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Commission shoots down settlement idea

December 19, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Commissioners Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan on Thursday pushed for the county to settle a tax suit against the former owner of a printing plate plant, saying it is critical to saving the current jobs at the factory.

Corliss and Morgan lost their effort when Commissioners Al Hooper and James G. Knode and Commission President Jane Tabb voted against settling the suit.

The lawsuit, which Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober filed against Imation Enterprises Corp., of Middleway, W.Va., involves an assessment of the company's personal property conducted in July 1998, court records said.

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The plant was sold to Spectratech in March 1999.

The taxes that Imation owed originally were $530,111, according to a suit that Boober filed against the company in Jefferson County Circuit Court last year.

Because the tax bill carries a 9 percent interest rate, the tax bill had increased to $653,372 when the lawsuit was filed Aug. 12, 2002, according to the suit.

The tax bill now has increased to more than $700,000, according to Michael Caryl, Spectratech's attorney.

Last year, an attorney for Imation wrote Boober, saying she believed the taxes were Spectratech's responsibility.

Spectratech officials have said they are not responsible for the taxes because they relate to assessments of property that were conducted while Imation owned the plant.

Spectratech has offered to settle the case for about $350,000, about double what the company pays in annual property taxes, Caryl said.

Spectratech and Imation have agreed to split the cost of the settlement, Corliss said.

It is feared Spectratech may shut down its operations if it cannot settle the suit, and Corliss said he wanted to settle the suit to prevent that from happening.

"These are decent paying jobs," Corliss said Thursday.

"Fifty good jobs are truly at risk here," Morgan said.

Corliss said jobs at Spectratech are the ones that county officials would be "falling all over ourselves" to bring to the county.

Corliss also said it is important to settle the case to save the $150,000 in taxes, which Spectratech currently pays to the county every year.

Tabb said she did not feel comfortable settling the case because Boober has indicated he does not have the authority to settle the case.

Commissioners also expressed concern about other taxpayers coming before the county and asking for leniency on their tax bills if the Spectratech case is settled.

Knode said when it comes to tax collection, the county has the duty to "get it from everybody to the extent that you can. Let's treat everybody the same."

The suit against Imation is pending in circuit court, Corliss said.

Before Imation owned the plant, it was operated for 35 years by 3M, which manufactured printing plates and photographic chemicals there.

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