A decision that was supposed to involve some analysis turned into a game of “pick a number” Tuesday.
Spokane County commissioners picked one that cost taxpayers about $14,000.
Commissioners Skip Chilberg and Steve Hasson decided that the county overcharged a Seattle man for extending a sewer line to an apartment complex he owns behind University High School.
Last year, John Church appealed the $34,000 charge, saying he shouldn’t have to pay that much.
Church’s Balfourwood Apartments received sewer service as part of the $1.6 million University Place utility local improvement district that provided sewers to about 250 homes and businesses last summer.
The benefit of a sewer - mainly that Church will never have to replace a septic system now serving the apartments - didn’t justify the charge, Church argued during a hearing in July.
Commissioners demanded that Church hire an appraiser to back up his claims, which he did.
They also had their own appraiser look into the matter.
On Tuesday, they sided with Church despite the fact the county’s appraiser found the charge should be higher.
“Our appraiser says his benefit is substantially more than the assessment of $34,000,” said Jim Emacio, county attorney.
The county’s appraiser based his conclusion on a complicated formula involving income and expenses the apartments are likely to generate.
Chilberg questioned a $7,000 expense used in the formula. The appraiser assumed Church would set aside that much money to pay to replace the current septic system should it fail.
Chilberg said the appraiser pulled that number “out of the air.”
“It’s just a plug number,” he said.
Chilberg then suggested that commissioners pull out their own arbitrary figure and reduce Church’s assessment to $20,000, the $14,000 difference to be made up out of the county’s coffers.
Hasson went along.
“So the county would eat another $14,000? Sounds good,” he said.
Hasson later explained that $14,000 was a small price to resolve the issue.
The county could have lost a lot more if Church had taken the matter to court, he said.
Commissioner Phil Harris did not attend the meeting.