Casco awards property revaluation job

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — On Election Day 2011, the majority of Casco voters supported a property revaluation — putting the town’s elected officials on the fast track to sort through hundreds of New England-based assessing companies to find the one to do the job.

The goal: Get a team of assessors in place by the time summer residents arrive at their waterfront parcels.  This time frame would give the most accurate picture of property values.

Last week, the Casco Board of Selectmen interviewed four assessing companies over the course of two evenings. From there, the consensus was to call a special meeting with one agenda item: awarding the bid for the town’s property revaluation.

On Tuesday, John E. O’Donnell & Associates was chosen to do the work. In addition, a second company will oversee the year-long revaluation process.

During the special meeting, the board hired O’Donnell to do the revaluation, and also to serve as the town’s assessor for a five-year period. The bid-awarding vote was, 3 to 2, with selectmen Mary-Vienessa Fernandes and Ray Grant opposing.

Immediately, Fernandes made a motion to allow the town manager to solicit and to enter into a contract with an independent firm that would oversee the revaluation job.

“To me, it would give me comfort; and it would give the taxpayers comfort, too,” she had said earlier in the meeting.

Both Fernandes and Tracy Kimball said the cost of quality control check was an investment in the town’s best interest.

That vote passed, 4 to 1, with Grant opposing — citing he did not want to spend the extra money.

According to the motion, the annual cost for an assessing firm to follow up on the revaluation project was not to exceed $12,000.

According to the ballot measure that passed last fall, the funding for the property revaluation was capped at $290,000; and the cost would be covered by money from the Undesignated Fund Balance.

O’Donnell bid $285,000 to perform the property revaluation, which was about $6,800 less than KRT Proposals.

Grant said he favored going for the low bidder, but also preferred not to hire O’Donnell because that firm was involved in a revaluation that disappointed some Casco residents.

“I have a problem with O’Donnell, because I think that is what the uproar is about. You are going to have some disgruntled taxpayers,” he said.

“I am just worried people are going to be not very satisfied if we choose the same firm as last time.

And, we do that for much more money,” Grant said.

Town Manager Dave Morton agreed that water access and waterfront property owners blamed O’Donnell for their increased values; and that segment might be opposed.

“According to the state analysis of the work (O’Donnell) did, it was spot on,” Morton said.

“The board is doing the revaluation because of public demand,” he said, “so, we are going forward. A real issue the board has to look at, if you don’t hire O’Donnell, you will please a number of taxpayers. But, in the end, will they be happy?”

Other board members commented on the O’Donnell firm’s familiarity with Casco and its terrain.

“It is hard to pull away from a company that you have dealt with for so many years,” Selectman Paul Edes said, citing several reasons he was leaning toward that bid.

“They know Maine’s waterfront,” he said.

Instantly, Selectman Tracy Kimball agreed that knowing the lay of the land was a big plus.

Selectman Fernandes recalled during the interview when she mentally dismissed one of the firms that was unfamiliar with Casco.

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