BENNINGTON -- Sunset Farm Mobile Home Park, which underwent foreclosure proceedings last summer, was purchased for $31,000 at auction on Thursday.
The property went to Bryan Millard, who is also the park manager of Green Mountain Mobile Home Park in Pownal. Millard mentioned that he was purchasing the property on behalf of a group of investors. "We're probably going to form a corporation, but we haven't done the legal work yet," he said. Millard already runs Millard MHP, LLC, which owns Green Mountain MHP, and is based out of North Adams, Mass.
The court-ordered auction was run by Nathan Auction and Real Estate Inc., of Manchester, and took place at Sunset Farm MHP, which is located at 1869 Harwood Hill Road in Bennington. The three registered bidders, each of whom put down a deposit of $10,000 for the right to bid, were all present despite the inclement weather. The sale is not yet official, as the winning bid will have to be confirmed by the court.
When asked by residents what he planned to do with the property, Millard responded, "We're hoping to keep it a nice park. We'll try to straighten out whatever we can."
It had previously been reported that if a buyer could not be found the state would have likely needed to step in and shut the park down.
Millard will be responsible for about $40,000 in delinquent taxes on the property on top of the $31,000 paid for the property. In addition, according to an estimate from MSK Engineering and Design, of Shaftsbury, which was requested by John Broderick, executive director of Shires Housing, the Regional Affordable Housing Corp. for Bennington County, it will cost the new owners about $153,000 to bring the water system into compliance, and $635,000 to bring the sewage system into compliance.
Problems with the sewage system date back to 2011, when code enforcement officers received a call from an abutting neighbor, who claimed runoff from the MHP was contaminating his well. Water samples in the well and at the park confirmed the presence of E. coli bacteria in both locations. According to the report from MSK, which was submitted by Vice President Jason M. Dolmetsch, the then-owner of the property, John M. Bushee Jr., was "chlorinating the system in a manner that was supplying free chlorine in excess of EPA approved standards, but no contact time and thus unable to provide the intended disinfection."
During this same period, two separate instances of failure of the wastewater system were also reported. The Town of Bennington found "surfacing effluent" coming from the system-servicing Unit 8. The tenant vacated the unit, which according to the report, is still vacant today. The system used in Unit 14 backed up as well, and was pumped to alleviate the problem. However, according to resident Billie Jo Campney, the problem recently started again, after being pumped as recently as last summer.
MSK described the current sewer and water infrastructure on the property as "either in a state of failure or at a great risk of failure." MSK found the only viable solution to the sewage problem was to connect the property to the town sewer system, which is over one mile away and would require to installation of a pump station.
Eric Nathan, owner of Nathan Auction, was on hand to run the auction. He started bidding at $50,000, but quickly dropped the number to $25,000, then to $10,000, then to $1,000 before someone was willing to bid. After bidding jumped over $10,000, Nathan joked, "We could've saved a little time five minutes ago."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB