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Coal property values miscalculated by state

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Because of an error at the state level, Harrison County commissioners on Thursday voted to extend the annual Board of Equalization and Review.

Commissioners were informed by the West Virginia Division of Tax and Revenue that the state has been improperly calculating values for property containing minerals, such as coal, said Roger Diaz, commission president.

That means the stacks of thick books now sitting in the commission office contain the wrong property value information, Diaz said.

"The state changed the way it evaluated coal property," Diaz said. "They input the wrong numbers. Consequently, the values in the books out there are wrong."

Because those books, which were compiled by the state Tax Department, are now in the possession of the commission, it is up to the county to change them.

Doing so means the commission must give property owners time to contest the rates before the Board of Equalization and Review.

The board was scheduled to meet for the final time this year on Feb. 22, but because the commission must give a certain amount of public notice, the board will meet for the final time on Feb. 24.

"If someone has a complaint, they can come to the (Board of Equalization and Review) meeting on the 24th," Diaz said.

But those who want to address the board must have an appointment to do so, he said. Appointments can be made by calling the commission office at 624-8500.

Diaz expects few will attend, however. The rate adjustment will make mineral property taxes lower, he said.

In other action, commissioners approved a letter to state Sens. William Sharpe and Joe Minard expressing their approval of a third division of the county's circuit court.

Commissioners wanted to clarify that they do support creation of the new position, said Beth Taylor, commissioner.

"Never did we not want the new judge," Taylor said. "We never wanted the unfunded mandate that comes along with it."

Because the commission raised concerns about how much the county will have to pay to rearrange offices in the courthouse to make room for the new position, some state officials thought they did not favor the new division, Taylor said.

Renovations to make way for the new judge are expected to cost $750,000 to $1 million, Taylor said.

Commissioners also approved a draft letter to Jan-Care, a private ambulance service provider, which expresses their concerns over the company's advertising its emergency number.

The last three digits of the company's phone number are "911." The commission fears that will confuse people about which number to call.

The letter requests company officials meet with commissioners to discuss how to handle the situation.

The commission also:

- Approved new roads to be included in the Home Access Road Program for orphan roads in the county.

- Agreed to forward information about new locations for the county Health Department to the department administrator. The commission received notification of at least two available buildings in the area. The department must be out of the courthouse by March 31 to make room for the third circuit court division.

- Received two flags from Jim Stanley, field representative for Woodmen of the World, one of the largest providers of flags to government and non-profit organizations in the country.

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