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Maytag property value awaits appeal before state board

How much is the former Maytag corporate headquarters worth? That seems to be the multi-million dollar question facing Jasper County, the City of Newton and Iowa Telecom as the groups await an appeal at the state level to determine the value of the property. The entire Maytag downtown campus had been assessed at $12.7 million as recently as 2005. Jasper County Assessor John Deegan indicated to the Daily News in late 2006 that once Whirlpool ceased operations in Newton, the value of the buildings could fall dramatically. As the final shutdown of Maytag Plant 2 now looms, just how far the headquarters property value should fall is a matter of debate. Iowa Telecom appealed the property’s assessed value to a county review board, which dropped the value to around $4 million and now the parties involved are awaiting a second appeal of that value by a new state review board.

Iowa Telecom purchased the property from Whirlpool for $1.5 million in early 2007 as part of a multi-party deal that included the city and DMACC, among other groups. Those close to the deal championed the Iowa Telecom purchase, noting that the alternative would be to have a portfolio-buyer purchase the property with the possibility of demolishing the structures. Almost everyone close to the deal seems to agree that the complex is worth less than the $12.7 million assessment, but to at level? Iowa Telecom CEO Alan Wells and Iowa Telecom General Counsel Don Henry believe the buildings should be valued at the purchase price, $1.5 million. They said that prior to the deal taking place, Telecom people met with the county and they believed that if an arms length transaction took place, the purchase price would reflect the value assigned to the property. “Our expectation was a million and a half dollars,” Henry said, later adding that “In fact, I could make a strong case that it’s worth less than $1.5 million.” The county assessor disagrees. He noted that Wal-Mart is valued around $7 million and the Maytag properties, in his eyes, seem more valuable than that building — $1.5 million purchase price not withstanding. “They got a deal, they should be happy,” he said of Iowa Telecom’s purchase. How the state appeals board factors the purchase price into their decision remains to be seen. When dealing with home values, an abnormally high or low purchase price can be compared against what other homes in the neighborhood have sold for. An assessed value can be placed more in line with other sales. There is, however, only one Maytag with no comparable property purchases in the community. The ultimate affect of the property valuation on the city is not yet entirely clear. City Administrator David Watson said he was setting up a task force to examine the property values. The property value may not affect the city in the short term. Under the development agreement on the purchase deal, Iowa Telecom assumed a minimum assessment of $1.5 million. In exchange, the city agreed to rebate any taxes paid above an assessed value of $1.5 million, up to a total of $1.2 million over a period of 10 years. More on the issue should come to light following the task force’s examination and the state appeals process.

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