Village of Sharon Springs looking at 15-Year PILOT for SSI


By Patsy Nicosia

The Village of Sharon Springs agreed Thursday to back a 15-year PILOT for Sharon Springs Inc.s' long-promised restoration and renovation of the Imperial Baths, surprising maybe most of all, itself.
The PILOT-payment in lieu of taxes-comes with some hefty conditions:
It requires SSI to invest $9.5 million in the work and create 51 new jobs.
It also requires the support of the Town of Sharon, Sharon Springs Central School, Schoharie County, and the Industrial Development Agency.
And though most of those agencies said in 2014 PILOT talks that they'd follow the village's lead, Supervisor Sandra Manko said Friday she's not convinced the town will go along with the 15-year deal.
"I'm just one person, but it isn't as easy for me to forget the history and all of the broken promises," Ms. Manko said.
"It's still an issue of credibility with a long list of bad deeds. And I'm still not convinced we can trust Sharon Springs Inc.s' numbers. I'm not sure I can go with 15 years."
The IDA has said the PILOT should be in place before SSI breaks ground on the project-- possibly as soon as April-and the village fast-tracked its decision in part so the town can act at its March 2 meeting.
Ms. Manko, however, said she doesn't see a need to rush.
"I'd rather take a couple of months and be sure," she said. "After all, it's been what? Ten years?"
In 2014 discussions, SSI asked for a 20-year PILOT-rejected by the others out-of-hand; also discussed were different versions of 15- and 10-year PILOTS.
Ultimately, SSI was offered a 15-year PILOT, but they never followed through on the offer.
This time around, Mayor Doug Plummer and trustees were adamant that they would never consider a 15-year deal.
But after meeting with SSI representatives in attorney Michelle Kennedy's office, Trustees Denise Kelly and Dominick Dellarocco suggested they might want to reconsider.
"They made some valid points," Ms. Kelly said.
Among them:
--While the village has suggested it would be more generous with future project PILOTs once SSI has proven itself with the Imperial Baths, Ms. Kelly said the spa isn't likely to be the most profitable piece of the project-but it will be the biggest "draw" and SSI believes the 15-year PILOT is essential to its success.
--The project's biggest value isn't in the number of jobs the spa will create, but in its $9.5 million investment in deteriorating properties.
--Under the standard 10-year PILOT, the village would see no increase in property taxes for the first five years.
But under the 15-year PILOT offered in 2014, taxes would begin increasing seven percent annually with the first year.
That's the deal the village wants this time.
"I think that's better than nothing for five years," Ms. Kelly said.
Mayor Plummer pointed to the other businesses the spa would spawn and their and the project's impact on sales tax revenues because of the higher assessments.
"Yes, we're giving up something, but we're giving up more if they don't go ahead-which I don't see happening-but if the project doesn't happen, we don't have to worry; the PILOT is a moot point.
In addition to the town and the other involved agencies, SSI must also approve the 15-year PILOT.