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Another Putnam business makes deal over back taxes

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- After West Virginia Steel Corp. paid thousands of dollars in back taxes, Putnam County commissioners agreed Tuesday to give the company -- which promises to expand -- another tax break.

Decades ago, commissioners approved a pilot agreement with the Poca business, allowing a 25-year tax break on real property, according to County Attorney Jennifer Scragg Karr. The county owned the land during that time.

When the deal ended in 2006, the land was given back to the company, which was supposed to begin paying taxes.

However, the Putnam sheriff's tax office was mailing the company's tax invoices to an incorrect post office box in Winfield, and getting back the unopened mail.

Karr said West Virginia Steel also never received the deed returning the property to the company.

She said the sheriff's tax office gets addresses from the county assessor's office. "There's an obligation to pay taxes whether you get a tax ticket or not," she said.

Karr said she realized the error when another company's attorney, who had purchased the lien on West Virginia Steel, called her.

"They asked if we were interested in redeeming the property," Karr said.

After the error was discovered, she said, West Virginia Steel "was hit with a three-year tax bill at once."

On Tuesday, commissioners agreed to extend the company's tax break on real property for two years after Andrew Ellis, the company's attorney, told them the company planned to expand and eventually add 40 more jobs.

For two years, the company will have to pay taxes only on personal property.

"I think that made it more palatable for commissioners," Karr said.

West Virginia Steel has already paid about $125,000 in back taxes and fees, Karr said.

The deal also would avoid any potential litigation, she said.

A similar agreement between another county business and commissioners also recently resulted in the company owing back taxes.

Seven years ago, commissioners made a deal to give Tasty Blend Foods a tax break as an incentive to keep the business in the county. Because of an oversight made by attorneys for the biscuit-mix makers and the commission, the company owes about $125,000 in back taxes, the county attorney discovered.

Earlier this month, commissioners agreed to allow Tasty Blend to make annual payments of about $9,000 through 2026 to pay off the debt. In 2026, the company would start paying taxes in full.

In other business, commissioners chose to stay with Payne & Garlow Insurance Agency, who offers a plan through Travelers Insurance Co. The county has obtained insurance from the company for the past 15 years.

Also at the meeting, commissioners approved a bid for just over $2 million with BBL Carlton for construction of the county's new animal shelter.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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