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When Kenton’s Plastech plant closed, it owed $110,000 in taxes in county

When Kenton’s Plastech plant closed, it owed $110,000 in taxes in county

Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2009 8:58 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

 

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter The Plastech plant at Kenton — idled since June 2007 when it abruptly closed, casting 165 into the ranks of the unemployed — has become a primary issue of concern for local officials. So much so that the Obion County Budget Committee voted Tuesday to recommend hiring an attorney skilled in bankruptcy law to protect its interests. When the plant closed, according to budget committee chairman Danny Jowers, it owed a total of $110,000 in taxes to Obion County, the City of Kenton and Kenton Special School District. Committee meets The budget committee met Tuesday in a meeting room in the basement of the Obion County Courthouse with county commissioner Danny Jowers presiding as chairman. All members were present. The Plastech issue was among several items on the committee’s business agenda. Public business matters approved by the committee are forwarded to the county commission for review and an up or down vote. The commission meets Sept. 21 at the courthouse. In bankruptcy In its heyday, the Plastech plant at Kenton produced parts for the auto industry and provided many jobs. However, it closed in June 2007 and no other business enterprise has occupied the plant property. The plant was part of a network owned by Plastech Engineered Products of Dearborn, Mich. According to Wikipedia, the World Wide Web free encyclopedia, Plastech Engineered Products had manufacturing facilities in nine states. In Tennessee, it owned two such plants — one in Kenton and one in Franklin. The Franklin plant closed in August 2008. Overall, the corporation em-ployed 7,600 people in 31 manufacturing facilities. Its customers included General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and others. “Plastech Engineered Products filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 1, 2008, following a dispute with Chrysler,” the Web site states. The Kenton plant is shown as “closed due to bankruptcy.” Hensley reports Tuesday, county commissioner Dwayne Hensley, chairman of the tax committee, briefed the budget committee about the Plastech situation. He said he’s not sure how a bankruptcy action affects the county’s interests in the property. Also, the fact that the property is in an abandoned state invites trouble. “Obion County has a vested interest in the property by virtue of their not paying property taxes in the amount of about $30,000,” said Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire. Budget committee chairman Danny Jowers, who lives in Kenton, is familiar with the situation. “There are kids going in there. People go in there to see what they can get out. An abandoned building just draws the wrong kind of attention,” he said. “There are people in the metal business wanting to scrap it out. They say they’ll take the building down for the building (materials). You can’t do that. It’s in bankruptcy. Nobody can touch it.” The county, he said, has had no contact with the owners. That’s one reason Obion County needs to hire someone to represent its interests. “We need to find out from the bankruptcy court exactly who owns that property. The last I heard, the former owners had filed for abandonment, meaning they abandoned the property,” Jowers said. “We need to find out if the bankruptcy court still has it. We need to go ahead and get some kind of motion filed.” After discussion, the committee approved a motion to hire Trenton attorney John Hughes to represent the county’s interests in the matter. Other business Other items on the budget committee’s business agenda Tuesday included: • Medical investigator. The budget committee discussed and approved a motion to recommend that the county commission create a new position called “medical investigator.” According to McGuire, his or her job would be to work a death scene and file an official and written report with the county medical examiner. The medical examiner would “sign off” on death certificates. Dr. Mark Fowler, who recently resigned the medical examiner post, is serving on a part-time basis while the county searches for a replacement. • New road. The budget committee approved and forwarded to the county commission a proposal to add Hudgens Road to the county map. About a half mile long, it will intersect Reelfoot Avenue near the Obion County Highway Department headquarters and Old Rives Road. “We will build the road ourselves, in exchange for which the Hudgens family will give the county 5.5 acres which we will use to expand the highway department acreage,” said Gary Lofton, superintendent of Obion County Highway Department. • Nursing Home. Tom Reddick, director of Obion County Nursing Home, proposed changes to the facility’s policy manual. The committee approved the changes and forwarded the matter to the county commission for its action. • Federal funds. The committee approved a resolution offered by Obion County Director of Schools David Huss that authorizes the school board to transfer funds from the General Purpose School Fund to the school Federal Projects Fund. “We haven’t done that yet. We are just asking for permission to do so in case the need arises,” Huss said. “That’s a resolution that has to be passed by the school board and the county commission based on an agreement between the state Department of Education and the Comptroller’s office. “The federal funds that we get come through the state of Tennessee. We have to spend those funds prior to requesting reimbursement. Now the state has a new accounting system. Instead of a week turn-around time, it’s about three to four weeks on us getting reimbursed. “This is just a precautionary measure. This is just to be ready.” • Buy Goodyear. The committee endorsed a resolution urging county government to purchase Goodyear tires for county-owned vehicles. During discussion, it was said that Goodyear has been a major employer in this area since 1968, providing jobs to thousands of local citizens over the years. • Chairman, chairman pro tem The budget committee endorsed and forwarded to the county commission a motion that county commissioner Ralph Puckett be re-elected chairman of the local legislative body and county commissioner Allen Nohsey be reappointed chairman pro tem. The election will be held at the Sept. 21 commission meeting. • Driver education program. The committee recommended that Westate Correction Corp. continue managing the county’s driver education program as associated with court actions. Published in The Messenger 9.9.09

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