The library trustees are hoping to untangle the unknown legal issues around a fund, or possibly funds, left the Columbus N. Miller.
ADAMS, Mass. — The library trustees have stumbled upon almost $100,000 in stray accounts left from the bequest of Columbus N. Miller that they will try to consolidate under one account.
The largest portion — some $92,000 in stocks — has been generating quarterly payments of $342.
Library Director Holli Jayko told the trustees Thursday that the town recently closed an account that contained nearly $7,700 from the Columbus Miller Fund given to the town for the library.
"They wanted to get it out from underneath the town because it is library money. They closed out the account and gave me a check now we are trying to figure out where to put it and what restrictions it has," she said. "We need to get it under our tax ID number."
Trustee and financial adviser Karen Kettles recommended opening a new savings account under the library's tax identification number where they can place this amount while the trustees sort through the other Miller information.
Jayko said it is unknown if the money is unrestricted or if the library could only use the interest.
She had with her a large file containing Miller's will and other relevant banking information.
"There is a lot of history and it has traveled from bank to bank to bank," she said. "Literally, some of this history is handwritten."
Miller's sizeable bequest was left to the library upon his death in 1911 at age 68. He wasn't among the town's captains of industry but dabbled quite a bit in real estate and kept his parents' farm at Bowens Corner. His last 20 years were spent in Adams. He was described in past newspaper reports as a recluse or hermit and, by one past librarian, as "a civic-minded farmer who loved books and frequented the library."
Miller had no children and his wife, Frances Coleman, died at age 33. He never remarried. His total bequest to the town totaled $40,000 and his will called for construction of a library building to cost "not less than $10,000." A high school book award was given in his name for many years afterward. His pylon in Maple Street Cemetery identifies him as the founder of the library's Miller Fund.
The trustees found that the fund owns 2,852 shares of Bank of America that is worth $91,834. The library has been getting dividends and interest from that account and the smaller account of $7,700.
"It is really just Bank of America stock and I think this is where the Miller Fund started. Someone put it into some stock and kept a little bit out — $7,700," Kettles said. "The part that was put into the stock started at Fleet Bank."
She suggested diversifying this amount as soon as possible.
"I never recommend having $92,000 in one stock and Bank of America in 2008 almost went out of business," she said. "If that happened again we would lose all of that money, so I definitely think this needs to be diversified."
To move this money, the library must have the two stock certificates but that, Kettles said, has led to another issue.
"The paperwork in the file says that they are held in the safe at Town Hall. We had them check and they are not there," she said. "They can't find anything, so we need stock certificates and we need to get those replaced."
She said this can be done but it would cost 3 percent of the total amount, or about $2,800, to regain control of the money.
The trustees voted to spend up to this amount to replace the certificates. Once they put all of the money in a single account, they will figure out what they can and will do with it.
However, the trustees still have questions about the fund.
Jayko dug through the file and produced part of the will outlining what was given to the town. It stated half of Miller's estate was to be used to purchase books for the library while the other was to be used to erect the building. This would be the Miller Annex.
Going deeper into the paperwork there seemed to be multiple Miller Funds and trusts. Some papers signified that there was a Columbus Fund and a Miller Fund.
Much of the information made no sense and Chairman James Loughman, who also is an attorney at Donovan O'Connor & Dodig, said he recalled that his firm more than 20 years ago offered to clean up some accounting issues.
"My office pointed out that there were unresolved issues about accounting ... long before I came on board," he said. "They offered at one point to go spelunking in the Probate Court records for $300 an hour and the town said 'no thank you.'"
Loughman could find no record of the case online and said because it hasn't been acted on for so long it never made it online. Nor was it clear who the trustees of the fund are.
Some papers specified that the trustees were the library trustees, however, Loughman noted it would not make sense for the library to be the trustee and the beneficiary.
"Who the bleep is the trustee or the trustees of the Miller Fund?" he asked. "The money was given to the town in trust that would require the town to appoint someone."
Jayko said the Miller Annex was completed around 1915 and pointed out some trustees were named, the latest being in 1969.
A number of names come up in legal notices for Probate Court in the former North Adams Transcript. Among the names of trustees are C.T. Plunkett but the notices peter out by the 1950s.
Loughman said the town probably appointed trustees during the building of the annex and they continued to serve through the 1940s. He said a second round of trustees were appointed after this which brings the paper trail up to 1969.
In other business, the trustees may lower the new lawn sign that was installed in January.
"I got very good feedback, but the only negative is that it was just too tall," Jayko said. "I did talk to the installer and it can be lowered but they recommended that we finish out the winter first."
Jayko said because the sign is on a hill the legs are at different levels so lowering it too much may put one end too close to the ground.
Trustee Brian Bishop agreed it was a little high and though it should be at eye level when driving.
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