GILMER -- Upshur County Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack announced Monday she will close the Gladewater branch of her office Nov. 12 through at least Jan. 31.
Laminack said that with the official opening of the new county election administrator's office on Nov. 15, she will lose an employee under the county's budget, and will thus at least temporarily close the branch because of staffing issues.
She explained that November through January is the busiest season for the tax office in Gilmer because it is receiving property tax payments then. So the Gladewater branch, which was open Tuesdays and Thursdays, will close at 4 p.m. Nov. 12, but Laminack said she hopes to reopen it once tax season ends.
The decision means that Gladewater residents and others who have used the branch on U.S. 80 will have to travel to Gilmer, about 10 miles north of Gladewater, to pay taxes and register vehicles unless they do so by mail or Internet. Paying by Internet requires a credit card.
The branch office is in Pct. 3 County Commissioner Frank Berka's precinct, and he was the only commissioner who voted against establishing the new election administrator's office.
Berka said Laminack was attending a school during a commissioners court meeting at which establishing the new election administrator's office was being discussed, and that the court might not have voted to open it had she been present to tell commissioners that would trigger the Gladewater branch's shutdown.
Saying he was not criticizing her for attending the school, Berka said "she had told us earlier that she didn't know what she was going to do (about the Gladewater branch) and she had all the information, so the decision that the other commissioners made was based on them thinking that she would not close that office, as I understand it."
Laminack said she believed the court was still going to fund the position of deputy Pam Dean, who was staffing the office, or someone else even if they established the election administrator's office.
Berka, however, said the court had given Laminack, who is not seeking re-election next year, an additional employee last fiscal year. So her plan to reduce her staff by one worker means she has the same number of employees she had when she was operating the Gladewater branch, he said.
Dean will be reassigned to other work and an employee with less seniority will be laid off, Laminack said.