American LaFrance still owes Berkeley County nearly $630,000 - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

American LaFrance still owes Berkeley County nearly $630,000

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American-LaFrance is closing their Berkeley County locations, but officials in the county say they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government.

Approximately 60 companies in Berkeley County owe a fee in lieu of taxes to the county yearly.
American LaFrance along with another company, RT Jedburg, agreed to share responsibility for their fee years ago. RT Jedburg owned the land and building that American LaFrance previously operated out of.

American LaFrance never once paid their bill, since the first one was due in 2009. RT Jedburg had the taxes on their land/building brought current. Berkeley County officials met with American-LaFrance officials multiple times. Their last meeting took place in June 2013.

Now the company owes $621,000 plus an additional $6,000 or so in other county taxes. Some county residents, like Abigail Parks, say that is just not fair. "I think it's pretty sad that there's a large corporation that's pretty much ditching our county and not paying their taxes, when we have to people who are losing their houses, losing their land and can't even afford to buy groceries, yet they're being held responsible."

Supervisor Dan Davis says American LaFrance is being held responsible as well. "The statute affords us two means to get at that money. One, and in this particular case, is we can seize the business's personal property, the equipment."

The county believes approximately $16 million worth of equipment is housed in Berkeley County. But there are some other questions. Does the company also owe federal or other state/local taxes? Also, since this is personal property, if assets are sold, does the county tax bill get paid before any possible loans?

The county mailed a notice of levies on Jan. 13th. The company received that letter Jan. 16th. Feb 13th is the deadline for the taxes to be paid. After that date, it is illegal for the company to remove any equipment.

This is the first time Berkeley County has had a company refuse to pay their fee, so officials say this whole process is new to them. We asked Supervisor Davis, if he felt like the taxpayers would get their money? "I hope they do, and we are using every means. I'm a little confident that they will someway somehow, again we are using every means that we have the law allows us to collect them."

If American LaFrance does not pay the fee by February 13, the county will begin selling assets March 3,

We asked about the American LaFrance trucks at the North Charleston fire museum, and whether they could be seized for taxes. Councilman Tim Callanan said it would be very difficult to
seize assets that are not located in Berkeley County.

We stopped by American LaFrance's offices and asked their employees about the fee, and we were told, "No comment."

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