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In-house updates proposed as part of Indiana County tax reassessment project

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:59 p.m.

The Indiana County Commissioners heard Wednesday from the firm authoring a request for proposals and contract for the county's massive property tax reassessment project.

“There are too many taxpayers in Indiana County that are paying too little and too many that are paying too much,” said Janet Burkardt of Ira Weiss & Associates, a Pittsburgh law firm. “We need to readjust and reassess so that we can get everybody on an equal, fair tax base.”

Burkardt said the goal is to develop an assessment system which would allow the county to perform future assessments and reassessments without needing to enlist an outside vendor.

“It's more than just a reassessment in Indiana County,” Burkardt said. “It's really a whole CAMA (computer-assisted mass appraisal) system, so that in the future, down the road Indiana County won't be looking at doing reassessments through an outside vendor, but will be totally equipped and ready to do it in-house. That's the goal. It's a complicated goal, it's going to take some time. That's why the commissioners have said it won't be in effect until 2016, which is wise because this kind of process takes time. Rushing it just creates problems.”

Dominic Gambino, another representative of the Weiss firm, is also assisting the county with the project. Gambino previously served as manager of the office of property assessments in Allegheny County and twice conducted reassessments of over 600,000 parcels in that county, according to Burkardt.

Indiana County's chief assessor Frank Sisko said a request for proposals should be ready for approval when the commissioners meet on Jan. 23.

“Our initiative is going to be very unique,” Gambino told te commissiioners. “As opposed to how Allegheny County has done their reassessments and Bedford County and others, this RFP is going to be framed to have involvement from a local standpoint. ... This is going to be a unique experience for us and for you because it's going to be like no other RFP written and no other contract done in Pennsylvania in that local involvement is going to be heavily, heavily part of this RFP and contract.”

Along with involvement and input from local real estate professionals, Gambino said county staff will be trained to maintain the CAMA system and perform various assessment functions after the reassessment is completed.

“The other key here is that there is an education component in our RFP and the contract, not only to educate the in-house staff so they can maintain the CAMA system subsequent to certification,” Gambino said. “They have to maintain that CAMA system. You have appeals and other functions that occur after certification once your contractor leaves the building. This education program is not only going to be for them, but for you, elected officials and taxpayers. We're going to talk about comprehensive plans, starting with the commissioners, for me to come out here and give you ‘Assessments 101.' You will much more readily understand this RFP after I'm done speaking with you, and hopefully we can do that ASAP.”

In other business, the commissioners approved purchase of a new Ford Explorer from Tri-Star Motors to replace a 2004 Ford Expedition used by the detective bureau of the county District Attorney's office. District Attorney Patrick Daugherty said the dealership increased the purchase price by roughly $1,500 from an earlier quote.

Commissioner Rodney Ruddock said he had been in contact with the dealership regarding the price change and hopes the final purchase price will be adjusted closer to the original quote. The commissioners unanimously approved the purchase.

The commissioners also approved three agenda items from the county's Office of Planning and Development – a two-year contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to provide rapid re-housing services; a budget revision shifting $23,856.55 in unexpended funds from one section of the Indiana Borough Revitalization Project to another; and a change order to allow the Emergency Management Agency to take advantage of grant money to fund a $35,785 project connecting Tunnelton Road in Saltsburg to the county's direct fiber optic line.

The commissioners approved three new members and two replacement members for the Children's Advisory Commission. New members Jennifer McCroskey, Marilyn Walther and Sandy Toy were approved for terms expiring Dec. 31, 2015. Debora Casadei was approved as a replacement member for a term to expire Dec. 31, 2014, and Wendy Sturiale will serve through the end of the current year.

The commissioners unanimously approved a reimbursement agreement through the Federal Bridge Inventory and Inspection Program for Local Bridges. Chief county clerk Robin Maryai explained the action authorizes the disbursement of $560,000 in federal funds and a $140,000 local share from the county's liquid fuels allotment.

The county also approved a notice to proceed for work on the Dixon Run Bridge in Rayne Township. Jason Previte, manager of the Gibson-Thomas Engineering, Inc. office in Indiana, said he anticipates work on the bridge to commence in spring.

Ruddock announced the courthouse will be closed Jan. 21 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The next scheduled meeting of the county commissioners is at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 23.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or

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