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Eastern Panhandle briefs

February 02, 2007

Berkeley County assessments increase



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The assessed value of Berkeley County real estate has increased by more than $800 million over the previous year, Berkeley County Assessor Preston B. Gooden told county commissioners Thursday.

The net assessed values for the 2007 tax year were nearly $4.3 billion, with new construction accounting for more than $36 million, Gooden said. The county's assessed value of real estate, which is 60 percent of the actual value, was little more than $3.4 billion, he said.

Gooden attributed at least part of a $27 million increase in personal property assessments to his office's enhanced ability through the additional staffing in his tenure to account for mobile homes and vehicles. Gooden said the land upon which the mobile homes was placed was accounted for.

Gooden also noted that the number of homestead exemptions increased by about $3.6 million and the tally of parcels placed on tax rolls increased by 1,814 to 48,138 in 2006, Gooden said.

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County not liable in Tiger bankruptcy



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County will not be held liable in a bankruptcy proceeding involving Tiger Aircraft LLC, an aircraft manufacturer in operation for about seven years at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, officials said Thursday.

Charles C. Steele of Crews & Associates and Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Robert "Bob" Crawford told the Berkeley County Commission that the 20-year bonds now in default would not impact the county's bond rating and it would not be held liable. The West Virginia Economic Development Authority acted as a conduit for issuing the bonds, Steele said.

Pending the outcome of the bankruptcy proceeding, the buildings could revert to the ownership of the Airport Authority, and Crawford said the property was listed with The Hawthorne Group, a Martinsburg real estate company.

Crawford said he would be showing the property to a prospect within the next few days and that there was an active effort to market it.

The commissioners later decided to send a letter to Sen. Jay Rockefeller to thank him for his efforts, despite the company's apparent financial collapse.

A meeting with creditors was scheduled for Feb. 15, Crawford said.

- Matthew Umstead




Morgan reprimands planning director



CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Commission President Frances Morgan on Thursday reprimanded the head of the county's Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering over a report that she told him to put together on the number of building lots east of the Shenandoah River.

After taking office, Morgan told Paul Raco that she wanted to know the number of building lots east of the Shenandoah River because she considered it environmentally sensitive.

Morgan told Raco on Thursday that the response she received from him contained a few statistics and had no narrative. Morgan also said Raco gave her a pile of annual reports from the planning department, leading Morgan to believe she had to look up the information herself.

Morgan said the county is behind on land-use management.

"But to do that, we need policy guidance," said Morgan, adding she was disappointed in the report.

"That will be all," she said.

"OK," Raco replied.

- Dave McMillion

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