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School board puzzled over property goof

by Gail Marsh


(September 15) Officials at the Harrison County Board of Education said Monday that their current dilemma of possibly losing a $100,000 piece of property for delinquent taxes is not something that has happened to the board before.

But they do say they are still unsure why the deed for the property the board purchased in 1995 beside Adamston Elementary School was not recorded for nearly three years.

"I honestly don't have an answer why the deed was not recorded. We do know we weren't notified about the back taxes and that the deed hadn't been recorded," said Robert Skidmore, head of personnel for the county school system.

According to a civil suit filed in Harrison County Circuit Court, the school board is suing Allegheny Title Services of White Sulphur Springs to determine ownership of the property along Adams Avenue. The landholding company got title to the land in April of 1998 after buying it for $715, the amount owed in delinquent taxes.

The suit contends that the board was not aware that there were any back taxes due when it purchased the property from Huntington National Bank in 1995. The board had taken possession of the land in 1993 and was using it for staff parking, with plans to work with the city of Clarksburg to build a community playground.

Though the board got the deed to the property in 1995, the deed was not recorded with the county clerk until July of 1998.

"This is the only instance where something like this has happened concerning land that the board owns," Skidmore said.

Skidmore said the board has purchased a half-dozen properties in the last several years, including the nearly 200-acre site of Robert C. Byrd High School for $900,000. They also purchased land to build Big Elm Elementary School near Shinnston for $137,000 and several smaller parcels of land for Liberty High School, Simpson Elementary and South Harrison High schools.

"Most of our purchases have been for land adjacent to existing schools in order to expand parking, playgrounds, or in the case of South Harrison, to add on to the middle school," he said.

Skidmore said the board is not presently in negotiations to buy any more properties.

"We've not had any problems over the years, so that's why this is so puzzling," he said.