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    County pursuing overdue tax bill on closed power plant


    August 16, 2022 - Jacob Fries, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.

     

      Aug. 16—Somerset Operating Co. LLC owes Niagara County more than $800,000 in property tax. The county is now looking to foreclose on the 1,200-acre portion of SOC's Lake Road, Barker, property that holds the shuttered Kintigh power plant.

      Niagara County Treasurer Kyle Andrews confirmed that the tax bill and late penalties, after two years of non-payment, add up to $812,332.26.

      SOC's owner isn't up to date on tax payments for other parcels involved in the power plant campus, but the amounts aren't enough to warrant foreclosure, that is, seizure, according to Andrews.

      The plant's assessed value is $13 million, according to Somerset town assessor Brian Pavlock.

      Since SOC was first listed on the county's published annual tax foreclosure list, agents of the county have been in talks with SOC regarding its assessment and the Cessation Mitigation Program administered by Empire State Development. The program provides funding to local taxing jurisdictions that lose property tax revenue or in-lieu revenue when an electric generating facility closes. SOC was shut down in the spring of 2020 and its previous Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement with the county, the Town of Somerset and the Barker school district was terminated.

      Christopher Feldman, the attorney representing SOC, issued a statement about the company's situation.

      "The Somerset Operating Company is presently working with Niagara County on its tax obligations while also developing a new business at the location, which is scheduled to be operational by September, 2022," Feldman stated.

      The new business is Lake Mariner Data, a cryptocurrency mining facility owned by Beowulf Electricity & Data. Beowulf Energy is SOC's parent company.

      Feldman's statement indicated that SOC has paid $1 million toward its obligation to the Barker school district.

      A hearing in state Supreme Court, on the question of whether the county can foreclose on the power plant, is scheduled for Sept. 22.

      Though it's within the county's power to seize the property, Andrews said he doubts things will go that far, due to the county's reluctance to own contaminated land.

      "We've generally had a longstanding policy where we shy away from taking contaminated parcels without doing our due diligence," Andrews said.

      According to the county Real Property Tax Services website, the annual tax-foreclosed property auction, normally held in August, is postponed due to the Covid pandemic. No date for the 2022 auction has been set.

      ___

      (c)2022 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)

      Visit the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.) at lockportjournal.com

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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