For what it's worth
We've gotten ourselves on quite a few e-mail lists in connection with writing this blog. One such list brings us electronic announcements of most of the City of Portland's solicitations for bids on contracts. It's amazing how, despite the city's large bureaucracy, it still has to farm out tons of work to private firms. We seem to get one or more bid notices from the city every business day.
Yesterday we got one that seems fairly run-of-the-mill, until you take a look at the fine print. It's from the city's Water Bureau. They say they're looking to hire a real estate appraisal firm to be on call for various valuation tasks that might arise. The idea is that the outside firm will be standing by to whip out an appraisal within 10 calendar days whenever somebody from the Water Bureau calls.
Doesn't the city already have in-house people who do this sort of thing? Shouldn't it? But even if one concedes that there's a need for third-party appraisals, nonetheless a few aspects of this request for proposals seem unusual.
First, the call for bids seems awfully rushed. Dated yesterday, the proposal also gives yesterday as the deadline for submitting any questions that a prospective bidder might have. I got my copy of the notice just before 10 a.m. Is it really good practice for the city to leave just six working hours for questions?
Then there's the description of the work itself. Here are the situations in which the city says appraisals might be necessary:
The PWB from time to time, receives offers to purchase lands or may receive gifts of land. PWB will need appraisal services for the purpose of purchasing land or to determine the value for the purpose of estate taxes of those lands that are donated to the PWB.I can see that the Water Bureau might need an appraisal before deciding to sell real estate... but hey, wait a minute, exactly what real estate does it having lying around that it thinks is suitable for being sold off? Is this another one of those Parks Bureau situations, where people are skulking around plotting to sell city land without adequate public consultation?
And as for appraising donated land, why should that the be the city's responsibility? Why are we taxpayers paying to appraise property for purposes of some wealthy donor's estate tax return? If someone is being all that magnanimous, he or she (or the estate, if the donor's dead) ought to foot the bill for the appraisal.
And if purchases and gifts are the two contexts in which the valuation work needs to be done, the description of the work that's supposed to be performed doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It includes the following:
Economic research and analysis: evaluate the accuracy of claims for compensation for the loss of the real market value of real property due solely to the imposition of specific regulations; conduct independent economic evaluations and general estimates of the relative values of real property under specific regulatory conditions, isolating to the fullest extent practical the specific impacts of specific regulations; provide licensed or certified property appraisals of real property with and without the imposition of specific regulations....Sounds like there's more going on here than straight-ahead sales and gifts. It sounds like condemnation (or so-called inverse condemnation) work. The conflicting descriptions of the scope of the work are troubling.
In addition to those items required within the self-contained appraisal report, the following items shall be included within the report:
1) SUMMARY STATEMENT OF DAMAGES
This statement shall include the property parcel number, name of property owner of each interest being evaluated, estimate of damages for each property owner, the total amount of damages appraised if any, date of the appraisal, and the signature of appraiser preparing the report, (not a facsimile or reproduction). This statement shall precede the letter of transmittal.
Whatever the task really is, proposals are due next Tuesday afternoon. There are many appraisers in town who might be qualified and interested, but given the odd features of the announcement, one might infer that a contractor has already been selected, and that the bid process is mere window dressing. Ladies and gentlemen of the Water Bureau, say it ain't so.
UPDATE, 12:54 p.m.: Somebody noticed this post.