Update on land deal negotiations between governor, neighbor - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Update on land deal negotiations between governor, neighbor

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Jerry Dodge Jerry Dodge
Gov. Peter Shumlin Gov. Peter Shumlin

Reporter Kristin Carlson: Are you feeling hopeful?

Jerry Dodge: Yes, I'm feeling hopeful.

Jerry Dodge is optimistic the East Montpelier home he helped his dad build will soon be in his name again.

Kristin Carlson: Why is it important to keep the house?

Jerry Dodge: It's my homestead.

Last November, Dodge was behind on his taxes and agreed to sell the 16 acres and the house to his neighbor, Gov. Peter Shumlin. Dodge feared he was about to lose the property in a tax sale.

But Dodge says after talking to family and friends he realized he made a mistake and was not mentally capable of negotiating with the governor without a lawyer.

Shumlin became a millionaire doing real estate deals. He wrote the agreement on a folder, agreeing to pay Dodge $58,000-- well below the assessed value.

The governor initially defended the deal as fair, but last month agreed to renegotiate, hiring a well-known Democratic lawyer and insisting Dodge get his own attorney. After low-income advocates declined to help Dodge, a lawyer with strong Republican ties took his case.

The governor's lawyer says Shumlin will reverse the deal if he's reimbursed for money already spent on home repairs, back taxes and delinquent child support.

Under the original sale agreement, Dodge should have been moving out Monday. Instead, he is taking steps to improve the home, ripping out bad Sheetrock in the basement and planning to repaint the exterior. He said he cannot discuss the details of negotiations.

"The bad parts-- a lot of it is cosmetic," Dodge noted.

Asked about the negotiations, Governor Shumlin said, "I know the lawyers are talking, but there is no new news."

Reporter Judy Simpson: Are you frustrated it's taken this long?

Gov. Peter Shumlin: You know, I'm focusing on the job of being governor to be candid with you.

Dodge says he has not talked to the governor recently, but the two wave when they see each other. Once this is all settled, he's planning a barbecue to celebrate and will ask the governor to stop by.

"We are going to invite him and if he wants to come he can come," Dodge said. "There are no ill feelings."

Dodge hopes once the home is in his name to get it weatherized through low-income programs. Dodge makes about $8,000 a year. Also, he was paying about $4,500 in property taxes, but because he is low-income, he should have paid a fraction of that-- about $460. He says if he had known that, he probably would not have gotten behind on his taxes in the first place. But he can't do anything unless the property is in his name.

As far as negotiations, Dodge's lawyer would not comment for this story. Shumlin's lawyer says he is expecting to hear back by mid-week on the latest round of proposals and is hoping for a resolution fairly soon.

Last month, Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell revealed he had gotten complaints from the public about the land deal. So, Sorrell referred the case to the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living-- the state agency responsible for investigating claims of abuse and exploitation of vulnerable adults. Officials there say they cannot talk about ongoing cases. And the only way a case would be made public is if there is criminal action taken.

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