Tuesday October 9, 2012

ST.JOHNSBURY (AP) -- The owner of two dams on the Connecticut River is suing the town of Barnet, Vt., saying its tax appraisals of the structures are too high.

TransCanada Hydro Northeast is taking aim at the tax appraisals assigned to the Comerford and McIndoe Falls dams, which have seen their valuations go from a combined $33.7 million before a recent reappraisal to a combined $47.4 million now.

TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens said the company is working to reach a settlement with the town and the state of Vermont. But it also has filed suit in Vermont Superior Court for Caledonia County.

"TransCanada is appealing the (town Board of Civil Authority’s)) decision because we feel it does not represent the realistic market value of our assets in the county, particularly in light of the significant drop in property values in recent years due to general economic conditions," Semmens said.

TransCanada is represented in the Barnet appeal by Witten, Woolmington & Campbell of Manchester Center. Barnet has not retained a lawyer, but is expected to.

Vermont hired and paid for the appraiser who determined the new values in 2010, and town officials said they hope the state will help with the town’s defense.

Vermont spent $200,000 to have all TransCanada properties appraised by a specialist, said state Sen. Jane Kitchel, D, Caledonia-Orange. She said she’s working to get state funding to help in the legal defense of the reappraisals.

"I believe we should have state participation in the funding of any appeals," Kitchel said. "I am committed to doing everything I can."

The dams’ reappraisal in 2010 was their first in a decade, Kitchel said.

The dam properties extend across the river to New Hampshire.