Find Out What Went Wrong

There are no good answers to questions about how someone’s failure to pay a delinquent tax bill caused West Virginia Northern Community College to lose control of property for which $240,000 was paid.

Yet the questions need to be answered.

As we reported, the WVNCC Foundation spent $240,000 about three years ago to buy property across the street and to the south of the college’s B&O Building. For years, the land was occupied by the old Electrical Contractors Supply building, which has been demolished.

But last year, the property was involved in a delinquent tax sale. That happens when an owner has not paid property taxes due on real estate. As a government entity, WVNCC does not pay property taxes, so it appears the delinquency involved the previous owner.

Still, it appears responsibility for paying the delinquent taxes fell on the college because it owned the land at the time of the delinquent tax sale. At that sale, the lot was purchased by Benjamin T. Bordas of Wheeling.

WVNCC was notified by certified letter that it had until Dec. 20 to redeem the property, by paying the $21,083.58 bill for delinquent taxes and fees. When that did not happen, a deed granting ownership of the land to Bordas was filed.

In other words, it appears WVNCC lost the property because no one was paying attention or, perhaps, no one took the situation seriously.

College spokesman David Barnhardt said WVNCC officials “were surprised to hear of this situation. We are investigating this matter and hope to work with the taxing authorities to resolve it.”

How will that happen? Can it happen? No one can say. Perhaps college attorneys can find some way out of the dilemma.

But the fact remains that the problem should not have been allowed to reach the point it did. If the law contained some exemption allowing WVNCC to avoid paying the delinquent taxes, action should have been taken to employ it before Dec. 20.

If, on the other hand, no such exemption exists, college officials should have paid the $21,083.58.

Let us hope the problem is resolved. Whether it can or cannot, however, WVNCC officials need to determine what went wrong and, if appropriate, take some action against those responsible for what clearly was a mistake.