Council still mulling switch in assessing serviceWORTHINGTON — The Worthington City Council continued its investigation into alternatives for the city’s assessing service at a special meeting Tuesday, meeting with county representatives and a potential assessor.
WORTHINGTON — The Worthington City Council continued its investigation into alternatives for the city’s assessing service at a special meeting Tuesday, meeting with county representatives and a potential assessor.
The council requested bids for private assessing services at its Feb. 22 meeting after receiving a $104,700 proposal from Nobles County, which has traditionally handled services. In the face of its current budget crunch, the city wanted to explore less expensive alternatives, though council members have said they are pleased with the county’s quality of service. The decision on the final contract award will be reserved until the council’s regular meeting Monday.
Both current Martin County Deputy Assessor Michael Sheplee, who presented a total proposal of $88,600, and Nobles County Commissioner Mel Ruppert said they were interested in providing the city as much technology and electronically-based data as desired.
Sheplee lives in Faribault County and some council members questioned whether he could be physically present for daily needs.
“We really use the assessor office daily as appraisers, and so do realtors. Any real estate exchanges go through that office,” private real estate appraiser Steve Prinsexplained to the council. “He’s going to have (leverage) over you for upgrades or any special requests. I would not want to give up that power.”
“My fear is that $15,000 (in savings) will get nickeled and dimed and we’ll be right back where we are,” said Mayor Alan Oberloh, asking whether hiring an in-house assessor for the city could be another option.
“That’s not me at all,” responded Sheplee. “I would give you guys the benefit of my full time, I would give up my Martin County position and be accessible electronically.” He said he could keep office hours five days a week if needed, but felt his time was “more valuable out in the field.”
Because the county has a larger staff than Sheplee, including two assessors dedicated solely to Worthington, councilmen asked who would be available if Sheplee was not.
“I have at least six contacts of people wanting to offer services to the city of Worthington through me. A number of people definitely would come to help out,” said Sheplee, but said he preferred to do work himself if possible.
Sheplee also assists with assessing for some communities in Hennepin County and said he maintains a four-hour timeline for responsiveness to inquiries.
Although the county’s fees have increased about $20,000 during the past two years, county representatives said costs were not being inflated and said they would be willing to work with the city in its budgeting process.
“I like that it’s a three-year contract (with Sheplee), so we’d lock in that rate for three years,” said Alderman Ron Wood.
Alderman Mike Kuhle said he will vote for use of the county’s services.
“There’s just too much downside risk,” he said. “We have two jobs here in Worthington that will go away if we do this. We’ll send $89,000 over to Faribault and go down a level of service.”
In other business, the council voted to move forward with the hiring of a replacement manager for the Worthington Municipal Liquor Store and approved a revised description of the position. Members also approved the hiring of an individual for up to 30 hours of work at Prairie View Golf Links, provided current manager Alice Hoffman and City Administrator Craig Clark can coordinate the position within the existing budget.