Letters to the Editor - Sept. 25

September 24, 2012

Property purchase not fiscally responsible

To the editor:

After attending the Washington County Commissioners’ meeting on Sept. 18, it is clear that all Washington County taxpayers should be contacting their county commissioners with regard to the vote for the purchase of the property for the West City elementary school.

The vote was 3-2 with Terry Baker and Jeff Cline dissenting on the decision to purchase the land for the school site. The fact that the county commissioners elected to move ahead with the decision to purchase the school site without doing due diligence in ascertaining a “fair market value” for the property is inexcusable.

An independent appraisal should have been obtained by the county commissioners before choosing to spend tax dollars to acquire a school site and the contract to purchase the real estate should include that contingency when financing is not involved.

It was stated that an appraisal of the subject property could not be obtained due to inability to find an appraiser to do the appraisal. It is amazing that there was not one appraisal company that could be found to determine the appraised value of the subject property. Even without the knowledge of fair market determination, three County Commissioners, John Barr, William McKinley and Ruth Anne Callaham, voted to pursue the purchase knowing that the fair market value was not yet confirmed by an independent appraisal company.

It was implied that because the asking price was once $2.4 million, to negotiate a price of $1.5 million must clearly be a bargain price. To deduce that because the asking price set by the seller was a fair market price to begin with is naive at best, especially when the State Department of Assessments has determined the assessed value to be $495,6000.

The State Department of Assessments uses comparable sales to determine the assessed value. Next time I want to sell a piece of real estate I will certainly be sure to call on the county commissioners, since they don’t seem to care who determines the price tag.

Furthermore, the board of education has not done its home work to determine if they are asking the county taxpayer to pay for something when the fair market price has not yet been determined. Where is the accountability and due diligence in determining the value?

What is even more outrageous is that the county commissioners had no idea “who” the seller really is. Why would the county commissioners be so determined not to find out “who” is the resident agent of Hagers Crossing Multifamily LLC? Is it because the county recently purchased other property from this same seller, David C. Lyles?

Was the chosen site the best value for the taxpayer dollar? Public Works Director Joe Kroboth made a statement at the meeting to suggest that an alternative site was being considered, but then discounted it because it was in foreclosure. Gee ... why not try to negotiate with the bank directly for a good deal? Was the board of education being represented by a buyer’s agent?

Taxpayers expect full disclosure and transparency. To the taxpayer, we must conclude that the county commissioners who voted in favor of the purchase do not care to spend taxpayer money wisely and were hasty in the decision fearing having to pay another $5,000 to extend the contract with the seller. Fiscal responsibility should be paramount to decisions made when using taxpayer money. Take care in performing due diligence when you decide to spend my money, or don’t spend it at all.

Nancy S. Allen
The Hagerstown TEA Party

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