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TOWN ASSESSOR VAN DUSEN TO FILL IN FOR CITY

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Friday the city will end up paying for the services of Town Assessor Kevin Van Dusen, but the amount hasn't been determined.

"It'll go one of two ways. Either the city will pay the town, or Van Dusen will do it as an individual," Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman said.

The Common Council approved the temporary use of Van Dusen in an item added late to its Wednesday agenda, while the Town Board authorized a contract during a work session the same night.

Tucker said it's up to Seaman and city Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano to work out a deal for the city to use Van Dusen to handle assessor duties while Tucker looks for a successor to Gerald P. Cash, who retired in April.

Lena D. Villella, the city's real property appraiser, wants to be assessor but has been denied the appointment by Tucker because she doesn't live in the city, which Van Dusen does.

Seaman said it's likely the payments for Van Dusen will be based on his town salary and how much time he devotes to city business. Van Dusen earns $47,400 a year, which works out to $22.79 per hour.

Seaman said the Town Board authorized a 75-day agreement, which would take the deal through early October.

Meanwhile, Villella, a Royalton resident, is mustering legal ammunition to try to convince Tucker to appoint her. Tucker said the City Charter requires the assessor to be a city resident, and he would want the assessor to live in the city anyway.

Tucker and Villella met Friday. Tucker said, "She didn't say she was going to start litigation, but she said she was going to do what she had to do, and afterward, if it doesn't go her way, she would consider moving into the city. I said, 'Lena, the job's going to be filled.' "

"He said, 'It may be filled,' " Villella countered. "I don't think I'm going to wait until it's too late."

Villella continued to keep mum on her exact plans, but she asserted that she will continue as acting assessor, even though her 90-day appointment to that post expired Friday.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm still the acting assessor until they hire an assessor through an examination process," she said.

Villella said a section of the state Real Property Tax Law backs up her claim. She said the three-month limit applies only to appointees filling in for an elected town assessor. However, Tucker's appointment of Villella in April specified she was to have a 90-day term.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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