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Commission Discusses County Business

By Staff | Sep 14, 2016

At its Tuesday, Sept. 6 meeting, there was a motion passed by the commission to allow Prosecutor Tim Haught to represent them as well as represent the assessor in Statoil’s appeal regarding the commission’s decision to decline the shale driller’s request for a refund of more than $1.6 million in property tax it claims it overpaid the county.

Wetzel is one of four local counties Statoil claims it overpaid.

Wetzel County Assessor Scott Lemley previously said Statoil received notice their values were going up on their wells. Statoil paid the 2015 tax bill but is now claiming it overstated the revenue it received from the wells.

Lemley had noted Statoil should have realized they overstated their revenues when they received their increase notice.

A meeting was held June 14 between Statoil’s legal representative, Craig Griffith, West Virginia State Tax Department representative Jan Mudrinich and Wetzel County Prosecutor Timothy Haught. All stakeholders were given the opportunity to present witnesses, introduce exhibits and address the county commission with their respective arguments.

After deliberation, the commission made the following findings:

  • Statoil failed to meet its burden of proof that the assessment was a clerical error, as the company presented testimony from only one witness who “lacked personal knowledge of the manner in which the error was committed or the procedures in place to supervise employees and prevent such an error”
  • The evidence presented indicated Statoil was negligent in failing to double-check information, supervise employees responsible for providing the information and tracking notices sent to them regarding the assessment; and
  • Statoil had a duty to forward accurate information in order for the assessment to be made.

” Essentially, the taxpayer failed to prove that the assessment was a clerical error,” said Wetzel County Commission President Larry Lemon.

In another matter, at its Sept. 6 meeting, the commission passed a motion to donate $5,000 dollars to the New Martinsville Schools Bags of Bounty program, along with a motion to give $3,000 dollars to Long Drain’s backpack program. There was also a motion to accept the list of the 2016 poll workers.

In other commission matters, the following is the monthly animal shelter report for the month of August: dogs euthanized, 0; cats euthanized, 0; dogs adopted, 4; cats adopted, 5; dogs to rescue, 7; cats, 10; dogs returned to owner, 2; cats returned to owner, 0; dogs taken in, 15; cats taken in, 15; dogs in approval/foster, 1; cats in approval/foster, 0; present impounds (dogs), 1; present impounds (cats), 0; present quarantines of dogs, 0; present quarantines of cats, 0.

Also, the Wetzel County Commission met Tuesday, Aug. 30 with Rick Healy of Belomar Regional Council. Healy provided an update of the Hundred/Littleton PSD One waterline extension project.

Healy said there were eight good bids on the project that vary in a wide range of figures. Healy said he had verbal confirmation regarding the necessary four easements from CSX. Healy said the project was progressing at the scheduled pace, and the contracts are set to be awarded at the beginning of October, with construction set to begin in early November.

Healy also requested the resolution of several invoices.

In another matter, the commission gave the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce permission to use the courthouse steps for ChiliFest festivities on Oct. 29, noon to 4 p.m., continent on the submission of an insurance policy.

In another matter, Jimmy Glasscock appeared on behalf of the Folsom Volunteer Fire Department which is taking in Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department as a subsidiary. Both fire departments have agreed to this contract; however, Prosecutor Tim Haught suggested that before Smithfield dissolves into Folsom, that all assets, deeds, and properties be signed over to Folsom before they relinquish their identity. Also, a deed must be written up concerning the specifics of the agreed proposal before handing everything over directly.

In another matter, Deann Cummings gave a report on behalf of White Caps Creative Group, which in charge of the county’s website. Cummings said White Caps has recently performed an audit on system performance and recommended the replacement of a switch on a computer device that has been giving a humming noise, a sign that it is working too hard and could possibly cause the server to go down. Cummings also informed the commissioners of an IT infrastructure map that will help educate everyone in the building about the proper cable connection placements, labeling, and how to be more technologically aware. It will show proper locations of items to help with organization and to more easily locate items in case of an emergency.