Brooke hears mailing concerns

WELLSBURG – Brooke County Clerk Sylvia Benzo told the Brooke County Commission Tuesday that residents have contacted her about mailings that appear to be bills for copies of deeds.

The return address indicates the mailing is from a business called Record Transfer Services in Wilmington, Del. Benzo said the mailing, if not a scam, is at least misleading because it recommends the recipient obtain a copy of his or her property deed for a “document fee” of $83.

The mailing states, “This service to obtain a copy of your grant deed or other record of title is not associated with any governmental agency. You can obtain a copy of your grant deed or other record of title from the county recorder in the county where your property is located in, for up to $83.”

Elsewhere it states certified copies of property deeds are available through the county clerk’s office, usually for $2 to $4 per page, with an average cost of $4 to $20.

Benzo said the total cost for copies of deeds through her office usually isn’t more than $5.

The mailing also appears to contain information about the property, which is public information, and a “compliance date,” which might lead some recipients to think they are legally required to respond, despite statements the company is not affiliated with any government entities.

County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said he also received the mailing.

“The letter is very misleading. It looks like you’re being billed and I think a lot of people would pay it without questioning it,” he said.

Commission President Tim Ennis said the matter should be reported to the state Attorney General”s Office’s consumer affairs division for investigation.

The commissioners also discussed rising costs to send criminal offenders to the Northern Regional Jail. West Virginia counties pay $48.25 per day for each offender they send to regional jails. The amount was actually reduced slightly, from $48.80 per day, in July.

But Ennis said in just three months of the 2013-14 fiscal year, the county’s cost for regional jail fees has reached half of the $300,000 the commission had budgeted. He added the county had expended about $65,000 for regional jail fees at this time last year.

Ennis said there are ongoing talks with County Prosecutor Joseph Barki III and County Sheriff Chuck Jackson to discuss if anything can be done to curb the trend.

He acknowledged the county has pioneered alternative sentencing programs, such as home confinement or the drug court. But Ennis said while they have saved the county about $42,000 this year, it’s much less than in previous years.

Andreozzi said one problem is there’s an increase in the number of violent offenders who aren’t good candidates for alternative sentences.

In other business, Beech Bottom Mayor George Lewis told the commission Aladdin Signs donated its labor in installing the three flagpoles on the Brooke County Pioneer Trail near the village. The U.S., state and Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flags and poles were funded by the village.

Lewis said there are plans to celebrate Beech Bottom’s 60th anniversary on Nov. 16, with details to be announced. The mayor said he’s seeking old photos and other memorabilia from the village’s past.