Water company to stay tax-exempt

Following an order by the State Board of Tax and Land Appeals, the Francestown Village Water Company has regained its nonprofit status, thereby removing the company’s requirement to pay property taxes.

“The town felt that while the Francestown Village Water Company is an important and valued member of the community, fundamentally they were an organization that primarily provides benefits to its members and thus did not qualify as we understood a property tax-exempt charitable organization,” Town Administrator Mike Branley wrote in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday.

In the case of the Town of Francestown versus the Francestown Village Water Company, the Board of Tax and Land Appeals on April 1 ordered the town to reinstate the water company’s property tax exemption.

An appeal period for the following 30 days did not result in an appeal from the town, Branley confirmed in an email Wednesday. The period ended Wednesday.

According to the president of the water company, Dennis Orsi of Francestown, the company, which began in the 1890s, was granted a property tax-exemption for bringing water lines to downtown properties. Orsi said the water service on those properties, which are mostlt small lots, was inadequate by today’s standards.

“The water was being contaminated,” he said.

Orsi took over the role of president last August. “I stepped into the presidency and was handed the denial,” Orsi said, referring to the town’s denial of a tax exemption.

The Board of Tax and Land Appeals’ written decision reads, “In ‘Town of Peterborough v. MacDowell Colony,’ 157 N.H. 1, 12 (2008), the Supreme Court, citing additional authorities, that providing ‘facilities or services’ that a government or municipality would otherwise have to provide is one of six general categories of recognized ‘charitable purposes.’”

Orsi said the water company provides clean, free water to the Fire Department and to the town during times of emergencies, like the ice storm of 2008.

The written order also states that “...evidence further demonstrates the Taxpayer [Francestown Village Water Company]...does not restrict who can become a member.”

The Francestown Village Water Company serves 57 properties in downtown Francestown, including the town hall, town offices, the George Holmes Bixby Memorial Library, police station, fire department, the Old Meeting House, the Francestown Village Store and residential properties. The water company is run by six volunteers, Orsi said.

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