After a pair of public hearings in the month of August on whether or not to propose a referendum in changing the way the assessors office is staffed in Essex, the matter will not be going to a public vote this year.
A meeting on the future of how properties would be assessed in the town of Essex and by whom turned tense during discussion time.
The Aug. 8 meeting was one of two called by the Essex Town Council to decide if voters would be polled on whether to continue to have a board of three elected assessors or to go to a sole appointed assessor in the November general election.
During public comment, Salim “Sandy” Lewis, who recently received a favorable settlement in a suit filed against the town, spoke about having a “qualified” assessor when it came to placing value on farm land.
During his remarks, several members of the audience continued to voice frustration with Lewis, until it reached a boiling point as Lewis continued to direct remarks at the town board and town assessors who were in attendance.
“Mr. Lewis, go home, please,” Town Clerk Audrey Hoskins said.
“Shut up,” Rob Ivy said, standing to speak to Lewis and pointing. “Do you hear me? Shut up.”
“We have had an issue before...,” Lewis started to respond.
“Drop dead,” replied Ivy.
During the exchange, Supervisor Sharon Boisen tried to return calm by asking Lewis to stop.
“Sandy, that’s enough,” she said.
Ivy, a columnist for the Valley News, later apologized for his remarks.
“I would like to apologize for my outbursts toward Mr. Lewis,” Ivy said later in the meeting. “I find him a most vexing character.”
The meeting was called to gauge whether residents wanted to have the matter of an elected or appointed assessor on the November ballot.
“We do not want to make this decision on our own, and we want to know if people want this to be put on the ballot,” Boisen said. “We wanted to put this issue out to the public and see what they would want to do. The board agreed that no matter what their opinion was, they would go with what the majority of the town said.”
Boisen said town board members had the option of voting for the change from three elected assessors to a sole appointed assessor as a board and without public referendum.
However, that choice has proven to be potentially damming. In 2011, town of Crown Point board members voted 3-2 to make the change to a sole assessor. Following the decision, then Supervisor Bethany Kosmider and the councilmen who voted in favor of the move were all defeated in the general election with those voting against her pointing to the change.
Sally Johnson said that even if the matter was brought to a vote, she wanted to know the people behind the options.
“Without knowing the individuals that would be appointed, I don’t think I can make that choice,” Johnson said.
Boisen said that while the board would have the say on who was appointed, they would also have a direct line of authority over that person.
“An appointed assessor would report to the town board and would have set hours,” Boisen said. “The elected officials do not have set hours, but these three work to get the job done.”
“I would like very much to be given the choice,” Ivy said. “I really think that would be a democratic way to make this decision.”
Ivy also said those attending the meetings may be coming with agendas which could skew the discussion.
“I do not know if you are going to get an honest cross section in meetings like this,” he said.
“I would like to see this on the ballot so not only I have the chance but all of the taxpayers have the chance to have their say on this,” Wayne Bailey said.
Current assessor Pat Gardner also brought up the option of a sole elected assessor, which could be included on the ballot as a third option.