Assessing the situation
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Republican Jim Yellico is challenging incumbent Democrat John Gorman to be Garfield County’s assessor for the next four years, a job that paid a salary of more than $72,000 in 2010.
Yellico, a Glenwood Springs native with 12 years of experience in the real estate market, has focused much of the energy in his campaign on what he says is a need to improve the assessor’s website to make it more user friendly and to allow for online appeals of valuations.
Gorman, who has one four-year term in the office under his belt, said the assessor’s website already is “a turbo-charged Maserati” compared to the “Model-T Ford” that it was until the start of 2010. He also said he tried online appeals and that few property owners used the service.
Yellico also said he plans to “improve relations” with the oil and gas industry, which he maintains have not been good under Gorman’s tenure.
Not so, Gorman said, adding that his relations with the oil and gas industry are “wonderful,” even after several years of special audits that have so far brought in more than $6 million in catch-up payments to the county, by energy firms that underreported their production assets.
“I’m just like one of the boys … I’m getting treated a lot better – more friendly, more respect,” he said. “We’re getting more information, faster. It’s made it easier on us and the industry.”
Yellico has confirmed that he would keep the audits going, as would Gorman.
Another criticism Yellico points out is that Gorman uses a Denver-based appraisal firm for commercial properties, at a cost of approximately $90,000 per year.
Yellico said he would eliminate the county’s use of the company,ValueWest [formerly ValueCheck), that has been doing the county’s commercial property appraisals since 2003.
“I think it would be definitely better to have a local appraiser,” said Yellico, arguing that a local appraiser has a better understanding of local markets and issues, and can offer better customer service. Plus, he said, that would be one more job filled by a local resident.
Gorman, however, said the three appraisers in the firm are top notch.
“Nobody beats them in experience, knowledge, understanding or customer service,” he said. “And I’m getting all that firepower for less than the price of one.”
Yellico conceded that he might need to have more than one commercial appraiser on the payroll, although “I’m hoping we could do it with one.”
He estimated that the added salary and related personnel costs might come to $40,000 over the amount paid for the Denver contractor, but added, “For the value added to the citizens, I think it’s worth it.”
Yellico also has maintained that Gorman spends too much time and energy chasing after the gas companies, and promised that, if elected, he would pay attention to “all classes of property.”
Gorman responds that, while the industry represents roughly 74 percent of the total valuations of Garfield County, only 10 percent of his staff works on oil and gas data.
“The other 90 percent [of his staff] works on the remaining 26 percent [of assessed valuation],” Gorman said. “My office focuses on all classes of property, period.”
He also maintained that his pledge to audit the energy companies was largely responsible for his election victory four years ago, “and I’ve kept my promise.”
“The biggest differences between John and I are the value added,” said Yellico, meaning his pledges to have a better website and better customer service than the incumbent.
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