Lt. Governor Tim Murray to lead coordinated state recovery effort
BOSTON – Wednesday, July 25, 2007 – Two days after visiting with victims of the Uxbridge Bernat Mill fire, Governor Deval Patrick today filed legislation to provide tax relief to the dozens of citizens and business owners impacted by last Saturday’s fire.
The eight-alarm fire destroyed the historic mill, which housed 65 businesses including an antique shop, photo studio, art gallery, children's museum, café, and an industrial machine shop among others.
“It is critical that we provide immediate assistance to rebuild these small businesses and ensure that employees can return to work as soon as possible,” Governor Patrick said. “Uxbridge has lost an important beacon in its community. We must work with residents and town officials there to ensure they have the resources to begin the process of rebuilding and making their community whole once again.”
Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray will spearhead the administration’s continued effort to ensure that those impacted by the fire will have the coordinated resources of the state at their disposal as they try to recover from the devastating fire.
“In the aftermath of this devastating fire, it is imperative that we work together at all levels of government to assist those who have been impacted,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray. “After the news coverage fades, and the cameras leave the scene, the needs of the affected individuals and the community will linger. We in government have a responsibility to ensure that our involvement continues and that we coordinate our efforts consistently in the weeks and months ahead. This legislation is an important and critical step in that process."
The proposal filed by the governor would allow the town of Uxbridge to provide real and personal property tax relief to the citizens and businesses whose property was destroyed by the fire. As a result of the fire, at least 35 businesses have been displaced and hundreds of employees have been affected.
This legislation provides tax relief to affected Uxbridge taxpayers by setting the value of the real and personal property for tax purposes as the value immediately after the fire. For the businesses that lost all otherwise taxable property, the bill effectively exempts them from fiscal year 2008 taxes. Property owners who already made their first quarter payment will get a refund, and only the land will be taxed at the Uxbridge Mill.
The legislation also amends an outside section in the fiscal year 2008 budget, authorizing the expenditure of so-called “Katrina funds” to provide funds for cities and towns, like Uxbridge, that are faced with a sudden disaster that requires a swift governmental response to help to protect the public health or safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
“I applaud Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray for introducing measures to help the hundreds of workers and business owners affected by last weekend’s mill fire. These people need help to begin the process of rebuilding their lives – and they need it now. The Governor’s legislation will ensure that process can begin in the quickest, most effective way possible,” said Senator Kerry.
“I am pleased to join with Governor Patrick in supporting this vital legislation to aid Uxbridge and businesses that were devastated by the Bernat Mill Fire last weekend," said Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge. "This action is critical to begin the rebuilding process."
“This is all about doing what is right after a major tragedy,” said Rep. Jennifer Callahan. “What is right at this time is responding as quickly as possible to help people who have lost so much in the flames be able to reemerge and rebuild their businesses and their lives. This legislation is absolutely essential to helping businesses and employees emerge from the ashes and rise above a major crisis.”
"The purpose of government is to help people who need help,” said Rep. Paul Kujawski. “This immediate action is a tribute to Governor Patrick's administration, along with the House and Senate's commitment to provide essential resources for a group of wonderful but very devastated individuals. We as leaders must provide help at this crucial time."
The proposed legislation is another part of a quick and coordinated response by the state that has allowed some 300 to 400 owners and employees to receive the services they need to begin the recovery—and in some instances, rebuilding—process. State officials have been on the ground since Saturday assisting those who need a variety of services.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery staff took the lead on coordinating the state response to the immediate danger posed by the fire. MEMA also worked to establish the Disaster Information Center in Uxbridge, where representatives from the Executive Offices of Public Safety, Labor and Workforce Development, Health and Human Services and Housing and Economic Development were on hand to assist residents with a variety of services including unemployment assistance and employment counseling, mental health services, access to food stamps, and assistance with filing insurance claims.