Tuesday October 9, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Area economic development projects and flood-recovery efforts received $1.16 million in tax credits, state officials announced Monday.

The largest chunk of that money -- $717,500 -- goes toward rehabilitation of Brattleboro’s fire-damaged Brooks House.

Spokesmen for the Brooks House project were not available for comment on Monday night.

But several other projects also received a major boost, including a $126,136 credit toward ongoing efforts to upgrade the historic Putney church that houses Next Stage Arts Project.

"It’s a huge vote of confidence," said Lyssa Papazian of Putney Historical Society, which owns the former United Church of Putney at 15 Kimball Hill Road.

The building closed as a church in 2009 and was donated to the historical society. It hosts community gatherings, and Next Stage -- a performing arts venue -- is in its first full year of operations there.

But much work remains to bring the 1841 vintage church up to modern standards.

"The building is old," Papazian said. "It needs some structural work, a roof rehabilitation, painting on the interior and exterior."

Also proposed is installation of an elevator and sprinkler system along with seating and accessibility upgrades.

It all adds up to a project with a price tag exceeding $1.3 million.

"We’re a nonprofit," Papazian said. "To raise that kind of money is going to take a number of years."

But a smaller-scale renovation began this week after some successful fundraising. And the newly announced tax credit, Papazian said, "means we can really sink our teeth into and start to plan for that larger project."

Since the non-profit historical society pays no taxes, the organization can sell the tax credit to a bank for cash, she added.

Also benefiting from Monday’s announcement is an ongoing project in East Dover, where John Sprung and Amiee Pritcher have purchased and are renovating two buildings.

The village’s former Scale House is a long way from completion, Sprung said. But the building housing the local post office and general store is much further along.

"Our store is going to open hopefully this month, within 30 days," Sprung said, adding that the post office has renewed its lease and soon will celebrate 150 years in the same building.

The state’s $32,200 tax credit will assist a project that is vitally important for East Dover, he added.

"Frankly, any sort of help we can get is a boon to us," he said.

A tax credit is not cash on hand. Rather, an organization that receives a tax credit can sell it to a bank or other financial firm, which then uses the credit to reduce its own tax burden.

In downtown Brattleboro, the Latchis Theater received $90,000 in tax credits.

"It’s very exciting to have competed in this process and come out of its so well," said Gail Nunziata, managing director of Latchis Arts. "It helps us to feel our efforts are really understood and appreciated ... our cultural facility is important as a fixture for downtown."

Once the tax credits are sold, she said, they will be used to pay off portions of a loan that were taken out to repair infrastructure that was damaged by the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene, including the electrical system, the elevator, plumbing and the boilers.

The bill to repair the damage came to more than $671,000. Some of that was paid through flood insurance and grants, though the board did have to sign on to a bank loan.

"Paying those bills weakened our financial situation," said Nunziata. "Getting these tax credits gives us the opportunity to fill some of that deficit hole."

Several projects in flood-damaged Wilmington also were included in the state’s tax-credit awards:

* 6 N. Main St.: A $13,750 credit goes toward a downtown building damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. The structure’s first floor has been rehabilitated and now houses Beyond Imagination, a clothing and design boutique, state officials said.

* 19 S. Main St.: A $9,200 credit helps offset Irene cleanup costs that were not covered by insurance at a building that houses the Apres Vous restaurant and Twin Valley Hair Salon.

* 5 W. Main St.: A $92,087 tax credit assists Dot’s Restaurant, which was forced to close after Irene.

* 18 N. Main St.: Tax credits totaling $77,561 go to the Old Red Mill, which was severely damaged in the flooding.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.

Reformer Staffer Bob Audette contributed to this article. He can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 160, or via e-mail at raudette@reformer.com. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.