LOCK HAVEN - The Clinton County commissioners continued with a series of Assessment Appeals Board hearings Friday, and expect to hold court on 30 or 40 such appeals before all is said and done.
The commissioners said it's likely another round of hearings will be held later, as the deadline for filing an appeal is Sept. 1.
Unlike earlier years, where the countywide reassessment of properties came into play and brought about a multitude of appeals, many of them in the commercial and industrial sector, this year's efforts appear to be focused on the most part on households and rental properties of modest or moderate value.
JIM RUNKLE/THE EXPRESS
From right to left, Commissioners Jeff Snyder, Joel Long, and Robert “Pete” Smeltz, sitting in session with Chief Assessor Keith Yearick.
The board listened to 19 to 20 property owners by noon Friday, and expected to hear another eight during the afternoon session.
Also unlike earlier years, the commissioners themselves decided to take on the responsibility of comprising the appeals board. In past years, because of the complexity of the reassessment process and number of appeals, a board comprised of third parties was appointed.
Also new this year, is the use of a large-screen television attached to a computerized database of properties.
In one circumstance, the owner of a Castanea property saw Chief Assessor Keith Yearick use the system to call up a photograph of his two-story frame house onto the screen, along with the official parcel number, address, amount of acreage, ownership listing and other data.
Yearick said the system has streamlined the process for both the board itself and the property owners, and allows the board to actually visualize many of the aspects being brought up during the sessions.
"We're new at this, obviously," Commissioner Pete Smeltz said. "We all have the same information and they have the television to draw upon. We've tried to make this process as comfortable as possible, even while noting that this is an official and formal hearing process."
"Things are running smoothly," Commissioner Joel Long said. "We're finally getting to use the big screen and that's been helpful."
Long has been serving as the chairman of the board, with Commissioner Jeff Snyder acting as secretary of the proceedings.
"I've been surprised at how well prepared and well documented the property owners are," Snyder said. "I'm very pleased with the process. The citizens, whether we rule for or against, are making things simple for us because they are coming in with a specific purpose rather than just saying they wanted to take a shot at it to see how things turn out."
"I agree with Jeff," Long said. "We're getting real evidence rather than feelings, and there's no substitute for having the information, documents and photographs in hand when the residents come in to make their case."
"There hasn't been a specific category or area," Yearick said. "We're getting them from Castanea, to Rauchtown to Keating to Renovo to wherever."
All three board members credited long-time county employee Yearick's experience and expertise with making the board - the commissioners are in their first year of office with the exception of Long, who's serving his second term - aware of specific issues.