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Monday, March 08, 2004

Acting Assessor Outlines Steps to Prevent Permit Backlog

Westport’s acting assessor has outlined steps his office will take to prevent future permit backlogs similar to the 1,700-permit backlog that has caused the town to seek a one-year delay in implementing its 2003 property assessment.

The memo from Kevin Murowsky was sent to members of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) in advance of their meeting Tuesday at which they will consider a $150,000 request to hire a firm to help clear the backlog.

Murowsky is acting assessor in place of assessor Glenn Werfelman who was placed on 30-day leave Thursday for unspecified reasons by First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell. (See WestportNow March 4, 2004).

In his March 5 memo, which was addressed to Farrell, Murowsky said he would take the following steps:

 Send a monthly letter to Farrell and Finance Director Donald J. Miklus updating them on the status of building permits being handled by the office.

 Install new software enabling the assessor’s office to have near real-time information from the Building Department on permits being issued.

 Maintain a new construction account for the extra help that will be needed with approval from the First Selectman and Finance Director.

 Perform quality control checks on random properties to assure accuracy of updated information and have “personal interaction” with the homeowner.

 Institute a “limit of 200 permits” and once reached, notification must be made to the First Selectman and Finance Director.

 Improve management of field personnel and, if needed, the assessor shall help with the permits.

 Hire part-time field personnel for seasonal work.

Farrell had promised the Board of Finance and the RTM Finance Committee that she would have a preliminary list of ways to improve the processing of permits by the assessor’s office in time for the RTM’s March 9 meeting.

In addition to the memo from Murowsky, RTM members received a memo from Town Attorney Ira Bloom outlining some of the legal issues involved in the town seeking to collect taxes on building permits going back to 1998.

He said the easiest cases would be those involving work done on a property where the owner still is there.

The most difficult would be those where the property has changed hands and the original owner has relocated or disappeared.

Bloom said no interest would be payable on the amounts owed since the town never notified the permit applicant that any taxes were due.

He suggested that the taxes owned for some might be “significant” and the town “may consider providing time to pay for these amounts.”

Editor’s note: The editor of WestportNow is Moderator of the RTM.

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Posted 03/08/04 at 01:48 AM  Permalink



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NOT SO FAST…please.
It took us 6 YEARS to get into this mess, so lets not rush now.
Please make sure the RTM has received a DETAILED plan on the future of this department and EXACTLY how POLITE WE intend to be when WE start collecting.
PLEASE WAIT ONE MORE MONTH AND GET IT RIGHT THE SECOND TIME.

Posted by tom feeley on March 08, 2004 at 09:04 AM | #
 

Certainly straighten out the backlog and get enough staff to do the job correctly, as well as limit the number of yearly building permits, if necessary.  However, what do we do about the little (or big) add-ons that are never reported to the P&Z or the building inspector, and which come up to the ZBA when houses change hands? Most neighbors don’t want to be snitches and report instances of abuse and expansion.

Posted by Carole Donenfeld on March 08, 2004 at 04:46 PM | #
 

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