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Farrell on Reval: Ryan Firm Will Continue, May Appoint Special Panel

Westport First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell said today the firm which carried out the now postponed and controversial 2003 property assessment will continue to work on the list.

She also said she is considering appointing a special “working” committee to help ensure that the next version of the list is as complete and fair as possible.

In an interview with WestportNow, the Westport chief executive said her decision announced Thursday to seek state permission to postpone implementation of the state-mandated reval was not a difficult one once she had all the information.

“Once I got the complete list Wednesday afternoon, it quickly became apparent it was going to take much longer to refine than I had thought,” she said.

“I was not about to implement a list that had so many questions outstanding. The goal has to be to make it as fair and equitable as we can.”

A number of Westporters had complained to Farrell that some homes were grossly under assessed while others appeared to be over assessed in the initial list made public Jan. 20.

A revised version made available only in the assessor’s office this week and reflected in about 900 change notices sent out Monday sparked new protests.

Residents of the Compo Beach area were especially vocal about the assessments, but they were not the only complainers.

Farrell said she has yet to talk to John Ryan, head of the firm hired to carry out the assessment, as he is on vacation.

“I put in a call to him and we’ll discuss it,” she said. “We have a contract with Ryan and will honor it to work on the continued refinements, but we want to make sure the final product is the best we can get.”

Farrell said with the time pressure off assuming the state grants permission to postpone the reval ֖ she wants additional eyes on the process and that may mean appointing a special panel.

She said in addition to staff members, it might include members of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), the Board of Finance and the public.

Farrell declined to discuss Glenn Werfelman, the assessor she placed on a 30-day leave.

Her announcement Thursday did not give a reason for her action regarding Werfelman, but he is known to have been under much strain recently.

Deputy Assessor Kevin Murowsky was named to take over day-to-day duties of the assessor’s office.

It was on Werfelman’s watch that the office saw a buildup in a backlog of about 1,700 building permits whose value needs to be added to the grand list. The First Selectwoman only learned of the problem last month.

Farrell has estimated that the backlog, with some outstanding permits going back to 1998, could mean as much as $2 million added to the town coffers.

Asked whether an audit of the office might be in order, Farrell said, “That certainly is a possibility.”

Farrell said Finance Director Donald J. Miklus and Town Attorney Ira Bloom had been working with Murowsky on procedures to be followed in trying to collect on the back permits.

She said a memo on the matter has been sent to the RTM which on Tuesday will consider a $150,000 request to hire a firm to help clear up the backlog.

Farrell said she was aware that some RTM members were suggesting that the appropriation be postponed. But she said it was more important than ever to get the firm in as soon as possible so taxes owed to the town could be collected.

Farrell said with the reval postponement, residents need not make appointments with the Board of Assessment Appeals to protest amounts cited in the assessment notice mailed in January or in the revised notices mailed this week.

“They should only seek appointments if they want changes to the 1999 assessments, which will remain in place,” she said.

Farrell urged all taxpayers to retain for possible future use any comparison information they may have gathered about their property.

Asked about the criticism she had come under at recent brown bag lunches over the reval, she said she fully understood the emotions aroused when people felt their properties, and those of others, had not been valued fairly.

“I know it has had a devastating impact on some and that is why I have said all along that I wanted the list to be as accurate as possible,” Farrell said.

She added that she was grateful for the public input that helped identify the “anomalies” in the list and welcomed continued public participation.

