MALONE — Franklin County has forgiven $20,000 in debt that ComLinks incurred when promised payments were not made on two Saranac Lake low-income-housing units.
The debt involves non-payment on a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement the agency worked out when it wanted to refurbish and build affordable housing in the village.
The properties are Broadway Apartments at 88 Broadway and Helen Hills Apartments at 47 Front St.
The Broadway site has three units, and Helen Hills has 12, although three are now vacant.
The community-action agency will still have to pay the $42,509 in unpaid taxes and remain current from now on.
But Thursday, the County Legislature released the troubled agency from paying $22,487 in penalties and interest accrued between 2008 and 2010, according to figures provided by County Treasurer Bryon Varin.
The debt forgiveness allows ComLinks to turn management of Broadway Apartments to the Franklin County Housing Council and to find a new management agency for the Helen Hills complex.
“This tax business is hanging over everyone’s head,” said Byron Porter, managing director of asset management for Michel Associates Ltd. of Boston, which is partnering to spruce the place up to attract new ownership and, hopefully, local management.
ComLinks has been in financial trouble a number of years, culminating in 2010 when former Director Nancy Reich admitted stealing agency grant funds to pay for personal extravagances. She pleaded guilty in December to grand larceny and was sentenced to a conditional discharge and a $1,500 fine.
ComLinks had a PILOT agreement with the Village of Saranac Lake, Town of Harrietstown, Saranac Lake Central School and the county but did not make the required payments in 2008, 2009 or 2010.
When the unpaid taxes were turned over to the county, the Treasurer’s Office made the town, village and school whole and re-levied the past-due amount, adding interest and penalties as the balance remained unpaid.
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