The town is again prodding former Gov. Donald Carcieri and his wife, Susan, with the threat of a tax sale of the Olney House on Church Street in hopes that such action will motivate the Carcieris to resolve questions of nonprofit status and the building’s future. According to the town, the Carcieris’ Academy Science Center owes $25,000 in back taxes on the building.
In 1999, the town allowed the Academy Science Center to buy the Olney House for $1 after the Carcieris said they wanted to turn the site into a science center for children. Before the Carcieris stepped in, the town had been prepared to tear down the building. The building was a boys dormitory when the East Greenwich Academy served as the high school for the region and the state. The school, founded in 1802, closed in 1943. The Carcieris’ parents went to school there.
While the town sold the house, it retained ownership of the property, leasing 8,800 square feet to the Carcieris’ Academy Science Center nonprofit foundation for $1 a year. Early on, some work was done on the building, but when Don was elected governor in 2002, activity on the center stopped and its nonprofit status lapsed.
Carcieri left office in 2011. Tax assessor Janice Peixinho added the Olney House to the tax role in 2012 and, when taxes weren’t paid, the building went up for tax sale. Carcieri convinced Peixinho to take it off, promising to update her with the center’s progress. In 2013, after Peixinho had heard nothing, she returned the house to the tax role and, again, it ended up on the tax sale list, with $15,000 in back taxes.
Carcieri again convinced the town to remove the house from the list, noting the foundation was seeking to reinstate its nonprofit status, having just applied to the IRS. The application is still pending according to David Dumas, lawyer for the Carcieris.
Over the past year, building renovations have proceeded – it now has all-new electrical wiring, walls, and fire alarm system. According to both Dumas and Peter Masterson, the EG representative on the Kent County Water Authority’s board, KCWA has approved the installation of the 4-inch water main to the building needed to install the mandated fire-safety sprinkler system.
During a tour last fall, the Carcieris said they were hoping to get the first floor finished in 2014 and to begin fundraising for the science center. According to the Carcieris, they have spent $300,000 of their own money on the project since 1999.
The Carcieris continue to argue that the Olney House should not be on the tax roll at all since the land is owned by the town but Town Council President Michael Isaacs said it was appropriate to have the house on the tax roll.
“They have done some work recently, however there has been an issue of the nonprofit status,” said Isaacs last week. “Because that has not been clarified, the tax assessor felt like this needs to keep moving along in the normal course” – i.e. put up for tax sale.
The Carcieris can ask the Town Council to abate the taxes, much as the panel did for the Greenwich Odeum during its efforts to reopen between 2009 and 2012. The tax sale takes place in June. Stay tuned.