Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Election over, Porter County officials resume squabbling

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder is not ruling out that politics are to blame for orders coming from Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, to vacate one of the three assessor offices in the County Administration Building and to give up the Porter County vehicle used in making field inspections.

According to Snyder, Evans entered the assessor’s office on Wednesday morning and told his chief deputy he was making the changes. One was to move the appeals division office on the second floor of the Administration Building out of its space within 30 days. That office space in Suite 302 was also set up for staff to process the plethora of appeals for the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals.

The purchase of the vehicle, a Ford Explorer, was approved by the Board of Commissioners about a year ago, Snyder said. The staff uses if for real estate inspections on a daily basis.

Snyder, who like Evans is a Republican, claims that Evans never discussed the matter with him before issuing his orders. He was not in the office any time on Wednesday and told Evans by phone he wishes to have a meeting on why the changes were made and how to prepare for them.

But Snyder suspects that, given the timing, Evans may be retaliating for a letter of support Snyder mailed to Republican voters supporting Evans’ frequent political adversary, Jim Biggs, in his primary election bid for a second term on the County Council. Biggs was renominated Tuesday over challenger Kyle Yelton, who Evans supported.

Snyder issued a statement to local media saying he wonders if this is a political attack or, giving Evans the benefit of the doubt, if this might be “a master plan for Porter County” in the midst of a collaborative effort to cut costs.

“You can’t tell me that by doing this on this day that this does not have the appearance of politics,” Snyder told the Chesterton Tribune.

Snyder said he has “no intention” of making the changes until action is taken by all three Commissioners in public.

Evans, for his part, said that “for a long time” he has talked about his intentions with Snyder that he would like to consolidate space in his offices. He said his actions are not politically motivated.

The timing has nothing to do with the election, Evans continued, because he also authorized Superior Court VI in Portage to move into the space where the health department offices used to be and has not heard any complaints there. “I felt today was a day that I would address our space needs,” said Evans.

The space was given to Snyder years ago because it had a conference room that the PTABOA could use for its meetings but those are now being held in the Commissioners’ Chambers, for full use of computers and TV monitors, Evans said.

With the conference room and extra space in the back, Evans said “that space is way underutilized” with the small number of staff there and other departments in the building in need of space. He said the staff could be moved down the hall to the real estate division where there is room for them.

Snyder differs with Evans on that point and worries that 30 days will not be sufficient for him to fully vacate the room. “I have no place to put my people,” he said.

Suite 302 was originally supposed to be the County Council office, Evans said, which has seven members and a two-member staff. He said it would make more sense to move them there as intended because the room they use now is “no bigger than a broom closet.”

Evans further defended his actions, saying his goal was to prioritize the use of space in the County Building and said that “it is the purview of the president of the Board of the Commissioners to allocate space in the County building.”

As for the assessor’s vehicle, Evans said he thinks there is more need for it to be used by another department, such as the Juvenile Services Center, now that Snyder recently got approval from the Commissioners to contract with Pictometry Inc. to produce highly detailed aerial photographs of real estate properties. The photographs are so that staff doesn’t have to travel to each property, he said.

In the past, assessor workers used their own cars and the County would pay the mileage so they can operate without the vehicle, Evans said.

Snyder said he feels his office should have a vehicle since other County departments have them too to perform their duties.

Snyder said Evans had talked to him more than a year ago about moving the assessor staff, an idea which Snyder had opposed. He said he offered an alternative plan but Evans never got back to him about it and since then has not discussed any changes with him.

 

Posted 5/8/2014