Thursday March 21, 2013

Recently in both the Rutland Herald and the Bennington Banner, "news" stories were run regarding the delinquent tax payments related to Mount Anthony Country Club.

I am not writing to defend the tax delinquency. All property owners have a tax due that must be paid -- David Griffin and Maru Leon-Griffin, the owners of the Mount Anthony Country Club, would be the first to agree.

In this season of local elections, it is almost a universal cry among candidates that "the town" must do more to provide recreational opportunities or create other attractions for Bennington. Despite what candidates may claim and promise, "the town" is limited as to what it can afford and is constrained by the realities of an already burdened tax base from which it can derive the revenue to provide such amenities. It is an economic impossibility for "the town" to be the ultimate provider of all such activity.

It is often the small businessperson that is the provider, through the private sector, of the amenities, charm, and character that draw people to live, visit, and spend money here. This is the case in Bennington whether we are discussing downtown in general, restaurants, brewpubs, retail stores, car dealerships, ice cream stands, orchards, shops selling Vermont products, a pottery shop, jewelers, or, yes, a golf course. All attract people to Bennington.

The reality of the country club story is one that was not reported. Nobody was ever hiding the tax delinquency -- it would have been accurate had it been reported that the owners of Mount Anthony had been addressing this with the town well before the "news stories" came out in the last week.


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Of course, that does not sell as many papers as stories about potential tax sales.

Over my lifetime the country club has been owned and operated by three families, including the Griffins. Each would agree it is not an easy business in the best of times. Each family has been very generous to the Bennington community at large -- particularly to children who are interested in learning the game of golf. The Griffin family is no different. They have made more than a substantial economic investment and have made our local public golf course one of the most nicely conditioned in the area. In the last six years, they have upgraded virtually every facet of the facility. Most towns similar to Bennington do not have any facility that comes close to what Mount Anthony Country Club provides as a local attraction that draws people to the town, whether for golf, a nice evening out with friends, corporate meetings, or for such special occasions as weddings.

Yes, the owners must address their taxes. They are not looking for a free ride on this matter and will have paid substantial penalties by the time this debt is retired. And rightly so.

This is a business supporting local charities, employing workers, and drawing people to Bennington as you are reading this letter. It is better for Bennington for this business to recover, rejuvenate, and grow, than to be left to wither. They are not closing. Issues are being addressed. The Griffins do support Bennington.

In return, let’s remember to support them. JASON P. MORRISSEY

North Bennington