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Commissioners agree to use a private appraisal company

HEART OF NAFTA — Kootenai County commissioners on Tuesday approved a request by Assessor Bela Kovacs to use a private company to conduct property appraisals and help with staff training.

Commissioners voted 2-1 on the request at a regular business meeting.

The estimated cost of work and services to be performed by Highland Appraisal Inc. under the proposed agreement is $260,000 plus other travel, accommodation, meals, mileage and material costs.

Kovacs said there are about 1,600 new construction sites that will need to be assessed.

“As soon as the board signs the contract, we should be ready to go,” Kovacs said after the meeting.

He said the need to use Highland was due to vacancies, as well as IT and technology issues.

His office has lost five residential appraisers and recently hired three, but they will need to be trained.

In a memorandum to commissioners, Kovacs wrote, “The appraiser’s office currently finds itself in a situation where the number of qualified, experienced and certified appraisal staff is insufficient to perform the work and services, thereby potentially compromising the ability to meet future statutory requirements. time limit. »

Commissioner Bill Brooks cast the dissenting vote.

“I’m tired of covering or bandaging Bela,” Brooks said later in his office.

He said Kovacs didn’t do the job.

“Now he wants us to hire someone to do his job, and the answer is no, no, and no,” Brooks said.

Commissioner Leslie Duncan questioned the costs of hiring Highland Appraisal Services as well as hiring and training new staff.

She noted the estimated quarter million dollars for Highland’s work alone, plus other expenses.

“I just want to make sure we keep an eye on that balance,” she said.

Commissioner Chris Fillios was also concerned that costs would escalate and should be watched carefully.

“It could get expensive,” he said.

Duncan said that when expenses with Highland Appraisal reach $200,000, she would like Kovacs to get back with the commissioners and provide an update on their work.

“Surveillance is part of any contract, so absolutely,” Kovacs said.

He said Highland is among the best in the state, has the training, skills, technology and tools to operate effectively and efficiently.

He said they “will show us some best practices and how to use the systems we have now in ways that we haven’t used them.”

They plan to use Highland on a temporary basis.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to train our own staff, not outsource them,” Kovacs said.

Kovacs’ salary was recently halved from about $90,000 to $45,000 by the commissioners, who cited a failure to perform his office duties.

He was appointed to his position in May 2020, following the death of Assessor Rich Houser. He won the Republican primary election for office in May.

Kovacs defended his professional performance in the September 14 memorandum to the commissioners.

It reads, in part:

“…the Kootenai County Assessor’s Office is currently going through a period of decline, instability, transition and challenge. The current situation is the result of a variety of factors not the least of which includes “the absence of a prior strategic plan, a prior succession plan or a prior business continuity plan.

He said the assessor’s office’s use of Highland was part of a stimulus package.

The first phase includes filling vacancies, which is ongoing, and training staff in the latest practices.

According to Kovacs’ memo, the plan also involves hiring “consultants and experts to help complete the work to meet statutory deadlines while training new staff and redesigning the department’s operational process around best practices.” and state-of-the-art systems that will serve Kootenai County. This recovery plan will provide more efficient and functionally compatible business processes and systems.”