MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners on Monday approved spending $125,000 in state grant funds for a packaged program for a Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal system, rebuffing attempts by Assessor Rick Hole to use the grant funds to finish a customized software package that he’s been spearheading since he first took office three years ago. The software is important since the state is mandating all counties move to an annual revaluation cycle and statistical modeling will be used to figure out those details.
County Commissioner Wes Cormier says the decision on how Hole should run his office, and ultimately the computer programs within it, remain entirely his. He just won’t get any more funds from the county or the state, for that matter, to finish his job and would have to rely on his department’s budget to do it all.
Hole says he’ll need to meet with the county commissioners again to figure the next steps.
“Giving additional emphasis to the Commissioners’ wish to have a third party system, I have agreed to take another look at canned software systems to determine if the county and (the) department will gain efficiency and additional effectiveness from moving in that direction,” Hole wrote in an email.
Cormier said he heard from state Revenue officials on Friday that if the county doesn’t spend the $125,000 by the end of the year then the money goes back to the state.
“We actually have to spend the money,” Cormier said. “That gives us just a few weeks to go buy a program.”
County Commissioner Frank Gordon says he’s tired of arguing over the situation, “No more wasting money.”
Cormier says he feels comfortable giving the Assessor — a separate elected official — instructions on what the funding can be used for since a function of the county commissioners is to approve funding and contracts.
Cormier said he saw a price estimate for a workable program for $180,000 — which covers not just the Assessor’s Office, but the Treasurer’s Office, too. The program likely has an annual maintenance fee, as well.
Last week, Hole met with the county commissioners and tried to convince them to let him use the leftover state grant funds to finish his customized software package. But that would cost another $64,800 — at a minimum — to complete the software and it won’t be ready to go until June. Cormier points out that because the funding needs to be committed by the end of the year, none of the state grant funds would be eligible for the program Hole wants to complete and the county would be on the hook using its general fund dollars to complete a program no one knows will really work.
“Instead, we can join with another county’s bid and just buy a program we all know will work,” Cormier said.
At this point, the county has spent about $163,000 to build a program. Hole provided revised figures showing that his office had received $160,000 in state grant funds. However, there’s $125,000 in uncommitted grant funds out there, which the county has now allocated for a “canned program” and forbidden Hole to use for his concept.
Hole notes the original estimates for the canned revaluation program went as high as $408,000 at one point and he pursued the in-house software development believing the county was getting a bargain.
Hole spent a nearly 90-minute long special meeting last Thursday morning going over a review of what his program should be able to do. But county computer programmer Ron Malizia noted that hardly anything is working.