ALPENA -On Monday, John Hippensteel officially took over as Alpena County's new equalization director, and even though he is new to the office he is already becoming comfortable with his new job and the new community he is serving.
Hippensteel was born and raised in the Kalamazoo area and spent five years in the Air Force before moving to Battle Creek where he got into the assessment field as a property appraiser. He then moved to Allegan County and then Calhoun County where he was the deputy director of equalization and ran the day to day operations.
Hippensteel said he had never been to Alpena until he accepted the job, but said he is already in love with the area. He said his family is making a commitment to the area and has no intent of leaving any time soon.
"I love Alpena. It is beautiful," Hippensteel said. "We purchased a house on Long Rapids Road with some beautiful property and we have turkeys that come visit us every day. It is nice. This is where we are planning to make our home and not planning on going anywhere."
Hippensteel said the issues Alpena County faces in terms of declining value of homes and a dwindling tax roll are shared among municipalities of all sizes around the state. He said he is beginning to see some improvement though.
"We're still seeing the decline in revenues, nothing has really changed there so far, but I have seen in southern Michigan it has started to curve off and from my understanding things are starting to curve off here also. We have been seeing a little less of a decrease in the property values than what we were seeing."
Even though the value of homes and businesses are beginning to stabilize, Hippensteel said businesses and homes are being repossessed still by the bank at a high rate. He said the forclosures hurt values, because when the bank auctions them off, it is for a low price and in order for sellers of homes to compete, they need to sell their homes for less than they are worth.
"Forclosures are playing a big role because they are bringing down the prices of other homes which are for sale," Hippensteel said. "Right now if you have your home for sale you just aren't going to get as much for it as you could have five years ago. You are having to sell it for less because of all the forclosures your competing against. The banks just want to get the forclosures off their books and as a result the low prices of them, affect other homes."
Hippensteel said the employees who work in the office have helped him get adjusted and the community has been accepting to his family. He said sometimes he just likes to stare out the window of his new home and appreciate it.
"We have a nice chunk of land and I like to look out over the field and everything is just beautiful," Hippensteel said. "When we made the visit before I accepted the job my wife and I were very impressed and the boys like it too. I think this is going to work out just fine for everyone."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689.