By Amanda McBride The Choctaw Plaindealer
The Choctaw County Board of Supervisors held their August 8 meeting in front of a crowd of approximately 30 concerned citizens.
Many came that were concerned about the 10 year in lieu tax agreement with Choctaw Generation. District 5 Supervisor Eric Chambers stated the board can only grant a 10 year tax exemption according to law. He believes the 10 year tax exemption is up for Choctaw Generation.
In the July 31 meeting, the board approved to place Choctaw Generation on the tax roll at full value but in the August 8 meeting, District 3 Supervisor Chris McIntire, also board president, said the board should rescind that motion.
“We need to rescind that motion. Our attorney talked to Watkins, Ward & Eager (Law Firm) and they said we can’t do that. The tax assessor is the only one that can do that, that has that authority and we cannot order her to change value that she does not believe should be changed,” said McIntire.
District 2 Supervisor Larry McClain made the motion to rescind the order with a second from District 1 Supervisor Archie Collins.
Before a vote was held, Chambers said it’s about the law and what the law allows. He asked Steve Wright, board attorney, to go on record in the board minutes of why Wright believes Choctaw Generation should not be on the tax roll at full value. “I don’t have to put in the minutes for your political theatre,” said Wright.
He added that he showed Watkins, Ward and Eager attorneys documents related to the issue and those attorneys said the documents are clear. The ten years are 2003-2012.
“Go pick a $200,000 fight then you tell these people (taxpayers) how your saving their money,” said Wright to Chambers. This began a heated argument between Chambers and Wright where McIntire called both of them back into order.
Chambers then presented then read several documents related to the inducement agreement, letters and in lieu tax payments to the board.
“The issue I have is we have collected ten years of in lieu payments,” said Chambers.
One letter he presented was from Sydney Free with Choctaw Generation. She was present at this meeting. She explained that the inducement agreement was approved in 1997 with the plant construction complete in 2002 and the first year on the tax roll was 2003.
Free also explained payments made before 2003 as a settlement with Choctaw County not fees in lieu payments. She and Chambers disagreed several times before McIntire called for a vote to rescind the motion from the July 31 meeting. The board approved the motion 4-1 with Chambers voting against it.
There was more discussion about the issue after the vote with School Board Member Mike Thomas, Free and other members of the audience.
Choctaw Generation then made a formal objection to their land roll tax. This meeting was the time and place for anyone to make those objections.
Ray Burrell, plant manager at Choctaw Generation, explained how the plant had a lot of down time last year and that the plant is struggling.
“To be honest we’re struggling. We’re paying our bills but it’s a struggle,” said Burrell.
The plant’s lawyer explained in depth how much economic obsolesce the plant believes they should be granted. He explained the different types of economic obsolesce and what factors they considered in figuring the economic obsolesce. The board recognized and entered the plant’s formal objection into their minutes and took it under advisement.