.

The 15 tax-acquired properties were also considered at the June 18 council meeting, where resident Elaine Pollock recommended that a minimum bid be set for each property at 85% of its assessed value.

Interim Town Manager Don Gerrish said the town would be seeking the amount owed from unpaid taxes, but he asked councilors if they would be interested in setting a higher minimum bid for the properties, such as 50% of their assessed value.

“I think up to 50% of the assessed value is probably a good starting point,” he said, although he worried about a higher minimum: “What are we trying to do here? Anybody that loses their property, we’re here to make the most money we can? I’m not sure that’s the best policy for a community to be looking at.”

Council Chairman Clayton Haskell felt that 50% was too high, saying, “We’re not in the real estate business. We’re here to collect what is due us, not to make a whole lot of money on it,” and Councilor Donna Chapman agreed.

Councilors Jarrod Maxfield and Tim Nangle disagreed.

We shouldn’t be giving away the farm. Every dollar that we leave on the table is a dollar that the Windham taxpayer’s not getting. My personal thought coming in here was 65%,” Maxfield said.

Chapman added that the town had not collected taxes from these properties for many years, “so anything we get, we’re better off than where we were yesterday.”

Council Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Cummings agreed, saying the town should collect what it is owed, and “Anything above that is gravy. We’re not here to capitalize on other people’s misfortunes. We should collect what’s owed us and not a cent more.”

“We certainly don’t want to be profiteering off of whatever happened to somebody,” Maxfield said. “We should instead, in my opinion, squeeze out a reasonable amount.” 

The town has the power to accept or reject any bids it receives.

The council settled on a minimum bid of 50% of a property’s assessed value for most of the properties. For a larger, 31-acre property on Falmouth Road, the town will seek 65% of its assessed value. For a property on Albion Road, the town will seek 100% of its assessed value, since the taxes owed on the property are more than the property’s assessed value.

Councilors also discussed keeping some of the parcels as open space. Gerrish added that the planning department was working on an open space plan for the town, so the issue will be discussed further in the future.

In a memo to Gerrish about the disorderly property ordinance, Chief of Police Kevin Schofield wrote that ” the purpose … is to create a method to manage residential properties where disruptive activities occur and the owner of such properties are not responsive to proactively managing the problem.”

“The objective is the focus on our residential properties,” Schofield said Tuesday, to address “quality of life issues in neighborhoods.”

The ordinance would establish an appeals process, a remediation process for the property owner and the penalties for maintaining a disruptive property and create a mechanism for the town to recoup legal fees associated with enforcement of the ordinance.

We (currently) don’t have an effective way to hold the property owner responsible for behavior on their properties,” Schofield added.

“We do believe it could work here,” Gerrish said. “The impetus was to deal with it before it got out of hand.”

Councilors were receptive to the idea, and a draft of the ordinance will be presented at a later council meeting.