COMMISSIONERS SPECIAL MEETING
The special meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners was brought to order by Commissioner Clark at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday October 20, 2020. Commissioner Wombacher, Commissioner Blasi, County Administrator Scott Adkins and Deputy County Administrator Rebekah Knowlton were also in attendance, as well as several Department Heads. Due to Covid 19 social distancing restrictions, the meeting was held remotely via Zoom. The meeting link was made available to the public on the Hancock County website.
Adjustments to / approval of agenda: none
Public Comment: none
MOTION: Approve the minutes of the October 6, 2020 Commissioners’ Regular Meeting (Wombacher/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
Airport Manager Leroy Muise said he received two quotes: Union Farm Equipment $11,690 and Dorr’s Equipment $10,500.
MOTION: purchase the front end loader from Dorr’s equipment for a total of $10,500
(Wombacher/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: Approve transfer from account E40-70-926 Equipment Maintenance to E40-70-100 Equipment in the amount of $6,500 (Wombacher/Blasi 3-0, motion passed)
The Commissioners reviewed the 2021 Airport budget.
MOTION: Approve the Airport 2021 budget of $710,106 for revenues and expenditures (Clark/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Steve McFarland / retiree health insurance-
Deputy McFarland explained that he intends to retire in May of 2021. He began working for the County in 1983, with a period of time in 2001/2002 where he was classified as a part time employee, although he continued to work full time hours for the County. McFarland will clearly qualify for 95% of his retiree health benefit but because of the different classification for a period of 52 days, it was unclear whether he qualified for 100%. The Commissioners agreed that 52 days of part time status is not a break in McFarland’s total service time and agreed to grant Deputy Stephen McFarland retiree health insurance benefits at 100% upon his retirement in May of 2021.
MOTION: the Commissioners grant Steve McFarland 100% of his retiree health benefits as of his retirement date of May 1, 2021 (Clark/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Scott McKee of Acadia Benefits presented rough drafts of 2 Wellness Plans: Beacon Health, which has individualized health coaching, biometric screening, and health risk assessment; and UltraBenefits, which has wellness consultation and goal setting. There was some discussion on the value of each program as well as the cost. DCA Knowlton will meet with Acadia Benefits and the vendors to develop more details for presentation at the next meeting.
McKee reviewed the services the Acadia Benefits contract provides; the cost for 2021 would remain the same at $10,000. The Commissioners will discuss renewal at the November meeting.
Abatement Hearing / Knowlton v. Town of Sullivan
Commissioner Clark opened the hearing at 10 am.
Applicant Deb Knowlton, legal counsel Scott Flood, and licensed appraiser Catherine Phillips represented the applicant. Town assessor Robert Gingras represented the Town of Sullivan.
The property was valued by the town at $451,100; the requested abatement amount is $302,600.
Deb Knowlton was sworn in by Commissioner Clark. Scott Flood, legal counsel, was sworn in by Commissioner Clark. Knowlton gave a brief summary of the property. Appraiser Cathy Phillips was sworn in by Commissioner Clark. She is a licensed residential appraiser practicing in Hancock County. Phillips said they found no basis for a land value of $394,000; there have only been 2 sales in a 20+ year history in the Town of Sullivan that exceeded a sale price of $400,000. Phillips stated that all waterfront sales in Sullivan since 2017 have been $135,000 or less, and those most similar to the Knowlton property- tidal and very close to a main road- were all under $100,000. Phillips had prepared a document outlining a summary of sales similar to the Knowlton property. The Commissioners did not receive this prior to the meeting but agreed that it could be submitted as part of the record. Phillips said a neighboring property that is slightly smaller in size is listed for $62,500. Phillips said the current asking prices for available waterfront properties are roughly half of the Knowlton property’s assessed value of $394,000. She said the fair market value of the Knowlton property is $135,000, for the land and building. Attorney Flood said he was interested to hear how the Town justifies the value of $451,100.
Commissioner Clark swore in Robert Gingras. Gingras said this appraisal has failed to prove overvaluation in comparison to any like property in the Town of Sullivan. Gingras said the town of Sullivan values waterfront property on a front foot base, not an acreage base, so the numbers would be entirely different than the appraiser’s point of view. Gingras said the applicant failed to provide any properties in Sullivan that they are overvalued in comparison to; this was the basis for the Town’s denial of the abatement. Gingras said the frontage in the Knowlton property was mud flats, valued at $800 / front foot. Knowlton asked how Gingras could explain the lack of suitable sales in Sullivan given this dollar amount. Gingras said Phillips was looking at sales today, the values on the property card have been the same since 2006; the values are not required to be adjusted. Flood said the law court has determined that the standard for determining an abatement is fair market value as of the taxable year in question. He said the Knowltons have provided compelling evidence that there are no properties close to the fair market value of $451,100 that the town has assessed the property for. Flood said Gingras did not provide a sales-based valuation; Phillips has provided it and has shown that the fair market value of this property is not in excess of $135,000. Gingras said he could support the assessed value; this property is not being over-assessed or overtaxed in comparison to other similar properties. Commissioner Clark asked if the State’s sales analysis has been done every year; Gingras said yes. Commissioner Clark asked if any year the State has said the assessments are outside the 10% allowance; Gingras said no. Commissioner Clark said it certainly gives pause when the appraised value is so different than the assessed value, but there are cases when a community is assessing all the properties in a tax neighborhood excessively, and in that case the property owner wouldn’t be treated unfairly in comparison to their neighbors, they would all perhaps be unfairly assessed. He asked if Flood could show that his client was being treated unfairly with respect to other property owners within her tax neighborhood. Flood suggested the Commissioners review Maine property tax bulletin no. 10, dated March 26, 2020. Flood said when a town chooses not to reevaluate, the values are thrown out of whack. He said the assessed value must be a just value under our constitution, which the law court has defined as fair market value. Flood said there is no evidence from the town of sales to justify any fair market value analysis for this particular property, which is the proper review for an abatement. Gingras said if the Commission grants this abatement, they will create inequities in Sullivan. He said the town is not required to change values based on the sale of a piece of property; that would create inequities.
The Commissioners will deliberate on November 3, 2020.
The Commission reviewed the renewal information for the Mutual of Omaha Short Term Disability policy. They agreed to renew the policy. No action is required; the policy renews unless the Commissioners choose not to.
Discussion on the process of creating the County Administrator’s Evaluation-
The Commissioners agreed to meet in executive session at a future meeting to collectively formulate the County Administrator’s annual evaluation, creating one document as a board, rather than having three separate documents written by individuals.
MOTION: Enter Executive Session under MRSA Title 1§405 6(A) for exempt employee evaluations- Facilities Director (Wombacher/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: Enter Executive Session under MRSA Title 1§405 6(A) for exempt employee evaluations- Deputy County Administrator (Wombacher/Clark 3-0, motion passed)
MOTION: to adjourn 12:24 pm (Blasi/Wombacher 3-0, motion passed)
Next meeting will be November 3, 2020.
Deputy County Administrator