Vision Technologies stands by West Tisbury, despite Graham appeal and unpaid bills
Kevin Comer, president of Vision Appraisal Technologies, plans to make no changes in his company's treatment of West Tisbury as a result of the actions of a small group of its voters, who last month blocked payment of $5,700 to Vision by defeating a warrant article at a special town meeting.
The funds were due to Vision for testimony given in FY05 before the Appellate Tax Board (ATB) in the appeal of William Graham of his 2002 and 2003 real estate assessments. That bill and several others under consideration on Jan. 17 had been contracted without an appropriation from the taxpayers, and the town was technically entitled not to pay them. Although more than 80 percent voted to pay the $5,700, those funds were due from FY05 and required a nine-tenths vote to pass. The article failed 159 to 30. In another article, the voters did approve $6,300 to Vision for similar work in FY06, which required only a majority. It passed on a voice vote.
Mr. Comer, at a meeting with selectmen late last year, offered to settle for $12,000 Vision 's bill of $31,000 for work in the Graham case. At that meeting he told the selectmen that he had no plans to sue the town if he were not paid.
This week he told The Times in a telephone interview, "The money is not as important as the issues." Mr. Comer said that he would honor his long-standing commitment to the town, and if the town requests Vision's help with the state-required interim updates of the 2005 revaluation of properties, Vision would comply and would expect to be paid for that work.
Asked if Vision would work for West Tisbury on the 2008 revaluation, Mr. Comer was non-committal. "If the taxpayers have lost confidence in Vision," he said, "we would be beating our heads against a wall to try to work for them." Nevertheless, he did not rule out continued work in the future for West Tisbury, one of Vision's smallest clients.
The Times asked Mr. Comer if his recent experience with the West Tisbury town meeting would cause him to change his company's policies, for example by requiring written guarantees that sufficient funds have been appropriated to cover any future contracts with cities and towns. He replied that his company has always operated in good faith with town officials and would continue to do so. He said that requiring written guarantees would damage the good relationships he has had with his clients. "A handshake has always been sufficient for me," he said.
Mr. Comer went on to say that the Graham case, despite its length, is a routine matter. "Any taxpayer has the right to appeal his assessment to the ATB," he said. "The issues in this case are really not unusual. The whole system is not on trial, only Mr. Graham's assessments." Mr. Comer has written a letter to his clients, published in today's Times (see Page 15), with his thoughts on the case and on the media's inflated coverage, specifically in the Vineyard Gazette.
Mr. Comer had no comment on the failure of the assessors and the selectmen to secure an advance appropriation, and he had no comment on criticisms of the assessors' office unrelated to the Graham case. "None of those things have anything to do with us," he said.