Carole Osterink was at last night’s informal Common Council meeting in Hudson and reports that Holcim attorney Donald Stever and O&G’s Kenneth Faroni sent a letter in response to one from CC president Donald Moore, and anyone following the current waterfront discussion in Hudson will find it and the comments on Osterink’s Gossips of Rivertown blog fascinating. Osterink also says that, “Mayor Scalera reported that CSX had agreed to repair the Ferry Street bridge in time for the Flag Day parade. They will replace the rotted planking ‘to get through the weekend’ and put plywood on the footbridge. CSX also said they would ‘try to put it in some capital plan.'” NY Senator Chuck Schumer will attend the Flag Day parade, and Osterink says Scalera will show him the bridge then, and ask for help.
Town, Wal-Mart settle dispute
—The Daily Mail, 05.05.10
Catskill is reducing the property tax assessment on the local Wal-Mart $1.67 million, reducing their total to $13.5 million, covering the years 2010 through 2012, effectively granting the giant corporation from Arkansas a large tax break. The Daily Mail first says Catskill is giving Wal-Mart the tax break, “avoiding a costly legal battle.” Then Supervisor Peter Markou reveals a bit more: “We’ve already spent $75,000 in assessment cases,” Markou told The Daily Mail, or said during the meeting. “That’s more than I’ve budgeted for.” Then Colin DeVries, The Daily Mail scribe writes, “The town’s 2010 budget included $40,000 for assessment litigation.” William J. Kemble in The Daily Freeman writes, “the reduction, approved at a Town Board meeting Tuesday, is a step toward settling a grievance by the retail giant. Officials said the settlement, which still requires a judge’s approval, was recommended to avoid further court expenses.” Then he quotes Markou — looks like he said it in the meeting — “This town has already spent $75,000 (since 2008) in assessment cases,” said town Supervisor Peter Markou. “That’s a lot of money. That’s way beyond the budgeted (amount) that I had in there.” Kemble’s story is a day late, but no dollars short. He spent the day following the money:
Town Assessor Nancy McCoy said Wednesday that Wal-Mart paid $530,00 in town, county and school taxes in 2009, and this year is expected to save about $62,000 with the reduced assessment. McCoy said the town has spent $10,100 since January to appraise and defend assessments against five major business. “It’s all ‘big boxes,’” Markou said. “They are all going to challenge their assessments. It’s a good year to do it. The economy is in the crapper.” Besides Wal-Mart, the following companies are also seeking assessment reductions:
• Holcim Cement Co., on U.S. Route 9W, from $10,135,700 to $1,650,00. The case was filed in 2008.
• Home Depot, on state Route 23B, from $8,995,100 to $4,060,000. The case was filed in 2009.
• Lowe’s, on state Route 23A, from $7,099,000 to $3,480,000. The case was filed in 2008.
• Rite Aid, on Route 23A, from $1.8 million to $500,000. The case was filed in 2009.
“You have to pick and choose your battles,” McCoy said. “You do the analysis to see if the assessment is supportable and then weigh the cost of supporting assessment versus the possibility of losing it; what it costs versus what you could save by not going to court and settling.”
In the wake of the mine disaster last week in West Virginia, yesterday U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, released a list of 48 mines identified by federal mine safety officials in August 2009 for increased scrutiny, but were not targeted due to unresolved appeals filed by mine operators. The list includes Greene County‘s Holcim (US) Inc mine, and notes the owner contests 29.95 percent of violations against the mine. Holcim has 126 employees. Firedoglake has a table here.