Washington County opens proposals for reassessment

May 31, 2013
Washington County Controller Michael Namie opens up bids for the property reassessment Friday in the purchasing department conference room at Courthouse Square. The last reassessment for Washington County was done in 1981. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Three firms submitted proposals to conduct a property reassessment in Washington County, and representatives of one company delivered its information in person.

The players are basically the same as the companies submitting proposals in 2009, although the names of some of them have changed.

On hand in the purchasing department conference room at the 4 p.m. deadline was Gene Porterfield, president of Evaluator Services and Technology Inc. of Greensburg and two colleagues. Porterfield said if his firm wins the contract, it would open an office in Washington County and staff it with local workers.

He projected staffing the site with 45 to 50 people who would be field data collectors and office staff.

Washington County contracted with Pictometry International Corp. of Rochester, N.Y., to take aerial photographs of the entire area. Porterfield called any pictography “a snapshot in time,” but said it could be updated with software to find changes since the last fly-over.

The “names alone will be read today,” said county Purchasing Director Randy Vankirk. Under the proposal process, the amount of a contract is negotiable, and the amount will be divulged only if the county commissioners enter into an agreement with a reassessment firm.

The other firms submitting proposals are Pearson’s Appraisals of Richmond, Va., which shares a website with Reappraisal Inc. of Harrisburg, Dauphin County, and Tyler Technologies of Moraine, Ohio, and Dallas, Texas.

County officials present for the opening of proposals were Debbie Bardella, recorder of deeds and director of the revenue department, Bradley Boni, chief assessor, and his predecessor, Robert Neil, who has a consulting contract with the county.

The county solicitor and special counsel Robert Grimm have a court date Tuesday morning before President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca on the reassessment being sought since 2008 by the Washington and McGuffey school districts. Attorney Susan Key represents the districts.

It was originally billed as a second contempt-of-court proceeding against the commissioners for failing to reassess, but the advertising for and opening of proposals has foreclosed that option, at least for the near future.

In 2009, the commissioners appointed a committee to compare the proposals. Scott Fergus, Washington County director of administration, who was a member of the group, called it part of “a vetting process.”

Submitting proposals in 2009 for a Washington County property reassessment were 21st Century Appraisals, now EST, Reappraisal Inc. and Tyler. In May, the commissioners formally rejected all proposals.

The commissioners have estimated that a reassessment could cost around $8 million. Washington County’s last reassessment took effect in 1981.

Indiana County, meanwhile, which hadn’t reassessed since 1968, awarded a contract earlier this month to EST, according to Frank E. Sisko Jr., chief assessor.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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