Snowmobile grab prompted Hermitage no trespass order

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NEWFANE — Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes removed four snowmobiles from a shed at the foreclosed Haystack Mountain ski resort earlier this year, according to a new report.

"I contacted Mr. Barnes on Feb. 15, 2019, expressing my concerns with his actions," Alan Tantleff, court-appointed receiver tasked with preserving foreclosed Hermitage properties since last summer, wrote in his fifth report filed in Windham Superior Court, Civil Division this week. "I became increasingly concerned with his actions and determined that the proper course of action would be to file a notice against trespass against Mr. Barnes."

Tantleff said damage to the garage door and lock showed "forced entry" but Barnes denied damaging the property. Barnes is fighting the trespass notice in court.

Barnes said the snowmobiles are his personal property so Berkshire Bank has no interest in them, according to the report.

"This conflicted with information in my possession, including inventories of personal property of HIREHC," Tantleff wrote. "I thus informed Mr. Barnes that he had to return the personal property, to which he objected. I have referenced this matter to the court and instructed Mr. Barnes that the court would adjudicate the matter."

Tantleff retained Sheehey Furlong & Behm of Burlington to represent him in the litigation. He has allowed Barnes to take personal items such as ski parkas and clothing from his locker in the Clubhouse, according to the report.

Barnes hopes to pick up a truck and an excavator he also considers personal property.

"We're planning to sell some personal non-core assets to keep up with payroll and other expenses as we move forward with reorganization and this does not affect our plan or timing," he said in February in an email, referring to a goal of a summer reopening.

The report also calls attention to an estimated $12,500 in damages to the Horizon Inn in Wilmington. Tantleff said he was notified in April that the property had been vandalized and copper piping had been removed.

The investigation is still ongoing, according to the report.

"In response to these actions, I have worked with the borrower's management team to establish increased security protocols and procedures at the subject properties," Tantleff said. "Given that this is a publicly filed document, I cannot provide further detail regarding the measures taken to ensure security and business viability."

Berkshire Bank and Tantleff have not indicated where the bank and the Hermitage currently stand in terms of the foreclosure process. The bank foreclosed the properties in February 2018 and the receiver was appointed in June 2018.

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"Given that this is an ongoing legal proceeding, we are limited in what comments we may provide," Heidi M. Higgins, marketing officer at the bank, wrote in an email response to questions about the status of the foreclosure.

Higgins later said the bank could not say anything on the matter.

"The foreclosure proceedings don't involve me so I don't have any comments," Tantleff said. "The preservation of the assets is my continued focus."

Tantleff called the vandalism to the Horizon Inn "a concern and a disappointment" but said he has assured the court that additional security protocols have been implemented and there is collaboration with local law enforcement to ensure it does not happen again.

In his report, Tantleff noted the Hermitage has repeatedly announced a "restructuring" to members and the public.

"I will continue to serve until dismissed by the court; although I do hope the parties come to a successful resolution," he wrote.

His report outlines how it will cost about $47,000 to de-winterize and maintain the Hermitage golf course from April to August. The budget does not include operations.

The last letter Barnes and club President Harper Sibley sent to members indicated that they anticipated a partial summer reopening.

"During this period of reorganization, we will have funding and will be operating the club on a limited basis with the focus to prepare for the summer season and begin heavy preparations for the winter season," they wrote in February. "We understand everyone's sense of frustration for the club not being able to open as was planned and we recognize members want to participate and be part of a governance plan going forward to relaunch the club."

Since then, Barnes' wife has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Connecticut. Business issues were blamed in the filing. Included in the list of debtors were people and companies who have Hermitage-related liens on the Barnes family's home in Westerly, R.I.

Barnes and Sibley did not respond by press time Thursday to a request for information about future plans for the club.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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