Commission signs off on settlement

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Commissioners Thursday signed off on a settlement with CoalQuest, a mining company that alleged the county erroneously assessed the tax value of Imperial Mine in 2012.

The Commission approved the agreed order and settlement during its 9 a.m. meeting at the Upshur County Courthouse Annex.

The company, which is owned by Arch Coal, idled the mine in September 2012 due to market conditions. Employees of the mine were transferred to the company’s Leer Mining Complex in Taylor County.

The county assessed the value of the coal-producing land parcels at Imperial using an active status calculation, said Stephanie Milliron, Upshur County assistant prosecuting attorney.

But, the company argued, because the mine was idle the coal-producing parcels should have been assessed using a reserve status calculation, which would have reduced their value for tax purposes.

CoalQuest appealed the assessment to the Upshur County Commission acting as the Development Board of Review and Equalization.

The Commission upheld the assessment and CoalQuest filed civil action in Circuit Court. However, the company and the West Virginia Tax Department reached a settlement.

“Basically what the settlement does is seek a compromise at a halfway point between both parties,” Milliron said.

The county would have received $135,000 in taxes, but will receive half of that under the settlement.

The settlement is a better outcome than if the company had proceeded with the civil action and won, Milliron said. As a result, the prosecuting attorney’s office recommended the Commission accept the proposal. The state tax department also recommended the Commission accept the settlement, she said.

Commission President J.C. Raffety said not only would the county lose more tax revenue if the company prevailed in an appeal, it would incur additional legal costs in continuing pursuit of the matter.

Even if the county had won the case, the legal fees may have been more than the tax revenue, Raffety said.

“We would have had to pursue a possibly protracted legal battle in civil court, ultimately costing litigation fees to the county. We may have succeeded in court, but the expense may have been such that it may have not been financially worth it,” he said.

Commissioner Don Tenney agreed.

“It’s better to get $67,500 than a few thousand dollars,” he said.

In other business, the Commission:

– Reappointed Elkins Road Public Service District Board of Directors member Larry J. Heater for a term beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2020.

– Approved employment of a part-time temporary fire fee clerk, Karen Simmons, effective Aug. 18 at an hourly pay rate of $10.50 for 19.5 hours a week.

The salary will be reimbursed in its entirety by the Upshur County Fire Board.

– Accepted the resignation of Linda Harris, tri-county child exchange monitor, effective July 24.

– Accepted the resignation of Erin Harris, tri-county child exchange monitor, effective July 24.

– Accepted the resignation of Mikel Brown, tri-county child exchange monitor, effective July 24.

– Approved employment of Barbara Smarr as tri-county child exchange monitor effective Aug. 15.