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Business owners, residents oppose Winfield annexation

By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer

WINFIELD — About a dozen business owners attended Tuesday’s Putnam County Commission meeting to oppose Winfield’s proposed annexation of businesses along two nearby roads.

The owners are part of the extended Sommers family, which had farmland that was divided into parcels that many family members now run businesses on. Lynne Fruth, president of the Fruth Pharmacy chain, who stood with the family members in opposition, said the family’s property makes up about 30 to 40 percent of the proposed area affected.

Fruth said they worry about new city regulations. The business owners also argue annexation would increase their tax burden in exchange for no substantial new services.

“They don’t provide trash [pickup], they don’t provide water,” said John Perry, who owns Pip’s Storage Buildings and other property that could be affected, including the land leased to the local Tudor’s Biscuit World. As for the added benefit of Winfield police protection, Perry said the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and state police headquarters already provide ample law enforcement.

Fruth, whose chain includes a Winfield location, presented two anti-annexation petitions to county commissioners, one signed by 40 business owners and residents and another signed by 601 residents and customers of local businesses. She said opponents could only find one business owner who supported annexation and one who was neutral.

Fruth said her company and many others chose to build in the unincorporated county to avoid business and occupation taxes. She said that extra tax burden could be $5,000 to $20,000 annually for businesses that are almost all family-owned.

“All you have to do is look at Huntington downtown and downtown Hurricane and other areas to see that businesses are choosing to be in unincorporated areas like the Teays Valley area,” she said.

She compared the situation to choosing to locate away from an airport, but having one move next to you.

Winfield Mayor Randy Barrett said the city finally received its proposed annexation map, which the opposition has been requesting, on Thursday. He said engineers had been working on the map and the city is still months away from action. He has said the plan is to incorporate businesses along U.S. 817 to Tuckers Creek Road and along W.Va. 34 just past Little Hurricane Creek.

Barrett has said the businesses right next to the city’s boundary lines are getting services for free, and said he’d like to extend to them police protection and sidewalks while generating more money for city parks that help bring people and businesses to the community.

The county commission, which must approve the annexation, has yet to receive Winfield’s request. Commission President Steve Andes said his stance will depend on what’s presented and on comments at public hearings.

The city’s various business and occupation tax rates — which include 25 cents on every $100 of gross revenue for retailers and $1 on every $100 of gross revenue for service businesses, including restaurants — wouldn’t be the only increased tax burden.

Putnam County Assessor Sherry Hayes said Winfield’s 2013 rate on owner-occupied buildings, such as residences, equaled about $900 a year on a $100,000 property, compared to $760 for such properties in the unincorporated county. For commercial, rental and non-owner-occupied properties, the cost is about $1,810 in Winfield compared to $1,510 in the county.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1254.


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