By Becky Jane Newbold, Managing Editor
Lewis County Mayor Jonah Keltner and Lewis County Commissioner Jason Fite traveled to Washington, D. C. for State Leadership Day, representing Lewis County during the conference.
Panelists from President Donald Trump’s administration discussed topics which included “combatting the opioid crisis; improving infrastructure and rural prosperity; driving economic development through deregulation and opportunity zones; and disaster recovery after flooding,” Mayor Keltner reported.
While in Washington they visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where they met with senior administrative officials including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and SBA Administrator Chris Pilkerton.
The conference was designed to connect local and state leaders from North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Mayor Keltner and Commissioner Fite spoke with officials from Senator Marsha Blackburn’s office and from Representative Mark Green’s office regarding high priority issues in Lewis County. Topic addressed were an ongoing issue Lewis County has with penalties and late fees garnished by the Internal Revenue Service, access to clean drinking water for residents in Lewis County and emergency health care.
“I spoke at length with William Crozer, Special Assistant to the President, about Lewis County,” Commissioner Fite stated. “He was able to connect me with key contacts with the USDA and the EPA. Mr. Crozer also provided me with a number of contacts across the administration in departments that we can reach out to as we begin to address the needs of our county,” Commissioner Fite added.
Lewis County’s recent IRS History
In June, Mayor Keltner provided an update to the Board of Commissioners concerning a failed attempt to resolve an issue with the IRS concerning 941 quarterly reports.
The matter began in 2016 when a new employee in the mayor’s office was not trained properly, Mayor Keltner advised. Audit brought the matter to attention in September of 2018 at which time Lewis County self reported the error. The error had gone unnoticed by the IRS.
A letter received by Lewis County Mayor Keltner in October 2018 stated the county would not be held liable for penalties as the shorted payments were unintentional, but in November, Lewis County began receiving late fee and penalty notices, Mayor Keltner explained.
Multiple phone calls to resolve the issue were unsuccessful. In late July, newly appointed IRS Agent William O’Reilly visited the Lewis County Court House, working with Administrative Assistant Blair Scott and the mayor, coming to the conclusion Lewis County owes $129,368.33 in back taxes due to failure to file 941 quarterly report.
With penalties, Lewis County is charged with a total of $268,000.
A liaison with Senator Blackburn’s office has, since their meeting, contacted Mayor Keltner several times and pledged to assist in resolution in the matter. “While they can’t guarantee getting any of our penalties and interest waived, at least they are taking it very seriously and doing all they can to help us out,” Mayor Keltner stated Tuesday.