Home News Local News Eddy County oil and gas equipment audit gets heavy criticism

Eddy County oil and gas equipment audit gets heavy criticism

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Tom Brown of Artesia questions Eddy County Assessor Gemma Ferguson and Jerry Wisdom from Total Assessment Solutions Corp. on an ongoing audit of oil and gas equipment in Eddy County during a Town Hall meeting Thursday night in Artesia. (Mike Smith Photo)

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ARTESIA — “The main reason we are here is to clarify misconceptions out there.”

Those were the opening statements from Eddy County Assessor Gemma Ferguson as a Town Hall meeting was held Thursday night to give people an update regarding an audit of oil and gas equipment.

Ferguson and Jerry Wisdom from Total Assessment Solutions Corp. made statements and took questions from those in attendance at the Artesia Public Schools Administration and Training Center.

The audit has been going on because there is a concern that some oil and gas companies operating in the county haven’t been paying taxes on equipment for the past decade.

Wisdom’s company has been mapping oil and gas properties in the county and has been evaluating various forms of oil and gas equipment.

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The audit was actually started by Ferguson’s predecessor Karen Robinson years ago. She filed a lawsuit against the Eddy County Commission five years ago after she was denied a contract to hire a company to do the audit.

A district court ruled in favor of Robinson. The commission filed an appeal and two years ago the New Mexico Supreme Court was on Robinson’s side.

“There is a method to our madness in the assessor’s office,” Ferguson said. “TASC is looking for companies not on the tax roles.” she added.

During the meeting, it was stated that TASC has taken the information on various companies and has turned it over to Ferguson’s office and they have sent letters to those companies that haven’t been paying taxes.

“The school systems are major beneficiaries and will benefit from the audit,” Ferguson said.

Wisdom said his company started the work a year ago. “There’s a lot of work to do out there,” he said.

From 2007 to 2016, Wisdom said there were 318 active oil rigs in Eddy County. During that timeframe he said 111 were omitted from the tax roles.

Along with rigs not reporting, Wisdom said some pipeline and gas compressor companies hadn’t reported as well.

County officials estimate that more than $300,000 has been collected so far. However, there are thousands and thousands of dollars still out there.

The meeting drew oil and gas officials and state representatives as well as those sitting on the Eddy County Commission.

Raye Miller formerly of Marbob Energy addressed Wise and Ferguson.

“(The) former assessor when this project first started was looking at pump jacks counted as inventory; we never made headway with her,” he said.

In the future, Miller suggested Ferguson’s office ”should have a better system in place.”

Instead of having a company like Wise’s doing the work, Miller said Ferguson’s team could check with various government entities from the county to the federal level to find pipeline locations.

Dennis Maupin, who has been associated with the oil and gas industry in Eddy County for decades, suggested that Ferguson and her crew could have contacted 811. “The One Call System has all of your pipeline information,” he said.

Maupin added, “oil and gas companies are getting black eyes over this. The oil and gas industry is doing a great job.”

“We’re not out to scalp anybody,” Ferguson said. “The assessor has to be fair and equitable.”

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.