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

3 thoughts on “Farrell on Reval: Ryan Firm Will Continue, May Appoint Special Panel

  1. I have two words Miss Farrell. “Election Year”.  I can only wonder why this ‘witch hunt’ is taking place at this time.  I can tell you first hand, that not once in all the years of being a homeowner in this lovely town, and i can remember when i would bump into Harry Reasoner at the old West Lake Restuarant on a Friday night with all of our children eating together, not once did i ever have a question or concern that Mr. Werfelman didn’t have a quick and appropriate and accurate response.  His warmth and smile is infectious.  I would like to hear from Mr Ryan, who i understand is on vacation.(What, no cell phone?) His firm was hired to carry out this recent reval to my understanding. But this is not his first year, is it.  If there was an unexplained backlog, why is it now this is the first time we are hearing about it?  Election Year, Miss Farrell?  Running for office is a job for tuff skin, just as sitting in that safe at Town Hall is for Mr. Werfelman. I suspect that by November, these very same threads that we are now using to put a man of great character, Mr. Werfelman, under more pressure than he and his staff already have to deal with from a group of citizens that are personally out to attack him, will be filled with words telling us about issues we have yet to hear of about of you. You know the old saying, if can afford the yatch, the price of fuel is no object.  You don’t attack the dock attendant because he happens to be pumping deisel fuel into a 200 footer.  As First Selectman, it is your job to make sure that there is quality control in your building.  I find the timing here, frankly, a little too close to November for my taste.  When all is said and done, i for one as a taxpayer in this lovely town, want Mr. Werfelman sitting behind his desk again, with his Starbucks coffee, and more staff to handle this reval re-do.  This Miss Farrel, is MY vote OF confidence, for a great family man, and one of the bright spots of that dreary hallway.  And, oh, by the way, GOOD LUCK against Mr. Shays. And i look forward to seeing you on NEWS12, talking about one of our fine upstanding citizens, Ms. Stewart. I have one more saying to pass along, Ye who cast stones shall not live in glass houses!  You couldn’t afford one around here anyway.

  2. Well, finally someone who can see out of the box…“Justwondering.”  Thank you!

    For over a week now we have been hearing about all the negative with Mr. Werfelman, come on now!

    10,000 parcels of property in Westport and 900 problems?  Less the 10%.  In any town in Connecticut that is welcomed. That is what the towns would be happy with…don’t believe me call other town halls and ask yourself!

    Now out of 900 people with these so called problems maybe half of them are legitimate…the other half, you’re blowing smoke and you know it.  But, to try to save yourself some dollars that you no doubt loss due to 9-11 you have to blame someone (but of course) so who do you blame “The Tax Man”…Not for anything he didn’t do the revaluation J.R. Ryan has and apparently Ms. Farrell has enough faith in him to keep him on.

    After the 900 disillusioned people are looked at, 450 will more then likely be kept with the same assessement..Why?  Cause it will be fair.  The other 450 will be changed…now keeping this in mind Ms. Farrell…You have 9100 other residential properties, surely if you do the math their are more votes there then in the original 900 angry people.  But these 900 have “big bucks” maybe?  Are they helping you fund your campaign?

    Then we hear about the 1700 building permits…Has anyone stopped to think what HAS been processed in the Assessor’s Office?  Are we “ONLY” focusing on what hasn’t?  It has been Westport’s policy for years upon years prior to Mr. Werfelman becoming Assessor for the Town (which I may add was appointed by Ms. Farrell for his dedication, honesty and loyalty he had served faithfully twelve years prior as deputy) that permits were always backlogged…Why? Insufficient staffing.  Is that too, Mr. Werfelman’s problem or fault?  It’s the town budget…People it is time to realize that it is the Assessor’s office that brings the dollars into any town any where.  If any office should be over staffed that one should be it.  If 1700 building permits dating back to 1998 were just found wouldn’t it be a fair question to ask why didn’t that come up at the last revaluation in 1999?  Or wasn’t that big of a problem then?  Or maybe that wasn’t an important election year?  Without proper staffing in any office anywhere government or not the office will never run 100% efficiently…

    I have asked the only negative question I can think of regarding Mr. Werfelman…That is: Why hasn’t he himself gone out to look at and measure properties with outstanding permits?  So I did a little research what you people are failing to see is what I came up with:

    He manages a staff of six all day long. And a dedicated staff as well I might mention.

    Attends meetings with the First Selectman. (At her connivance he needs to be there, that is quite understandable).

    Personal Property Accounts (over 2200) of our Town’s small business’ that generate many tax dollars.

