Hetty Green probate filing still pending

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BELLOWS FALLS — The attorney for the town of Rockingham said Thursday the town was waiting for written consent from the heirs of the owner of the dilapidated Hetty Green Motel before taking the next step in an effort to get the $45,000 in back taxes that it owed.

Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda said Thursday the filing in Windham Probate Court for the town to have an estate and administrator set up would be forthcoming. Meanwhile, a woman who came to the Bellows Falls area recently, and who stayed at the Hetty Green Motel many years ago, said she is also seeking control of the motel, which was recently boarded up by the town because of a health order.

Kim Crosson, who is living in a travel trailer at the Park and Ride on Route 5 in Rockingham, filed paperwork in probate court Tuesday seeking to have the estate of Maria Zdunek opened, including the Hetty Green Motel. Crosson also on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against a Rockingham town employee, Brenda Doherty, for slander.

According to the summons against Doherty and the complaint filed in Vermont Superior Court in Newfane, Crosson overheard Doherty call her a "crazy homeless lady" as she was leaving.

Town Manager Wendy Harrison did not respond to an email seeking comment about the legal complaint.

Crosson, in earlier conversations this week, said she wanted to open a hostel for homeless people and that she would also live at the motel. According to court paperwork, she listed a mailing address in St. Johnsbury, but she had declined to give any information about her past experience. The Hetty Green Motel is named after Hetty Green, the infamous Wall Street investor who lived in Bellows Falls at the turn of the 20th century.

Also on Thursday Crosson went on FACTV, the public access television station in Bellows Falls, and detailed her exchange with Doherty.

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Crosson also attended the Rockingham Select Board meeting Tuesday and discussed her plans, but got little or no response from the board.

Ankuda said his office planned on asking the probate court to appoint Patrick Ankuda, his cousin and law partner, to be the administrator of Zdunek's estate, in an effort to resolve the many issues surrounding the fate of the Hetty Green Motel.

Town and village officials have been very concerned about the future of the old motel, which was closed at the time of Zdunek's death last fall. Town officials have said that Zdunek's heirs, her children, are not interested in the dilapidated motel and have refused to establish an estate, which would be the first step toward resolving the future of the building.

This winter, Rockingham Health Officer Charles Wise had requested a health order concerning the building, and after discussion, it was decided to board up the building to keep it from becoming a magnet for the homeless or illegal activity. Neighbors of the old motel had asked the Rockingham board to do something.

Ankuda said the court would sort out the town's claims and the claims of other creditors. Zdunek had filed for bankruptcy protection several years ago, which prohibited the town from collecting its taxes and the village its water and sewage bills.

"The town is the one with the right to petition the court to start the ball rolling," he said, noting the court-appointed administrator would pay all the debts against the Hetty Green and distribute "what's left." He said the town as a creditor had the right to petition the court, since a family member or interested person named in a will declined to do so 30 days after Zdunek's death.

Ankuda said that Crosson was not a creditor and did not have a financial interest in Zdunek's estate. "The courts usually sort these things out," he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311.


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