Reval bid-award draws residents’ ire

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — When the assessing firm - which performed a property revaluation that displeased many in 2007 — was recently given another chance to revaluate Casco properties, people remembered. And, those residents spoke up.

Several weeks ago, the Casco Board of Selectmen awarded, by a 3–2 vote, the revaluation project to John O’Donnell Associates, for $285,000. Contrary to the traditional move of favoring the lowest bidder, the board majority chose the highest bidder, residents pointed out.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen people stepped to the microphone – demanding answers from the selectmen.

On April 10, when the bid was awarded, Chairman Barbara York along with selectmen Tracy Kimball and Paul Edes voted in favor of the motion to accept O’ Donnell’s bid for both the revaluation job and a five-year contract as the town’s assessor. Selectmen Mary-Vienessa Fernandes and Ray Grant had voted in opposition to the motion. Also during that meeting, the board voted to hire an independent company to provide a checks-and-balances security for the property revaluation project.

The revaluation is being done because it passed at town meeting, and had appeared as a ballot measure after a citizens signature petition drive. The property revaluation was on the agenda because the next step was to accept the bid of the second assessing firm to oversee the revaluation job.

Immediately, an audience member questioned board members who had voted with the majority.

“So, you picked the highest bidder? I don’t understand. I never heard of anyone doing that. It is my money you are spending,” she said.

“It (the most recent revaluation) was done right before the market dropped in 2007. Now, we are using the same people that did the one in 2007. We are going to use the same company hoping they are going to do a better job this time,” the Casco resident said.

“Your elections are going to come up, and I don’t want to see you in your seats again, except for at the end of the table,” she said. (Fernandes and Grant literally sit on the same side of the table.)

The first comments of the night on the topic of revaluation were echoed by others. The choices of the selectmen on this matter might affect voters’ choices at future local elections.

South Casco resident Steve Matza said, “I apologize if I get a little excited,” and added that his property values and tax bill were on the line.

“Why would you vote for someone who is the highest bidder and has a sore spot with the town? If you had someone do work on your house and he didn’t do a good job, why give him another job?” Matza asked board members.

He suggested selectmen reconsider the list of bidders – even if it meant delaying the start of the revaluation process.

“If it takes another year, why not, to get the right answer,” he asked.

“You made a choice as representative, and I am not alone here,” Matza said, to which there was a round of verbal agreement, “but, I would never pick, in my wildest dreams, someone who I had no respect for.”

Prior to Matza’s comments, resident Jack Carroll said it was suspicious that when the citizen’s petition was drafted, the cost of the revaluation was capped at $290,000; and then, O’Donnell’s bid price was $285,000.

“Anyone who voted ‘yes’ to O’Donnell put the integrity of you on the line,” Carroll said.

As specific questions came up, board members explained they had interviewed seven companies, but only four returned requests-for-proposals. After extensive interviews those four had been narrowed down to two. Board members had spent months learning about the assessing companies, and had heard presentations on what factors to consider when choosing one to do Casco’s property revaluation.

Earlier in the evening, Selectman Tracy Kimball said she had personally experienced an appraisal process after building a second structure on her property. She said going through an appraisal had been an educational experience that had prepared her for making a wise decision for the town.

To listen to more of the comments made by community members during the board meeting, people who subscribe to cable television can watch re-broadcasts on Channel 5, or go to to watch a webcast of the meeting.

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