According to Middlefield First Selectman Jon Brayshaw and Middlefield Finance Director Joe Geruch, the town received a $500,000 wire payment, Nov. 3, to settle the remaining debt from Sean Hayes’ Powder Ridge group for the purchase of the ski area from the town.
In a Nov. 4 press release from Powder Ridge, when the pay-off intention was announced, Brayshaw said, “I am thrilled for both the town and Sean Hayes to hear the news. There is no downside, Sean is moving ahead and the town gets to pay down its debt five years early. It’s funny how things work out. I don’t have the exact figures but suffice to say the town will save tens of thousands in interest costs because of Sean’s willingness to pay us early.”
The town of Middlefield purchased Powder Ridge for $2.55 million in December 2008 from Middlefield Holdings, which had purchased the property at auction only months before. Attempts to sell the property to Snow Time and then Alpine Ridge both collapsed. In August of 2012, Middlefield voters, at referendum, approved the sale of most of the property to Sean Hayes’ Brownstone group.
The sale closed in September 2012 for $700,000. The amount was divided into yearly payments as a loan from the town of Middlefield, with $500,000 remaining before the wire payment.
The remaining property carved out of the town’s purchase was recently sold to Middlefield resident Lori Vogel for $300,000. That sale — the source of some contention locally — was also approved at referendum.
The $1.55 million difference between the town’s purchase price and the sale price of the two properties reflects the value of the development rights which were removed or altered from the properties. The referendum approving the town’s purchase dedicated the land to recreation and open space.
According to Geruch, Middlefield originally took out $2.8 million to handle the purchase. “We currently still have about two million outstanding on the property,” Geruch said.
That $2.8 million debt had been paid down by the town to approximately $2.3 million. The debt dropped to approximately $2 million after the Vogel sale. The $500,000 payment will be used to pay down the debt, according to Geruch and Brayshaw’s statements.
“That is our intention,” Geruch said. Because the funds were unanticipated at the creation of the town’s budget, the town may face limitations or a need to get authorization to apply the money. Geruch said he anticipates that by the time of the town’s next payment in March, the issue will be figured out.
The interest-free loan to the Brownstone group was an area of contention, when discussed at public meetings both before and after the sale. The issue also came up during Middlefield’s three way race for First Selectman between Jon Brayshaw, Lucy Petrella, and Marianne Corona.
The pay-off announcement took place at Powder Ridge’s ski swap event, the weekend before the town’s Nov. 5 elections and was immediately incorporated into campaigns for town Republicans.
After Brayshaw’s victory, he said that the announcement likely helped his campaign. “I would not deny it probably did,” Brayshaw said.
Corona also thought the announced loan pay-off factored in the election. “Sure the pay-off had a big play in the election,” said Corona, who also maintained on election night that the loan was only part of the costs incurred by Middlefield in the Powder Ridge purchase.