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Massena hires appraisal firm for assessment challenges

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MASSENA - The town has hired an appraisal firm to assist in four commercial assessment challenges.

The Massena Town Council voted unanimously at its August meeting to retain Pomeroy Appraisal Associates, Inc., of Syracuse for $26,500. Pomeroy will complete independent appraisals of several commercial properties with assessment challenges. The town needs an independent appraisal completed as evidence in case any of the challenges head to court, according to Assessor Michael C. Ward.

Mr. Ward was confident the town would fare well in the challenges.

“We’re in very good shape on all of these. That’s why we’re spending the money,” he said. “It would be unfair to the homeowners if we didn’t pursue these.”

Northern New York Newspapers at 1 Harrowgate Commons is seeking a 50 percent reduction from $2,004,400 to $1 million. Harte Haven Shopping Center is attempting to reduce its assessment by more than half from $5.1 million to $2 million. Walgreen’s, at Main Street and Route 37, would like to see its assessed value drop from $3.5 to $2 million. Kent Grove Realty Corp, which owns the St. Regis Nursing Home, is petitioning a reduction from $3,726,000 to $2 million.

“We are always evaluating the assessments of our properties in comparison with recent nearby transactions,” said Robert D. Gorman, managing editor of the Watertown Daily Times and a spokesman for the Johnson Newspaper Co., which owns the Massena-Potsdam Daily Courier-Observer. “Our assessment should be lowered with regard to what is taking place in Massena with other properties.”

Rebecca M. Speno, an attorney representing the nursing home, said her research determined that property’s assessment was also too high.

“We’re open to having discussions with the town to discuss what their findings are. It’s important all parties come to the table and talk,” she said. “It’s just basically about assessment equity and maintaining the integrity of the town’s assessment roll.”

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said the challenges, and retaining an appraiser, are a part of doing business in the 21st century.

“It’s not cheap, and there’s not a lot of firms that can do it,” Mr. Gray said.

He said four commercial property challenges for one year was not unusual and that Pomeroy had worked well for the town in the past.

“We don’t believe our assessments are out of whack,” he said. “That doesn’t stop anyone from challenging it.”

The $26,500 comes out of the town’s legal fund. Prior to hiring Pomeroy, the town had $42,000 left in that fund in its 2012 budget.

All four properties are near the intersection of Main Street and Route 37, a busy spot which yields valuable real estate, Mr. Gray said.

“The intersection of Main and 37 are four of the most valuable properties in the county, if not the north country,” Mr. Gray said.

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