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S.C. enlists delegation to help end confusion over taxes

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito have asked the U.S. Postal Service to take immediate action to end the confusion over whether businesses are in Charleston or South Charleston.

The three members of Congress wrote Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on Wednesday, explaining that the postal service's apparent designation of South Charleston as being part of Charleston "has now become a severe problem for South Charleston. They have discovered that businesses are charging inapplicable taxes and mail is being delayed or undelivered."

The letter came two weeks after several South Charleston residents brought to Mayor Frank Mullens' attention the fact that some businesses in South Charleston were charging the one-half percent sales tax recently imposed by Charleston.

Mullens said at the city council meeting Thursday evening that 7-Eleven's five convenience stores in South Charleston have incorrectly charged employees Charleston's user fee.

The mayor thinks the root of the problem is incorrect postal service coding. He wrote Rockefeller, Manchin and Capito on Oct. 25, asking for their help.

"I have spoken with local Post Office staff but have had no success in helping to solve this problem," he wrote.

"Whether it is residential mail delivery, bills from businesses, direction problems for travelers or delivery companies using GPS, or other online address services, South Charleston is being incorrectly listed as Charleston," Mullens wrote.

"This has been a problem for several years and is progressively getting worse, especially in this technology-driven age."

Thursday evening Mullens released a list of eight South Charleston businesses that had been incorrectly charging either Charleston's half-percent sales tax, its user fee, or both. All have been corrected except Sherwin Williams and Dress Barn, according to the list.

"It has gotten better -- we have corrected a few things -- but it hasn't gotten better with the U.S. Postal Service," Mullens said. "We had a meeting with our Congressional representatives. They understand the problem, they're on our side.

But one of the answers they got back is it's not their (the Postal Service's) problem because they contracted this out.

"We've found more and more problems," Mullens said.

"The most frustrating thing is our staff members are calling these corporate offices and we have trouble getting them to believe us. Sherwin Williams does not want to take our word for it that they are not in Charleston," he said, referring to the store at the foot of the Dunbar Toll Bridge. "I want to thank Dan Grear in the attorney general's office. We have heavy hitters working for us.

"I hope it doesn't lead to any legal battles but we're going to fight it until we get it corrected."

"My message is if you are an employee and you work in South Charleston, check your pay stubs. If you're being charged a user fee, you shouldn't be. Call City Hall. You're due a refund. If you're someone doing business in our city and you're being charged a half-percent sales tax, give us a call and let us know."

Mullens said he just learned Thursday morning that Dress Barn is charging Charleston's half-percent sales tax.

Also at Thursday's meeting, council gave final approval to a land-swap deal that clears the way for Speedway to replace its convenience store and gasoline station on MacCorkle Avenue.

The deal involves Speedway giving the sidewalk on Fourth Avenue, behind its existing store, to the city, and extending it by 186 feet in return for an 80-foot-long, 15-foot-wide drive the city owns near MacCorkle Avenue.

Speedway's expansion comes after Sheetz revealed plans to build a gasoline station and convenience store in Spring Hill, several blocks west of the existing Speedway store.




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