DOBSON — “Do we need to appeal this to the board of equalization and review?” joked Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris.
Then Harris and other commissioners voted to approve the sale of a county-owned property for less than 25 percent of the property’s tax value.
In March commissioners had opted to “surplus” the property located at 623 South Key St. in Pilot Mountain. The building houses a juvenile justice officer and was once used as a magistrates office.
Facilities Director Don Mitchell told commissioners the small building, which sits on only a 0.13-acre parcel, would need at least $10,000 in renovations.
The county tax department had assessed the value of the property at about $145,000. Commissioners chose to accept a $35,000 bid from a neighboring property owner for the small office building. The board had received another offer for $32,500.
“With one (property owner bidding) on each side, we ought to get fair market value,” remarked Harris.
In a subsequent interview, Tax Administrator Michael Hartgrove said his department works hard to appropriately assess values of properties in the county, with the exception of tax-exempt properties such as government buildings, schools and churches.
“We aren’t aggressive on assigning values to those properties,” remarked Hartgrove.
He went on to explain tax-exempt property falls last on the priority list, since the county collects no taxes from them. And it can be a dificult job.
“It’s hard to put a value on the exempt properties,” explained Hartgrove. “Most have a very specialized purpose.”
He noted an example of a local church which was valued in excess of $180,000. He said church leaders are considering a $50,000 offer on the property.
Hartgrove said when officials from his department make their valuations they consider many factors. Chief among those are sales figures, and that’s difficult for all non-residential properties.
“Our valuations are largely based on sales data, but there are very few commercial sales to base our valuations on.”
Hartgrove noted about 80 percent of property sales are residential.
“We try to be fair in our valuation. We consider other matters like what the building is used for,” explained Hartgrove. “We send the notices of value out, and some owners disagree with those values.”
He said those owners always have the option to go the route Harris jestingly suggested in appealing any decision.
However, the county will obviously leave any valuation appeals up to whoever purchases the property. After accepting the $35,000 offer from Brent Jones, the county is required to advertise for an upset bid for ten days prior to going ahead with any sale.
Though commissioners withhold an option to back out of any deal, all indications are it will move forward.
“We don’t need it. We need to sell it,” summarized Commissioner Van Tucker. “This is a fair process to get as much as we can for it.”
Mitchell said the juvenile justice officer located at the site will be forced to relocate operations to the historic courthouse in Dobson or the human services building in Mount Airy once the county no longer owns the property.
County Attorney Ed Woltz put the kibosh on another possible property deal.
Woltz said the county could not legally accept the terms associated with Travis Money’s $250,000 offer for a 64-acre tract along N.C. 268 near Elkin. Money had asked the county to finance the purchase, and he wanted the purchase to be contingent on the sale of his home.
Woltz said the county was not legally permitted to accept either of the two additional terms of purchase.
“Go back and tell him why his offer was defective,” board Chairman Buck Golding directed Mitchell.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.