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Bank building appraisal cut by more than $2 million

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By Damon Lawrence

The Roane County Board of Equalization didn’t think the Regions Bank building in downtown Harriman should be appraised at $3.633 million.
The assessor’s office raised it to that amount earlier this year.
On Tuesday equalization board chairman T.H. Brown said the board decided the appraisal should be $1.050 million.     
“That was our final adjustment this morning,” Brown said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s equalization board meeting.
After the meeting, Property Assessor David Morgan said he believes the building is under valued at $1.050 million.      
“The change from $3.6 million to $1.05 million results in an annual tax loss of approximately $20,000 to the county,” Morgan said. “This will also impact the tax revenues for the city of Harriman.”
The building, which is owned by Dr. Clary Foote, has been the subject of some controversy in the past.
It had been appraised at $2.077 million, but former property assessor Teresa Kirkham said the building changed use after Foote bought it, so she lowered it to $1.502 million.
Morgan accused Kirkham of dropping the value because she was dating Foote.
District Attorney General Russell Johnson asked the state comptroller’s office to look into the allegations. The investigation determined there was no wrongdoing.
Morgan said his office changed the value for the 2013 tax year because it discovered an additional 7,000 to 8,000 square feet that he said mysteriously disappeared from the tax card.
Foote said he planned to appeal when informed about the $3.633 million appraisal in June.
“All of downtown Harriman wouldn’t be worth that much,” he said.
Morgan said the appraisal on the building has changed multiple times since Foote appealed.
“Dr. Foote was a ‘no show’ for his first county board appointment in early June 2013,” Morgan said.
Morgan said another appointment was scheduled, which Foote attended. 
“The board decided to lower the assessment to approximately $2.1 million originally,” Morgan said. “This change was keyed into our computer system that day or the next day. On July 9, the board notified the assessor’s office that the assessment for that building was being lowered again, to approximately $1.1 million.”
Brown said Foote has his doctor’s office in the basement and another doctor will be moving in on the second floor.  
“It is multi-use now,” he said of the building.
Morgan disagrees.
“We had it as a bank building, code 33,” Morgan said. “The definition of a bank building is the primary floor is used as a bank, which it is currently, with other floors being used for other purposes, and that’s what we were sticking with.”
Morgan said he did agree with the equalization board applying economic obsolescence to the appraisal. 
“The economic obsolescence that they applied to it, I can understand that,” Morgan said. “I think that’s fair. Harriman’s definitely an economically depressed area from all indications. I won’t say too much about that.”