Hess future uncertainPublished 5:19pm Wednesday, June 6, 2012
With Hess Industries employees notified the Niles-based company ceased operations, at least for the time being, Milton Township moved quickly to secure taxes owed by its sole industrial employer.
Shortly after an evening news conference detailing Wednesday’s warrant of distraint with 36-hour notice non-payment of delinquent personal property taxes for 2011 amounting to $14,733 could result in property seizure within 36 hours, the company paid the full amount.
Alerted to the closure by employees, Milton expedited its process because Michigan law makes Treasurer Linda DeBroka responsible for collecting personal property taxes to protect the tax base for the county and school districts.
Milton’s share is $884, compared to the county’s portion, $7,618, and Edwardsburg Public Schools’ $4,978.
“It’s important to note that Milton Township responded to their announced closure,” Supervisor Robert Benjamin said. “We’ve had a couple of calls from people informing us this was happening and that they weren’t receiving their last paycheck. (Employees said they) were notified today at 9:30.”
“I felt bad,” DeBroka said, “because I’ve been working with them for years. They normally were pretty good payers.”
The amount became delinquent March 1. DeBroka had been in contact with Hess. But when the company couldn’t be reached and hadn’t made any arrangements, she felt she needed to act, seizing property, attaching liens and putting sale of any equipment on hold.
Yellow handbills posted June 6 that can now be removed state that “due to the refusal” of Hess Industries, 30257 Redfield St. to pay delinquent personal property taxes, including interest, fees and court officer costs in an amount to be determined, Milton Township would levy upon and seize the personal property for non-payment of taxes and will conduct a sale at public auction…”
All expenses incurred during the collection process become a lien on the personal property.
Removal of a warrant of distraint without authorization constitutes a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to two years in state prison.
“We’re hopeful this is just a temporary measure,” Benjamin said. “This is Milton Township’s only manufacturing facility and its biggest employer. Obviously, we hope it reopens. The only communication we had was that they were ceasing operations temporarily and hadn’t reached out to the township or to the county. We don’t have any other information.”
“It’s always sad when a business closes,” Minnie Warren, chairwoman of the Cass County Board of Commissioners, said. “We’re trying to attract businesses to industrial parks. We’re having difficulty, so we have to continue what we’re doing.”