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4/3/2013 2:00:00 PM
Miles Halts 'In Lieu' Payments, Damariscotta Officials Unhappy
By J.W. Oliver

Lincoln County Healthcare, which usually pays Damariscotta $10,000 every year in lieu of taxes on its exempt properties, did not make a payment this year.

The decision upset some town officials, but a Lincoln County Healthcare spokesman said the organization still pays more taxes than any other Damariscotta property owner and provides valuable charity care to Damariscotta residents.

Cove's Edge Inc., Miles Memorial Hospital and Miles Properties Inc. hold title to seven tax-exempt properties in Damariscotta with a total valuation of $29.69 million as of fiscal year 2011. The bill for a taxable property with the same value would total $426,726.19.

The three entities are subsidiaries of Lincoln County Healthcare.

"The $10,000 is almost a slap in our face," Damariscotta Budget Committee member Dick McLean said at a March 20 meeting of the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen and the budget committee.

Now, he said, "The hospital has backed away even from that."

Budget Committee Chairman Scott Hilton said the hospital agreed to make the payments in perpetuity.

Town officials said the town spends a great deal of money on services to the hospital, including fire and police services.

"We got to do something," Board of Selectmen Chairman Josh Pinkham said. "We're still providing all these services. That costs us money, costs us time, costs us fuel."

Cove's Edge Inc., Miles Memorial Hospital and another Lincoln County Healthcare subsidiary, Miles Health Care Inc., also hold and pay taxes on eight taxable properties in Damariscotta with a total 2011 value of about $10.21 million. The property tax for those properties, at the 2013 rate of $14.375 per $1000, would total $146,830.56.

The independent retirement community Schooner Cove accounts for more than half of the taxable value.

The tax bill total far surpasses any other Damariscotta assessment. Damariscotta Bank and Trust Company, with six properties and a total assessment of $3.29 million, less than one-third of the Lincoln County Healthcare figure, places a distant second.

"I really understand the financial pressure the town is under and we know it's difficult," said Lincoln County Healthcare spokesman Scott Shott.

The organization no longer asks Damariscotta or other nearby towns for donations for this reason, Shott said. He said he thinks Damariscotta donated $3000 per year as of 2010, the last year the organization requested donations from area municipalities.

Lincoln County Healthcare is also facing financial challenges, Shott said. He said he does not know whether Lincoln County Healthcare would resume making the annual payment in lieu of taxes in the future if its financial situation improves.

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