    Commercial properties as well.

    Motor Vehicles over 24,000 cars, that he is responsible for, and he does this twice a year, as well as a great number of unpriced vehicles that he physically has took look up each one and make the adjustments accordingly I have been told their are 1000s of them that come in unpriced from DMV.

    The Elderly Benefits

    The Disabled as well…and God bless them…

    Our Veterans!

    Note: That all of these duties are directly reported directly to Office of Policy And Management and are under State Statutes and from my personal obtained knowledge and information, all these duties were performed at the time they should have been, and done with little to no mistakes.  I also come to learn that, Mr. Werfelman is one of the top highly regarded and highly respected and educated Assessor’s in Fairfield County.  I can’t see Westport doing any better.

    With all that being said, his schedule is a pretty tight one and not forgetting the real estate that he over sees for some 10,000 parcels.

    I also stopped by the Assessor’s Office this week to ask a few questions of my own, and I was horrified to find out that about four weeks ago Mr. Werfelman, was taken from his office by ambulance to the Norwalk Hospital where had suffered an extremely mild heart attack…Thank God it wasn’t that severe. However, the news that followed that from a Realtor that happened to be in the office at the same time I was said: “When they took him out with oxygen over his face Westport Residents wouldn’t allow him out till they got some more questions answered.” I looked at the office staff and asked if that was true, well with a bunch of blank faces all shook their heads with an abundant amount of sadness and said “yes” silently.  My God who ever you are you should be ashamed of yourselves.  No wonder the man is under stress…And now you people are tearing a part and casting all the blame on him, reporting only that he’s tired or he has stress…I bet all you people felt a little stress when your money on paper disappeared after 9-11 as well. Huh?

    I am not saying that there isn’t a problem with the system and I am not saying their maybe a potential problem with the revaluation I myself went up quite a bit and have appealed to, but for those of you to stone Mr. Werfelman the way have and for Ms. Farrell not to stick by his side more importantly, I find to be disgraceful. 

    Westport use to be a great town, it has become way to snooty, who do you think you are and what right do you have to bring down a fine individual such as Glenn Werfelman?…You don’t know him all you see is “THE TAX MAN.”  Well, listen up people their are only three things in this world that we are certain about: We are born, we pay TAXES, and we die.

    Have you ever stopped to think that out of those 1700 building permits that are outstanding more then likely most of them are small decks, kitchen up updates, or new windows in a persons home ect…?  Do you really think that these are all “major additions”?  Why not check with the building department for the proper answers.  Should all the small stuff be addressed?  Absolutely…but to claim that these can potentially add millions of dollars to the Grand List is putting the cart before the horse.  Why not find out what he has been doing before accusing him of what he hasn’t been?

    I only hope that the thirty day leave that Mr. Werfelman is out on is for him to regain his health.  And that when he returns that he returns to people that allow him to do the fine job he has done for the past eighteen years.

    True we can all use instructive criticism and I am hopeful that he will take that in stride, but to be accused, threatened, slandered and from what I read defamation of character to be placed on this man, is without a doubt disgraceful.  No good man should have to endure that.

    If you are reading these posts, Glenn please know that there are more people out there on your side then not…much more!  Don’t let the idol chatter of one small group of people bring you down.  I am just so happy to know that your health problems didn’t lead to a major heart attack and the EMT’s were able to remove you from the office on time in spite of what they had to go through to get you out.

    It would have been a damn shame…to leave behind a wife and from what I am told two lovely daughters of teenage years.  I can only imagine the heart ache they must be feeling as well, a nice family (of course) raised by a wonderful human being.

    God Bless and I will be in to visit and offer my support when you return.  And for the sake of the Town of Westport you better return.

    Mr. & Mrs. JS.

  3. Ryan continues to work on the assessment list for the town! Why?

    It seems that if had been thoroughly examining the property records while doing his work, he would have spotted all the un-assessed imorovements a long time ago.

    Are we throwing good money after bad?

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