DUMMERSTON -- Town-owned property apparently has become a lot more valuable, and no one is happy about it.
Officials were more than a little surprised when the Vermont League of Cities & Towns -- Dummerston's insurer -- sent notice of new insurance values that dramatically increase the estimated cost of replacing some town structures.
In one case, the town garage's replacement value nearly tripled.
Selectboard members are looking into their options while also expressing concern that the new valuations could lead to soaring insurance costs.
"This is going to be a significant hit on our budget," Selectboard member Steve Glabach said.
VLCT insures property for a majority of Vermont municipalities. Ken Canning, the league's director of risk-management services, said a property's value for insurance purposes is based on the estimated cost of replacing a structure.
The question, Canning said, is "what would it cost to hire a contractor to rebuild this building today?"
"It might have no semblance to market value," he added.
The league updates its "guaranteed replacement cost" values for every town annually. But once every five years on a rolling basis, the value of each town's property undergoes an in-depth re-evaluation.
It apparently was time for Dummerston's evaluation this year. But it is not clear what led to suddenly skyrocketing insurance values for town property, including:
-- The town garage, valued at $410,461 for replacement this year, has jumped to more than $1.1 million.
-- The community center/library's insurance value has nearly doubled from $489,202 to $910,220.
-- The historical society, formerly valued at $127,500, now stands at $231,206.
-- The value of the fire station in Dummerston Center has risen to $270,586 from $143,992.
Overall, the insurance value of town property is rising from $2.4 million to nearly $4 million.
"It seems exorbitant," Selectboard member Bill Holiday said.
Holiday was tasked with contacting VLCT to inquire about the new values. As of Monday, he had received a detailed description of the evaluation process for each property.
But Holiday said he could not yet explain the big increases. Canning had no personal knowledge of the town's insurance rates but pledged that he would check into the matter.
Holiday wondered whether there might be an appeal option for Dummerston officials.
The town also could select a different, lesser coverage option and "have the chips fall where they may if something happens with a property," Holiday speculated.
But that might leave taxpayers with a big bill in the event of a major fire or some other disaster.
Dummerston taxpayers also may take a hit if the new VLCT insurance values are allowed to take effect. Selectboard members don't yet have any information on how high the town's rates may climb.
"It would be nice to have some numbers on what it's going to cost," Selectboard member Lewis White said.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.