CHARLESTON - County officials are looking for some good temporary help in the assessor's office.
County Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson advised commissioners during their regular meeting Thursday that he has received a "concern letter" from the State Tax Commission. He explained the STC's concern is that property in Mississippi County may be undervalued for tax assessment.
Thompson said the state has up until this point been "lenient" because of the loss of records when the old courthouse burned Feb. 10, 1997. He said they are now asking for recalculation of property values to be completed by the time the assessment books close in May.
While the assessor's office has new hardware and software in place, it still lacks sales information data in the system, Thompson said. He estimated it would take "close to two years to get all this stuff in" using only his regular staff.
"I need additional staff," Thompson said. "I see the need and that's the reason I'm here asking." He assured commissioners the extra staff would be "absolutely temporary."
Sales information data will "bring the county records current," according to Thompson, and will "establish the going value of property in neighborhoods."
In addition to pacifying the State Tax Commission, having the data entered would make his office run smoother, Thompson said.
Thompson said the data entry training is time demanding, so they don't want a lot of turnover. "It's going to be data entry and you can't get more boring than that," he said. Officials estimated the job may take two employees working 20-25 hours each per week six months to finish the project with the regular staff contributing to the effort when able.
Thompson suggested finding a couple of grandmothers interested in working part time. Grandmothers would probably not be interested in working 40 hours, Thompson reasoned: "Their priorities are on their grandchildren."
Commissioner Homer Oliver pointed out that "high school kids are computer literate."
Thompson said his initial rough estimate on the labor cost was about $12,000 but soon determined it would be "well over that."
Blumenberg estimated it would be between $15,000 and $20,000. Seasonal employees are not eligible for all the benefits full-time county employees receive, which should keep the cost down somewhat, according to County Clerk Junior DeLay.
Commissioners asked Thompson to determine for sure how many additional employees he will need and decide on the pay rate.
Thompson said he does wonder "why the state is pushing so hard when we know we're in an economic crunch."
In other Mississippi County news:
* Commissioners discussed Tuesday's grand opening of the Alco store in the old Wal-Mart building.
"I don't think you could've put another car in the parking lot," Commissioner Martin Lucas said.
"I saw several Illinois license plates," DeLay said.
Oliver said Alco's sales tax revenue hopefully will help offset the loss of revenue from Wally's Chew Chew restaurant at Reeve's Boomland in Charleston until it is rebuilt after it burned recently.
Blumenberg said the county's sales tax revenue looks like it will end up about 4.5 to 5 percent higher that last year.
* About 700-800 tires were gathered at the county shed toward the next pickup by the Bootheel Solid Waste District, according to commissioners. The district will arrange a pickup for a minimum of 1,500 tires.
* The County Commission will not meet next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
* Kathy Walters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development met with commissioners to bring them "up-to-date."
She asked if there are "any organizations to talk to about our programs." If so, Walters said, "give me their names or tell them to call me."
Walters said Rural Development mostly likes to promote its housing programs. "We've got a lot of substandard housing with low income elderly living in it," she said.
Providing assistance for the purchase of fire truck grants and storm sirens are also popular Rural Development programs, according to Walters.
Commissioners said they are interested in the storm siren program as sirens are needed at Bertrand, Wilson City, Anniston and Wyatt.
Walters advised Bertrand no longer qualifies for 75 percent grant programs due to its median income but qualifies for 35 percent in grants, while Wilson City, Anniston and Wyatt still qualify for 75 percent grant assistance.
"I think you need to do one at the airport," she said of the storm sirens. "Maybe the businesses out there can contribute to it."