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County board approves grant match for new company
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Burke County Commissioners

County board approves grant match for new company

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Alan Wood

Alan Wood

A new company plans to make Burke County its home and create new jobs in Hildebran.

Alan Wood, president and CEO of Burke Development Inc., told the Burke County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 17 that a company is looking at relocating from South Carolina to 104 1st St. NW., Hildebran.

The manufacturing company plans to create at least 19 jobs, he said, but he believes the number will be significantly more than that.

Wood asked that commissioners approve a local match for a state building reuse grant.

Wood said the grant match is for a $100,000 building reuse grant from the Rural Economic Development Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce. The grant application has been submitted, and he has asked the town of Hildebran to share with the county the required 5% local match, which would be $5,000.

Commissioners unanimously approved appropriating up to $2,500 for the county’s half of the grant match.

When economic development officials are working to bring a company to the county, the project is typically given a code name until all involved are ready to release the actual name of the company. Burke Development has given this effort the code name Project Downy.

Tax penalty

Also during the meeting, commissioners debated an appeal of a 10% penalty for failure to list personal property by Continental Automotive Systems Inc. The amount is $79,103.

Danny Isenhour, county tax administrator, told commissioners that his office received the appeal in September.

Individual and business taxpayers are required to list personal property from Jan. 1 through Jan. 31, he said. The company requested and received an extension until March 16 to list its property. The deadline passed, and the tax office didn’t receive the company’s listing until April 22, garnering the penalty.

Isenhour said commissioners can compromise on a listing penalty, but the action can be challenged and commissioners can be held personally liable.

Commissioner Wayne Abele argued the board should give the company a break, saying Continental has been a good corporate neighbor and employs so many people that he would like to see the board cut the penalty at least in half.

He said he knows the board doesn’t do that often and hasn’t done that in the past and that maybe the listing was overlooked within the company.

Abele suggested that cutting the penalty in half shows goodwill toward the company.

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Commissioner Maynard Taylor also supported giving the company a break, saying when the county unnecessarily taxes a company it increases the price of the product to customers. He also said the penalty takes away money from the 500 families who have a member working for the company.

However, Vice Chairman Scott Mulwee said that commissioners have to treat everybody fairly and equitably, and if they allow special circumstances for Continental they set a precedent and open themselves up to lawsuits.

Legal risk

Mulwee asked J.R. Simpson, county attorney, if giving the company a break would open the commissioners up to legal challenges.

Simpson told commissioners it not only would open them up to be held personally liable, but they would be liable for the cost of a lawsuit brought by anyone who would challenge the penalty break.

He also said earlier in the year, there was an appeal by another company that was penalized but commissioners denied that appeal.

But Taylor argued there have been times the board has made concessions on taxes, so giving Continental a break wouldn’t be a first.

But Isenhour said the tax office has never relieved a listing penalty.

Taylor argued with Isenhour, saying it did so a month ago.

Isenhour said he can assure the board the office doesn’t release any taxes or penalties that are due.

Releases the commissioners typically approve monthly are those due to errors, Isenhour said. He gave an example of an error that involved assessing someone’s home tax value for a basement that the house does not have. When the office would review the property and find it doesn't have a basement, the basement would be removed from the assessment, Isenhour said.

Isenhour said his office does not change people’s property values, and it does not allow people not to pay their taxes. The office also does all kinds of tax payment enforcement, including garnishing wages and bank accounts and even foreclosing as a last resort.

“To say we release taxes, I apologize, that’s not a true statement,” Isenhour told Taylor.

However, Taylor continued to argue with Isenhour, who told the commissioner that tax releases have to be substantiated by facts.

Commissioner Jeff Brittain said the board is dealing with state law and not something that its members can change at will. He said he doesn’t believe it would be fair to the rest of the taxpayers to relieve the company of the penalty.

Commissioners denied the appeal in a 3-2 vote, with Abele and Taylor opposing.

In other business, commissioners approved a request from Winston Mitchell to rezone 1.4 acres at 4406 Mae Lynn Drive, Morganton, from residential to general business to expand his tractor repair and sales business. Scott Carpenter, director of community development, said Mitchell’s wife is considering starting a business on the property as well. The vote came after a public hearing.

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