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New Bremen council considers new assessor, hits snag with an old agreement

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NEW BREMEN — The town of New Bremen will hear from four residents today, receiving their recommendation about the future appointment of a town assessor.

The committee, formed of volunteers at the July meeting, met with the Town Council and two candidates for the position.

Interviewed in executive session for the position were Erin C. Gratch, current assessor, and Robert B. Ball, assessor for the towns of Greig, Wilna and Martinsburg.

The board plans to name the assessor at the September meeting. The appointment comes with a six-year term, starting Oct. 1.

The start date for the assessor is a problem for Supervisor Peter J. Keys, who said it is in conflict with a contract the town signed in 2006.

“I wasn’t in office then, so I can’t say if anyone looked at that detail,” Mr. Keys said.

The contract, part of the state’s Coordinated Assessment Program, was agreed upon with the town of Watson with a start date of Jan. 1, 2007, and ties the two towns together with a sole shared assessor for a term of 10 years, according to the state.

A copy of the contract in the town office, however, states the contract expires at the end of this year, adding to the confusion.

Breaking the contract could mean a loss of funds from the state that are given as incentive for shared assessors.

Councilwoman Susan Sauer questioned how to determine which municipality breaks the contract.

“Who says who broke it?” she asked, noting that if Watson and New Bremen agree to change to a new shared assessor, the contract still would be in effect.

Town officials from Watson have indicated they will reappoint Ms. Gratch for another six-year term.

“So, we have no choices?” Mrs. Sauer said.

Mr. Keys has asked a lot of questions himself, without receiving many answers, but said he is hoping the state can explain why the contracts are not aligned with the appointments.

All CAP agreements in the state are for 10 years, while every assessor’s term runs for six years, all beginning Oct. 1 of this year.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Keys said.

“This agreement forces us to keep the same assessor for 12 years.”

He has questioned the legality of a contract that essentially doesn’t expire on its end date and whether the town has received the funds promised by the state, again receiving few answers.

Mrs. Sauer said the board had not decided on either candidate, but was waiting for the recommendation of the committee. The panel’s thoughts will be presented at the board’s next meeting, which is at 6 p.m. today at the municipal building.

Watson and New Bremen could choose different assessors if they entered CAP agreements with other municipalities with the same shared assessor.

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