By Ray Carbone
WARNER – It took some creativity, but the town finally sold its historic Odd Fellows building to a local contractor who hopes to renovate and restore the structure.
On Aug. 1, the selectmen signed a purchase-and-sales agreement with Nate Burrington. The Warner native and the owner of Burlington Builders and Maintenance will purchase the 125-year-old wooden village building for $10. Burrington wants to convert the 72’-by-42’, three-story landmark into a combination workshop and office for his business, and rent space for office and/or residential apartments.
‘Selectboard Chairman John Dabuliewicz admitted that the town has lost some legal leverage in the agreement.’
Burrington first approached the selectmen about taking over the former fraternal meeting place more than six months ago. The town bought the building in 1999 for $50,000 with hopes that it could renovate it into commercial space, or repurpose it for elderly or workforce housing. After none of several such proposals worked out (and environmental issues were discovered on the property) residents were enthusiastic about Burrington’s unusual offer to take over the project and restore it at his own costs.
The idea was addressed at the annual town meeting in March and the selectmen indicated that they expected an agreement would be forthcoming.
Kimberley Edelmann, selectman, said negotiations became complicated. “Whenever you deal with a board, it takes a while because we can’t decide anything except when we’re in an (official) meeting,” she explained.
The selectman wanted some assurance that important restoration work, which includes structural and environmental remediation, would be done in a timely manner. They created a schedule of improvements with deadlines stretching out two years as part of the agreement. If Burrington didn’t comply, the town could retake the building – something it did not really want to do.
(The board was also interested in safeguarding the town’s investment in the property, which has grown to $80,000 as it handled various problems associated with the land since 1999.)
For his part, Burrington was hesitant to commit to a schedule, said Edelmann. If significant complications arose, from personal to international economic challenges, he would lose his initial investment when the town took the building back, she explained.
Finally, Edelmann suggested that the board change the schedule from one that was required to something Burrington would aspire to complete. In addition, a clause stipulates that if Burrington sells or passes on the landmark, the town will receive $80,000.
Edelmann said the agreement is somewhat unusual but seems to satisfy most of the concerns of both sides.
Chairman John Dabuliewicz admitted at a recent selectmen’s meeting that the town has lost some legal leverage in the agreement, but Edelmann pointed out that the Odd Fellows building would no longer be a municipal obligation.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, Tuesday, August 15, 2017.