TAYLOR COUNTY—The Taylor County Commission met in front of a packed commission room during Tuesday’s meeting.
To start the meeting off the commission went into executive session for the hearing concerning tax money owed to the county by Helmerich and Payne International Drilling.
During the November 19 meeting, Assessor Christa Kinsey reported that the company owed the county $230,503, with a possible 10% penalty, after failing to submit their forms for this tax year.
The commission was instructed to set a hearing with the drilling company for Tuesday’s meeting as the first item on the agenda.
Although the hearing took place behind closed doors, the commissioners returned to regular session to have their decision made on the record.
“Because no one showed up on behalf of Helmerich and Payne, it is the decision of the commission that the exoneration be denied and any additional penalties be assessed and applied to the total,” said Commission President Orville Wright.
The motion was made and carried unanimously.
The next order of business was concerning a funding request by the Mountain View Water Association.
According to a representative from the association, there has been a slip on the property where the Middleville water tank is being kept. He said that there was an issue with the property.
“We want to resolve our issue of legal right to be on the property,” the representative said. “When the tank was put in, the owner that had the property sold it, but it was never recorded on the deed.”
He said that the new property owner was willing to work with them in regard to the land. He said once the deed work was done, they would need to come back to the commission to ask for funding to repair the slip.
Wright told the representative that he would need to get with Taylor County Prosecuting Attorney John Bord or another of the prosecutors, to get deed work squared away first.
The commission then heard from Donna Trickett, who provided them with an update on their progress to have a waterline extended from Frog Run Road to Cathord Road.
She said that while they have obtained agreements the residents involved in the project.
“Of the 30 property owners who would be included on the project, 29 have signed the right of way agreements and 28 have signed the water usage agreements,” Trickett noted. “We are still waiting to hear back from one property owner that we had initially had an incorrect address for.”
She revealed that the Richard Domas, a resident of the area who would benefit from the project, who had agreed to use his labor and drilling equipment for the project, had passed away unexpectedly.
Domas’s contribution would have left only the cost of materials for the project.
“At this point, we don’t know the exact impact that the loss of Richard will have on our project, but we are determined to see this project to completion in his honor, with the help of the Taylor County PSD and the county commission,” Trickett revealed.
She said that they would be back to visit the commission after the first of the year, to provide another update on the project.
“In the meantime, we ask that you keep Rich and his family in your thoughts and prayers,” Trickett said. “Rich was very dedicated to this project, so we would like to see it come to completion in his memory.”
Next up on the agenda was Lea Larew, who addressed the commissioners about the use of water at the old Thornton School.
She revealed that originally the Thornton Fire Department would provide water to the residents in the area on the honor system, leaving a bin to collect money for the water taken.
She said once the fire department was sold, the water was moved to the old school.
Grafton Fire Chief Wayne Beall recalled, “A year or so ago, a yard hydrant was installed for water access.”
Larew shared that when the deed was made for the school to be transformed into a community center, three stipulations were made. She would have to continue to make the water available to residents, keep the building as a polling place and ensure the recycling was kept active there.
Larew reported people have disregarded the honor system that once was in place and she was forced to put a lock on the hydrant to keep residents from stealing the water.
“There were only two people that offered to pay for the water,” Larew said. “I don’t have a problem giving keys out to those who want to pay for the water, but I don’t think that I should have to pay for everyone else’s water,” Larew voiced.
The commissioners agreed that residents should be paying for the service and told Larew that as long as they were able to contact her to access the water hydrant, then she was within the stipulations of the deed.
In addition, a second executive session was held regarding legal matters, but afterward a discussion was held on the record.
Lisa and Jeff Sapp were requesting restitution for the care of animals owned by Grace Austin that were rescued during a seizure in April in what has been deemed the Taylor County Animal Neglect case.
The Sapp’s reported that because Austin’s misdemeanor charge had been dropped and her case dismissed, they were told by Prosecutor Matt Hickman to submit the documentation to the commission for payment since the case had been dismissed.
“The commission has decided that we will hold in abeyance payment for any care of the animals in the Austin case until the conclusion of the trial, which is next week,” Wright said. “We will wait from an order from the judge on who, what and when to pay. In other words, we are waiting for the judge to tell us who and when to pay.”
L. Sapp questioned why one rescue was recently paid $70,000 when they are holding all other payments. Wright told her it was because that rescuer was in financial hardship.
“Somebody will make reimbursement for those animals, and if we are ordered to do it, we will certainly do it,” Wright said. “We are not trying to beat you out of your money.”
Wright said as of right now, it is unclear on who is responsible to pay any money out, especially in this case, because the charges had been dropped against G. Austin, but the criminal proceedings against Marvin “Marty” Austin are still ongoing.
The criminal case against M. Austin will go to trial on Wednesday, December 11 and is scheduled until Friday, December 13.