Colowyo overpaid, will receive abatement

Mine double-taxed for 17 years, assessor says

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Colowyo Coal Co. has paid more than it owes in county taxes for at least 17 years, but it will get only two years worth of refunds from Moffat County.

During Monday's Board of County Commissioners meeting, Assessor Suzanne Brinks told commissioners she received a call from AquaTerra Environmental Solutions Inc., a mapping and engineering firm hired by the mine. AquaTerra employees noticed in the course of their research that Moffat County had been double-assessing land owned by Colowyo.

Production is taxed in a mining operation. If land that is used in production is also taxed, that is considered double taxation, Brinks said. No one had brought it to the assessor's attention during Brink's employment with the county, she said. However, Brinks agreed that the county was in the wrong.

Land that is in the process of being reclaimed or land with administrative buildings also is considered to be in production and may not be taxed, Brinks said.

State law limits the county's liability in a situation like this to two years, Brinks said.

The refund for 2003-04 totaled $4,447.60. Brinks refunded what she could without commissioner approval and the commissioners approved the final abatement by unanimous vote.

Trapper Mining Company is in a similar situation, but Brinks said her office is researching the numbers. Trapper is a smaller operation and the refund likely will be smaller, she said.

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