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Property appraiser closing beachside office due to low demand for services

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of April 22, 2021)
Photo: County Property Appraiser Wesley Davis.

County Property Appraiser Wesley Davis said he will discontinue service at the Oceanside County Complex on Cardinal Drive at the end of September, citing a lack of demand for his office’s services there and insufficient Internet capability.

“Our lease is paid through September, which allows me to have a presence there through the end of the TRIM,” Davis said referring to the Truth In Millage Rate notices his office sends out in August.

“People on the island can continue to schedule appointments there until then,” he added. “Even after we leave, we’ll keep some printed materials over there.”

County Clerk Jeff Smith pulled out of the beachside office last April, after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down courthouses and prompted the state to cut clerk-of-court budgets.

Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan, however, said she has renewed her $4,092-per-month lease at the 1,200-square-foot beachside office, which opened in June 2019, and she plans to use the space vacated by Davis to increase her staff there.

Jordan said the traffic at all four of her locations – at the County Administration Building, Sebastian and Vero West branches, and on the island – continues to grow.

From April 2020 through March 2021, she said the county’s Tax Collector’s Office processed 21,351 more transactions than it did the year before, and it received a total of 127,632 phone calls.

“I’m excited to have the extra space,” Jordan said, adding that she plans to move two more clerks to the island. “The beachside office turned out to be a blessing when COVID hit, and we had to do everything by appointment. We’re booked solid at all of our locations.

“We’ve gotten so busy that we’ve had to limit our services to county residents.”

In fact, Jordan said she is planning to expand the size of her office space at both the County Administration Building and Vero West sites.

She said the patio near the handicapped parking area at the County Administration Building will be enclosed and become an add-on to the current Tax Collector’s Office.

She’s also working with the owner of the Vero West complex at 1860 82nd Ave. to expand her existing office space or move into a larger unit on the premises. She said she has spoken with Davis about adding a Property Appraiser’s branch office at that location.

“Vero West is the busiest office we have,” Jordan said, citing the ongoing real-estate boom and new-home construction on the western edge of the county’s urban services area.

Davis, whose office shares space with the Tax Collector’s Office at the Sebastian location, said he’s considering adding a branch at Vero West.

“Carole Jean needs to expand, and there’s certainly a lot of growth to the west, so we’re looking at it,” Davis said. “But with homestead exemption applications available online now – 45 to 50 percent of the applications we get are filed online – the beach location didn’t really work for us.”

Jordan, meanwhile, said the pandemic-mandated, appointment-only process has been so successful that her office is likely to continue the practice after COVID is gone.

“I don’t see any reason to change,” she said. “Ninety percent of our customers love it, because they can schedule when they want to come in. And our clerks love it, too, because they don’t have all those people standing in line.

“If there are emergency situations, we’ll still be able to work them in.”

Jordan spearheaded the move to open the Oceanside County Complex, located at 3003 Cardinal Dr., with the intent of lessening traffic at the county’s mainland offices and providing a more convenient service for island residents.