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Scarafoni Asks for Tax Deal on Transcript Building
Tammy Daniels,
06:24PM / Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Scarafoni Associates plans to purchase the Transcript property and renovate for use by the Brien Center.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council will be asked to approve a tax incentive that will allow the Brien Center to move into the North Adams Transcript building while keeping the building on the tax rolls for 10 years.

Scarafoni Associates plans to buy the 16,000 square-foot building on American Legion Drive and lease it to the nonprofit Brien Center. David Carver of Scarafoni Associates told the Finance Committee on Tuesday that the 10-year agreement may be critical to loosening up bank financing for the project.

"We think this TIF agreement is a big piece of making this work ... which will release probably $1 million in construction and repairs, something we need to see more of in the downtown," said Carver. "This type of project and this type of financing will make the numbers work for bankers."

Mayor Richard Alcombright said the tax increment financing agreement would lock in the property's current assessment $767,000, guaranteeing property taxes of more than $20,000 annually for the next decade despite the Brien Center's status as a nonprofit.

Coldwell Banker lists the taxes as $21,197.

Chairman Michael Bloom noted the current unpredictability of the commercial market. "This is an amazing agreement."

That will provide the stability for both entities to make the project work, said Carver. "We are buying the building for less than the assessed value," he said. "So instead of petitioning for [the assessed value to be the] purchase price ... we have agreed as part of this process to lock in that current assessed value."

David Carver explains to the Finance Committee how the TIF agreement would work.

"I think it's a great solution for the city ... it retains the Brien Center in the city and the jobs and services they provide," said the mayor. If the Brien Center, which provides mental health and substance abuse services to some 10,000 people in Berkshire County, purchased the building, it would fall off the tax rolls completely.

TIFs once required job production but the state changed the law last year to take into account job retention.

The Brien Center, cited as the ninth-largest employer in the county recently by The Berkshire Eagle, employs 40 full-time and 20 part-time employees at its offices on Marshall Street. Catherine A. Doherty, chief executive officer, said the agency's lease on Marshall Street is up in August; moving to Ashland Street will allow the organization to stay in the downtown and not only retain programs but expand them.

"Once we our positioned into this new building we will be able to think about adding more programs," she said. "It's a building that speaks more to what we do."

She cited the property's easy access, single-story construction and spaciousness that will offer room for more programs for the 3,000 to 4,000 North County residents the agency serves. It will also provide space for the Adult Day Health Program, which will move from the former Department of Motor Vehicles building along with its 10 employees.

Alcombright said the city solicitor had reviewed the agreement. Carver's attorney, Elisabeth Goodman, on questions from the committee, said the agreement would remain in effect should the Brien Center purchase the property because it signing on to the deal. It could be broken, she said, if the Brien Center reneged on the lease.

The 45-year-old Transcript building was placed on the market nearly two years ago for nearly $1 million; it has sinced been reduced to $799,000. The presses were removed; printing and most of the support staff operate out of The Eagle in Pittsfield.

The city had eyed the property as a potential site for a new public safety building but its current fiscal problems have put that project on hold.

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