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Board of Assessors sums up tax appeals
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While summing up the year’s tax appeals, Bryan County Board of Assesors Chief Appraiser Dan Rollf told county commissioners another revaluation shouldn’t be necessary this fiscal year.

Rollf told commissioners that 775 appeals had been resolved. He said appeals in 2006 totaled 913 and this year, so far, there are 33 pending.

"There were actually 56 in 2007 but 23 are resolved," Rollf said, noting all outstanding appeals will be resolved by the end of the year and none of the cases will be going to Superior Court.

"I know everyone’s concerned about how the market trend right now may be affecting property values. The board is very reluctant right now to do anything in terms of a reevaluation at this point," Rollf said.

The board has already entered 655 fair-market sales into their system for 2007. Out of that number, 116 sales were below the board’s property value listing, by an average of $24,000 or 9 percent. Two of the properties sold for the same value listed and the other 537 are above the board’s listed values, by an average of $48,000 or 18 percent.

The Board of Assessors should have a better idea of where they stand by the end of the year; Rollf estimated they are looking at about 300-400 more sales to be added in before 2008.

"Let’s say those remaining sales are well below an average of what we’ve got. We’ve still got 537 sales that are well above," he said.

Because of that, the Board of Assessors is reluctant to take a year like 2007 to determine whether or not they want to do a reevaluation of property values. Every three years, reviews, or visits to properties, must be done. They did one two years ago,

"The reval requirement is based on trying to stay close to the market," he explained.

But the county can be penalized if statistics fall below state parameters, which lie between 36 and 44 percent of the board’s values, he added. County Administrator Phil Jones said the Board of Assessors is responsible for doing all the sales special analysis work.

"That tells them where they sit in the marketplace overall, and that let’s them know where they’re falling in between the 36 and 44 percent," Jones said.

Homes are taxed on 40 percent of their assessed value. Rollf said he recommends a reevaluation if numbers start to fall below 38 percent, but he said the county has been lucky in respect to the slowing building boom.

"We don’t see it as bad. I don’t think we’ve been hurt as bad as other parts of the country at all," Rollf concluded. "I think we’re going to be okay."

In other business:

- County Emergency Services Director Jim Anderson raised the topic of moving the proposed fire station to the Industrial Park.

"Because of the growth we’re having at the interchange, we’re considering relocating the Blitchton site into our own Industrial Park, which would give it a better span of coverage," Jones said. It would be good in picking up the commercial and industrial end in that area of the county, Ed Bacon said.

- Commissioners unanimously backed a plan in which the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department will participate in a counter-narcotic service in cooperation with Chatham County.

The county will volunteer one or more deputies under the premise that drug dealing is an area-wide concern and counties are more effective if they work together.

While the assigned deputy would remain a county deputy, they would immediately be under the operational control of Chatham County.

Long-term, they would be under control of Sheriff Clyde Smith, County Attorney Charles Brown said. Smith said he’s already been talking to Chatham County about the program.

"They assure me they will work this county without us asking. However, if we need some special attention, all we have to do it ask for it," Smith said.

- Planning and Zoning Director Dale Dudley gave an update on Henderson Park parking plans. He suggested having the dirt, moved when they grade the land for the lots, be transferred to help create the playing fields, which the commissioners agreed would be a good idea. Including the paved entrance to Henderson, the parking lot project will run about $320,000. The nature trail, which will be located off Hwy. 144 parallel to the canal, is almost one-mile long and pavement bids for it will begin in about two weeks, Dudley said.

- Recreation Director Pratt Lockwood gave an update on the athletic field work in the county.

In Henderson Park, Lockwood said the turf on the upgraded soccer fields is almost complete, the fence posts are all in and the lights are up. On the grass fields, the poles and lights are up but the wires have not yet been run through; the concession stand plans are almost ready to be sent out for bids; and the baseball and softball fields are ready to get grading information.

Commissioner Rick Gardner pointed out that Lockwood has only put in accommodations for four stalls in the women’s bathroom in the park.

He was concerned that would not be enough and urged Lockwood to make sure there are plenty of restroom accommodations.

Bacon added there needs to be enough shelter under the concession stand.

At Hendrix Park, Lockwood said the creation of a soccer field will run about $395,000. The commission approved a motion to get the project started and send out the first set of bids.

- Director of Engineering and Inspection Neil Smiley gave an update on county roadwork. The survey on Conley Road for acquisition has 67 percent of the right-of-way now, the county needs 70 percent before work can begin; Mannie English Road will be paved beginning on or around Dec. 10; Wilma Edwards Road will open bids around Dec. 19 for the widening and resurfacing of a one-mile stretch to Bill Futch Road; the Belfast Keller Loop realignment surveys are still being worked on and the county hopes to begin paving sometime in the beginning of next year; the district DOT Jessup office has completed plans for the upgrade of Hwy. 280/80 intersection; and the Henderson Park road is about 65 percent done.

- The new Department of Family and Children’s Services building will be going near the Pembroke Health Department. The 6,000 square-foot floor plan, created by architect John Rule, should be ready in a few weeks.

The new building will be used as soon as it’s ready, roughly in a year from now.

- Jones said the county recreational department needs a vehicle, which was not budgeted. There are currently some funds still in the recreation budget that could cover it and the rest could come from contingency funds. The motion was passed unanimously to send out bids for a truck.

- Before the meeting closed, Bacon said he has concerns that the Development Authority is getting too much into "real estate business;" selling land to firms who aren’t necessarily creating jobs, such as a proposed 30-acre rest area for truck drivers that wouldn’t provide many local jobs.

While he said the DA is doing a good job, he wants the commission to write a letter saying they need to continue considering the jobs they’re creating and not the land they’re selling.

While Gardner was first hesitant for the commission to get involved, it was unanimously approved to send a letter.

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