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Back taxes paid

Biomass owners redeems property at last minute


Eleven a.m. proved the 11th hour as Biomass owner Mark Harris paid off back taxes on two-thirds of the property he owns at The Point industrial park at about a minute before the land was set to go on the auction block.

Harris of Nicholasville, Kentucky, owed $63,935.83 in back taxes and fees on six parcels that are contiguous to The Point industrial park in South Point and wanted by the Lawrence Economic Development Center that owns The Point.

At about 10:50 a.m. Harris showed up at the Lawrence County Courthouse to see if a wire transfer of $46,524.07 in taxes and fees on four parcels, including the largest one of 49.02 acres, would go through before the 11 a.m. sale deadline.

Harris had bought the property 15 years ago from South Point Ethanol, the USDA and Ashland Inc. with the intention of building a 200-megawatt power plant that would produce electricity that Biomass would then sell to power companies. No plant has been built there.

This past Friday Harris came to the county treasurer’s office asking if he could pay half of the taxes owed. He was told the entire sum was required if he was to redeem his property.

Early on Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office received word that Harris was going to pay off the taxes via a wire transfer.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Brenda Neville, assistant prosecuting attorney, announced that Harris had redeemed four parcels and that the prosecutor’s office had learned on Monday that there was a mortgage on the other two.

A date for a second sale won’t be set until that mortgage is investigated.

Harris said while there is no real market with electric companies from Biomass, selling energy to natural gas companies seems possible.

When asked why he waited until a minute before the sale to pay his taxes, Harris said, “We wanted to see how long Bill Dingus would bite at the carrot.”

Earlier that morning the LEDC board at its annual meeting voted for executive director Dr. Bill Dingus to bid on the property.

Dingus had told the board that the LEDC should try to acquire the parcels, even though the property did hold contaminants.

“We should go to the sale unless someone with credibility is willing to take on the liability,” Dingus said. “We shouldn’t compete against that company.”

Buying that property would put all of the former Allied plant under the ownership of the LEDC.

Dingus had come to the courthouse to bid, along with Jeremy Clay, director of The Point.

Getting a portion of the delinquent taxes from Harris has taken county officials 15 months starting in October 2013, when county treasurer Stephen Burcham and prosecuting attorney Brigham Anderson sent out a notice to Biomass. That was part of a campaign to get companies in arrears to pay up.

In July of 2014, a foreclosure hearing was scheduled when Harris contacted Burcham saying he only received the notice 10 days earlier that the taxes were due. At that time Burcham gave the company 90 days to come up with the $45,078.63 then owned to the county on six parcels. That is approximately $1,445 less that the amount Harris paid on Tuesday for part of his property.

Until Tuesday, the company was delinquent on all the parcels it owns in South Point. The last payment posted was on one parcel on a payment plan for $1,735.55 on May 22, 2012. The next earlier time the company had made a payment was on another parcel for $1,563.04 in November 2011.

Right now Harris owes $17,411.76 on the remaining two parcels of 4.5 acres and a .33-acre lot and can pay up to the date of the next sale, which has yet to be set.

“I thought it was most likely that he would (pay today,)” Dingus said. “Hopefully he can pay his property tax in a more timely fashion.”