To The Daily Sun,
This letter is in response to the two warrant articles in Alton, one of which is to eliminate the position of Town Planner and the second is to eliminate the position of the Tax Assessor. The comments of this letter are not intended to refer to the particular person who is currently holding those positions, but rather to comment upon the two positions and what I feel is their importance to the Town of Alton. As an attorney in the Town of Alton whose office has been the only law office in the town for the past 15 years, I have had many occasions to utilize the services of both the Town Planner and the Tax Assessor.
With respect to the Town Planner I have found that the Town Planner expedites the process when seeking approvals for building, developing land, and encouraging business to locate in Alton. The Town Planner has, since I have been in Alton, been available to address relevant issues and thereby expedite the process by which land use issues are presented to either the Zoning Board or the Planning Board. A full time Town Planner makes that process more efficient. The benefit to the public is enormous, as the process is expedited and matters are addressed faster than otherwise would be the case. Further, the process is more thorough as the result of having the opportunity to work with the Town Planner prior to submitting land-use issues to the Zoning Board and the Planning Board thereby saving valuable time.
The benefit to the public having a Town Planner is, in my judgement, very significant. From the studies that I have read and from the information I have from other communities, an outside planner on a contract basis is not always available when needed, and the cost and expense has been found in many cases to be more than what the Town Planner position currently pays.
I have had a similar experience with the office of the Tax Assessor. The Tax Assessor's position has been very beneficial to me, my clients, and to the public in general. In my opinion, a full time Tax Assessor eliminates, in many occasions, abatement actions which are costly to the Town as well as to the tax payer. As with the position of the Town Planner, it has been my experience that outside contract assessors are not always available and that the ultimate cost of a contract assessor is frequently more than what that position pays in the Town of Alton.
Although on a number of occasions the relief I was seeking for a client has been denied or not approved, the process has always been fair and congenial. My clients and I have been dealt with professionally and courteously and attribute that, in many respects, to the ability to talk and work with the Town Planner and the Tax Assessor before the issues involved become out of hand and no easy solution remains.
When voting on these two warrant articles, I am hoping that the good citizens of Alton (many of whom I have had the please of representing) will do their homework and will inquire as to the cost of using outside contract services and how that compares to what is currently being paid to the Tax Assessor and the Town Planner. I also hope the voters in Alton recognize that with an onsite Tax Assessor and Town Planner the public is better served. Things move faster with more efficiency which benefits the public and also reduces the cost which the property owner might not otherwise incur if not for the availability to work with the Town Planer and the Tax Collector.
Arthur W. Hoover