ATHENS -- Five years after the community rallied in their support, a local family still has much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Louis and Sara Vitale had their house renovated by ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" in September 2007 to accommodate a son with an undiagnosed central nervous system disorder and skeletal abnormalities. The town, with the help of the network, rolled up its sleeves and constructed a 3,000-square-foot, wheelchair-accessible home complete with medical equipment.
"The community did an amazing thing for us," said Louis Vitale. "It transformed our lives. It certainly made (Louis Jr's) life a lot easier. It's been good for everybody."
He said the house has been a godsend, but, as in several other instances around the country, the heavy-duty renovations jacked up the property values, and thus the taxes.
The Vitales briefly got behind on their mortgage payments and eventually taxes - which are nearly as much as their mortgage - started piling up. Vitale said he owes $7,000 in taxes. Earlier this year, the Vitales briefly put the house on the market with an asking price of $599,000, but changed their minds.
Elizabeth Agostini, the collector of delinquent taxes in Athens, sent the family a notice that the house would go up for tax sale on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Larry Slason, an attorney with Bellows Fallsbased law firm Salmon & Nostrand, which provides legal counsel for Athens, said a tax sale is a procedure towns can use to collect delinquent taxes. He said if a property owner has failed to pay taxes, the land (as well as dwelling or mobile home on it) can be put up for public sale.
Slason said once the sale is completed, the owners will have one year to redeem the property by paying the sale price - plus 1 percent interest per month - to whoever won the public sale.
But Vitale told the Reformer on Wednesday that Chase Bank, his mortgage lenders, have agreed to pay the delinquent taxes and add the costs onto his monthly payments for the next few years. Vitale said he is 99 percent sure the tax sale will not take place.
"It's nice of them to do that," he said. "It's one of those times banking policy worked out in our favor." Louis said despite the hassle, he is eternally grateful for what ABC and the local community did for his family. He said many people have tried to paint the network in a negative light but said that is completely inappropriate.
He said he knew before the work started that his property values would go up but was willing to accept that for his children Kane, 8, Louis Jr., 7, and Teyah, 8 months. Louise Jr. is the one with the undiagnosed condition.
"Anybody who's looking to bash the television show or bash our community for doing what they did should find another place to look because we're not interested in hearing the negative side of it," he said. "I get a lot of people that say, 'The house must be falling apart by now.' The house is not falling apart. ... The house is beautiful. I am forever grateful to the show, to the community."
He said he has a lot to be thankful for because he, his wife and his children are in good health and are together. Louis - who owns the 7Eleven on 1020 Western Ave. in West Brattleboro - said he and his wife have owned the land with the home on it since 2002.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-2542311, ext. 277.