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County's white house won't be appraised

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

The property assessor’s office has spent a lot of time appraising property this year.

One property that didn’t get appraised was a small white house adjacent to the new jail.

“We won’t appraise it because it’s county-owned property,” Property Assessor Teresa Kirkham said. “Anytime the county or city buys a piece of property, it comes off the tax roll.”

When the property was on the tax roll, it was appraised at $99,000.

The county bought it for $132,221 for the new jail project.

During construction, the house served as a meeting place and living quarters for George Myers, the man who oversaw the jail project.

“It was a construction management house,” Roane County Executive Mike Farmer said.

Farmer had other ideas for the house.

Without any authorization from the county commission, Myers said Farmer gave him permission to fix it up so it could be used as office space.

According to county records, $74,799 was spent on white house renovations from Aug. 10 to Nov. 19. That wasn’t nearly enough to complete the job.

In January the commission voted to take $80,662 out of savings for the renovation project.

The county zoning office and building inspectors have relocated from the third floor of the courthouse to the white house.

Farmer said he wanted them moved, so people who want to build in the county wouldn’t have to “go through a body-cavity search” to get to the third floor of the courthouse.

Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton said he knows of no instance where someone seeking a building permit was subjected to a body-cavity search upon entering the courthouse.

“Absolutely not,” Stockton said. “That’s a violation of constitutional rights.”

The normal security procedure for people entering the courthouse includes placing their belongings in a tray and walking through a metal detector. Farmer’s opponents in the August election — Ron Woody and Miles Ledbetter — have called the renovation a waste of taxpayer money.

“I wouldn’t spend your money like that,” Woody said.

Farmer said, “It’s easy to be against stuff. It’s hard to be for.”

Kirkham said her office won’t be checking to see if all the money has done anything to increase the value of the house, which she said would now be considered commercial property.

“There’s no reason for us to appraise it because we don’t get any tax money off it,” she said.

Kirkham said there is a way to find out if all the money that’s been spent on the house has increased its value.

“You could get an independent appraisal done on it,” Kirkham said. “They could tell you if it’s worth the actual money spent.”