2015-02-27 / Community News

Town in the market for assessor again

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

Former Town Assessor Paul Lesperance served in the post for nearly 30 years. His replacement, William Healey, lasted less than two years.

On Feb. 18, the Town Council accepted Healey’s resignation and named Assistant Assessor Susan Russo as the interim town assessor. Russo previously filled in as the interim town assessor after Lesperance retired and Healey was hired.

“She is very capable of filling those roles and responsibilities in the interim,” Town Manager Tom Hall said at the Feb. 18 Town Council meeting.

A search is underway right now to find a permanent replacement for Healey. Hall said there are two candidates that are being evaluated. He said when filling assessor positions, the applicant pool can sometimes be shallow due to it being a “very specialized field.”

The town has another option that was not a possibility when Healey was hired in May 2013.

Hall said he is contemplating contracting with Cumberland County for assessing services and had a meeting with Cumberland County Manager Peter Crichton and Director of Regional Assessing for Cumberland County Gary James, who provides assessing services for Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland and Casco.

“It is a new venture for the county,” Hall said. “They have only been doing it for about a year and a half.”

The possibility of having a County Assessor came about in 2013 when Healy left his assessing duties in Cumberland and Yarmouth to take the Scarborough job.

Hall said he would “like to move as quickly as we can while still doing a thorough job with the recruitment process.”

The final decision on whether Scarborough hires a replacement or contracts with Cumberland County will ultimately rest with the Town Council.

Healey said he is going to miss working in Scarborough.

“I really enjoyed working in the town of Scarborough. That was never a question,” Healey said Thursday, Feb. 19, his second to last day officially working for Scarborough.

His decision to leave Scarborough came when the Chief Assessor in Lewiston, where Healey lives, decided to retire. Healey takes over for Joe Grube, who began as Lewiston’s Chief Assessor in September 1991.

“The opportunity presented itself a lot sooner than I anticipated,” Healey said. “I’ve only been here a year and a half. I feel bad about that. I never expected it to be so short.”

Hall said he doesn’t fault Healey for making that decision.

“It is a loss for use, but I would encourage anyone to advance his career. I know on a personal note, it has been something he has been striving for,” Hall said.

The change in employment will mean a much shorter commute for Healey. For the past 23 years, he said, he has had to travel at least 30 minutes each way to get to work. Now the commute will be just five minutes.

Healey said he enjoyed valuating a variety of properties in Scarborough, from seaside residences, old neighborhoods, new subdivisions to farmland west of the Maine Turnpike.

“It was a nice mix of tax base. It made it interesting. I enjoy valuating commercial properties,” Healey said.

Healey will be retained as a special deputy assessor to oversee, facilitate and represent the town in current tax abatement appeals, if they continue.

Back in 2013, a group of waterfront property owners banded together to fight Lesperance’s assessment of their properties during the town-wide revaluation in 2012. The residents claim their properties were unfairly targeted for higher assessments. The complaint went before the Zoning Board of Appeals, which denied the tax assessment appeal in late 2013, causing the residents to sue the town in early 2014.

The appeal was most recently heard in Cumberland County Superior Court’s Business and Consumer Court, which ruled in favor of the town Dec. 9. Town officials received the favorable decision Wednesday, Feb. 18.

Healey said the appellants could bring the case to the Maine Supreme Court.

“It remains to be see if it goes further,” Hall said last week.

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