PARIS – Oxford County commissioners have seen a drastic increase in the number of tax abatement hearings before them, so they established a board of assessment review to help out.

The real estate market has seen exponential growth, affecting taxes, Chairman Steven Merrill said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“People choose to exercise their right to appeal,” he said.

The new board would review the more complex cases. Commissioners would still hear the simpler ones.

Five members of the committee have been selected. Commissioners are deciding how many they will have in total, and if they will appoint alternates.

The committee broke off and elected officers. Norm Ferguson, former county commissioner, will be the chairman. Wade Rainey, a West Paris selectman, will be the vice chairman and secretary.

Both Ferguson and Rainey lost November races for county offices.

Others are Mike Noble of Norway, a real estate agent and former appraiser; Jodi Keniston, the assessor for the town of Norway, and Fred Packard, a professional appraiser.

Commissioners were unsure if the board will have the authority to decide cases, or if they will be simply advisory.

Discussion to create a committee was elevated in the Bear Mountain Inn vs. Waterford case, which got so complicated that commissioners hired a professional assessor to review it.

In the case, the inn owners claimed they were taxed unfairly and challenged the town’s 25 percent surcharge on property taxes on commercial properties. Commissioners voted to take away the surcharge and sent a letter to selectmen instructing them to shape up their tax situation.

Selectman William “Whizzer” Wheeler has rejected the decision, threatening that if the commissioners don’t reverse or dismiss their decision, he will take them to court.

Merrill seemed unphased by the threat Tuesday.

“We’re not going to overturn a decision just because someone asks us to,” he said.

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