Pipeline contractors owe about $1.5 million in unpaid taxes, Franklin County says
In back lots and on roadways, you'll find them waiting: the excavators, the bulldozers, the trailers.
Each one is a vital piece in constructing the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
And each one, says Franklin County's Commissioner of Revenue Margaret Torrence, is a piece of taxable property.
"Even though we do not have a business license, we do tax the assets," she said.
But those taxes haven't been getting paid. Over the last year, Torrence says dozens of different contractors and subcontractors have been operating in the county. During that time, those companies have racked up what she estimates is a $1.5 million personal property tax bill.
"It could be significant," she said.
Torrence realized something didn't seem right late last year. Franklin County has the largest stretch of the pipeline in the state, and with all the equipment Torrence saw lying around, someone should have been paying more taxes.
"I felt very strongly that the value they reported was not complete," she said.
Torrence then went to Precision Pipeline, the primary contractor on the MVP, to get a list of any equipment they might be using, and any subcontractors they might be working with.
"It was a lengthy process," she said.
Torrence has identified 24 contractors and subcontractors so far who owe taxes. Each one has received a letter demanding they pay their dues. As of Tuesday, Torrence says she's only heard back from six.
As to why these companies haven't paid, Torrence can't say.
"Whether they knew to register and didn't or whether they just evaded, I don't know." However, she says at least one company is based out of state, and wasn't aware its equipment was being used in Virginia.
Once companies have acknowledged her letters, Torrence says they have 30 days to pay their bills. After that, they'll face late fees and potential legal action from the county.
But this could just be the tip of the iceberg. Says Torrence, "What I'm going to have to do here is talk to county admin and get the exact date that they moved into the county."
That's because, according to Torrence, these companies could actually owe years of back taxes, making the roughly $1.5 million owed so far just a drop in the bucket.
"A lot of work left to be done," she said.
We reached out to MVP and Precision Pipeline. We have yet to receive a response.