The Woodward News

April 23, 2013

County enters into agreement with tax witness

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — After several weeks, Woodward County Commissioners have finally entered into an agreement with Thomas E. Lumsden to serve as an expert witness in a tax dispute case.

The case is a lawsuit between the county and Nextera Energy Resources-Sooner Wind, LLC, which is contesting the county's ad valorem tax assessment of its wind farm equipment.

District Attorney Hollis Thorp was in attendance for the county commissioners' meeting on Monday morning to discuss the expert witness contract.  Thorp explained a little bit about the delay in engaging Lumsden, as the matter has been bought up during previous county commission meetings and tabled for several weeks.

"It's hard to find an expert witness for wind farm assessments," he said.

But even after finding Lumsden, Thorp said it took a while to sort out the contract to include a clause that could save Woodward County some money if other counties wanted to make use of Lumsden's expertise as well.

"They said if other counties came in, they will split the fee," Thorp said.  "But it was not in the contract, so I had them add it to the contract."

The DA said that possibly 2 other counties who are also having disputes with Nextera Energy over wind farm assessments may be making use of Lumsden's services.  The other counties are Washita and Custer counties.

According to the amended contract that county commissioners approved Monday, Lumsden charges a standard hourly rate of $550.

Also Monday, county commissioners addressed another previously tabled item as they approved a bid from TechResq, of Mannford, for new hydraulic rescue equipment for the Woodward Fire Department.

The bid was originally opened during the April 15 county meeting, but was tabled in order to allow the county fire chiefs to review the bid and see if it met the right specifications.

After receiving a letter of recommendation from Woodward Fire Chief Steve Day in favor of the bid, the commissioners approved TechResq's bid in the amount of $65,950.  The bid includes hydraulic tools, hoses, supports, platforms, a cutter and power unit among other gear.

Day said the equipment will be used to outfit Woodward Fire Department's new rescue vehicle.  Once the new vehicle is complete, he said WFD's older and smaller rescue unit will then be handed down to one of the volunteer fire departments in another town in the county.

In other business, county commissioners approved a number of routine items including:

• allocation of alcoholic beverage tax for April in the amount of $12,187.84;

• annual renewal of juvenile detention services agreement with Sac and Fox Nation for FY 2013-2014 at a rate of $21.11 per day per juvenile housed at the Sac and Fox facility, which District 3 Commissioner Vernie Matt said "is one of the cheaper rates;"

• county cash fund estimate of needs and request for appropriations for April in the amount of $290,570.39, which Matt noted was "up a little" from the approximately $247,000 that was requested in March;

• a utility permit request from Northwestern Electric Cooperative for an overhead crossing of a power line in District 3, located southeast of Woodward; and

• the monthly jail report for March, which District 1 Commissioner Tommy Roedell said included "quite a list of prisoners" who were incarcerated in that month.

The commissioners also opened 4 bids for emulsion supplies for all county highway districts, accepting the lowest bids based on availability.