Representatives from Georgia Pacific went before the Ashley County Quorum Court on Tuesday to ask for clarification on their Act 9 Bonds for tax purposes.
The quorum court approved a bond agreement in October 2018 that would allow Georgia Pacific to receive a 65 percent tax abatement for a 25-year project. On Tuesday, representatives from Georgia Pacific came before the quorum court regarding assessment of the property.
Tax Assessor Beth Rush said that because the items presented to her by the company were not listed on the original contract, she could not assess them at the discounted value. Rush said that she was taught at her training with the assessors association that if it’s not on the agreement, she can’t assess it under the agreement.
“I stand by what I was told,” she said. “If it’s not listed on that agreement, I can’t add it.”
Mike Parker, a bond attorney representing GP, said the items now listed were presented as part of a project and not itemized out because when a project starts certain things can’t be predicted.
Justice Hyram Taylor asked why Geogia Pacific’s attorneys were not aware of this technicality and why the original document didn’t include the itemized list, if that was what was required by an assessor.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, in my experience, this layer of detail is not attached to the original documents,” Parker said. “It’s okay to identify a project by stating ‘machinery and equipment’ associated a specific project number.”
Parker told the court that the original agreement stated that the project was not to exceed $70 million dollars and to date the project is only at $53 million.
“I’m not in any mood to be abating any additional taxes or changing tax base,” Justice Carlton Lawrence said. “If what we are doing is just cleaning up what we’ve already done, then I’m okay with it.”
Justice Ron Nichols made a motion that the court approve the list and add it to the contract so that Rush could assess it. Justice Danny Rice seconded the motion and the court voted unanimously to approve it.
County Judge Jim Hudson suggested that because future items could be added as this is a 25-year project, that the court could go ahead an approve all items up to 70 million so as to not to “have this same meeting again and again.”
The court voted in favor of allowing the judge to sign off on any changes made in the future as long as it did not exceed the original contract amount.
In other news:
-Brian Farmer appeared before the court to discuss an abandoned county road. Nichols told Farmer that the court could not help him because they only allocated money and he would need to meet with the judge to discuss where the money was spent.
-The court approved two ordinaces that were discussed at last month’s meeting. Ordinance number 2019-16 authorizes the clerk to transfer funds in the amount of $1,342.55 for a security upgrade.
The second ordinance authorizes the clerk to create expenditure codes for the buyout of the compactor at the landfill which is currently leased.