Country Inn asks for payment plan to pay old hotel/motel tax

February 15, 2011|By TRISH RUDDER |

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — Unpaid hotel/motel taxes of about $25,000 from the Country Inn dating to July 2009 are due to the Town of Bath, but the inn does not have the money to pay them.

At Tuesday's Bath Town Council meeting, Mark A. Garfinkel, the inn's attorney, had a written proposal for the council to review that asked the town to accept $500 monthly payments toward the debt.

The proposal requested that beginning in June, "the Country Inn will begin making additional and separate payments of at least $500 per month," and will be credited toward the past-due taxes.

Police Chief Craig A. Pearrell, who was put in charge last year by the council since nonpayment of the occupancy tax is against the law, said at only $500 a month, it would take too long to recoup all the tax dollars because after three years, "we would lose our right to seek back-paid taxes" if the inn owners are criminally charged by the town.

About $12,000 of the $25,000 due in hotel/motel taxes is for the period between July and December 2009, and must be paid before December 2012, Pearrell said.


"It should be at least $1,500 a month to catch up," Pearrell said.

Pearrell said about 13 occupancy establishments are in the Town of Bath. He said a letter needs to be sent to them from the town saying that any taxes paid will go toward the oldest dates due, not the current dates.

Bath Mayor Susan J. Webster said she will ask Richard Gay, the town's attorney, to review the proposal and seek his advice.

Webster told Garfinkel "we will gladly accept payments from the inn anytime the inn wants to come in and pay."

Garfinkel said the inn wants to work on resolving the matter and would consider a different payment plan.

He said the Country Inn is willing to let the town council look at its books.

"No excuse; there are mitigating circumstances," Garfinkel said, noting how the economic downturn has affected the tourist industry.

Councilman Ryan Rebant said the hotel/motel tax revenues collected by the town "go back out" to fund Travel Berkeley Springs and local organizations.

Councilman David Crosby said Travel Berkeley Springs is not operating on a full schedule because of the sharp decline in hotel/motel tax revenues.

"This is not good for the inn's business or the town. It needs to be resolved," Webster said.

She said she will give the inn's proposal to Gay "to resolve this before it goes to criminal court."

After the meeting, Pearrell said a resolution should be made within 30 days, and if not, criminal charges should be made against the inn.

At that point, Debra MH McLaughlin, prosecutor for Morgan County, would represent the Town of Bath, Pearrell said.

All other occupancy establishments in the town have paid outstanding occupancy taxes, "except the Country Inn," Pearrell said.

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