ARICHAT — Richmond County council voted Monday night to cut in half the property taxes paid by a British Columbia paper producer.
Beginning in 2013, Pacific West Commercial Corp. will pay $1.3 million per year in property taxes for the former NewPage pulp and paper mill in Point Tupper.
The tax deal will continue through to 2015, when the original tax agreement signed with Stora Enso in 2006 was set to terminate.
Council’s decision follows an unsuccessful court battle put forward by Pacific West, which argued it should only pay one-sixth of its annual $2.6-million tax bill based on its appraisal of the mill.
“Many weeks ago we had an offer that was on the table. They refused to accept that and took the route of taking us to court,” said Dist. 9 Coun. Steve Sampson. “They rolled the dice and they lost.”
Sampson said he was planning to vote against a new agreement but changed his mind due to the shortened length of the agreement, and the continuation of this year’s current tax rate.
Pacific West will continue to pay the remainder of its $2.6-million tax structure for 2012, or $1.3 million.
However, the new tax agreement didn’t sit well with some residents at Monday night’s meeting who were concerned about increases in their property taxes.
“The thing is, they (Richmond County) went to court, they won. Why should we pay?” said West Arichat resident Harold Mury. “I’m the only one working in my house and if they’re going to put my tax up, they’re going to force me maybe (to) sell my home.”
“If they can’t come here and put money of their own in here, they don’t deserve to be here,” said Marie Louise Sampson of Petit de Grat.
Deputy warden Victor David said in making its decision, council realized some concessions were necessary.
“In order to attain this number we had to look at what this mill is now compared to what it was three, two years ago. For example, the biomass is no longer a part of the mill. The biomass now belongs to Nova Scotia Power.”
While it’s widely recognized that the mill will employ a few hundred workers, it will also provide economic spinoffs to businesses in Richmond County, said David.
“(I’ve) seen too many of these fly-by-nighters,” Nap Sampson of D’Escousse said following the meeting. “It’s something like the call centres: they get ‘X’ amount of dollars from the government and as soon as that’s gone, they pull out and we’re fixed with the burden.”
All councillors in attendance at the special meeting voted in favour of the deal, with the exception of Steve MacNeil who is under an employment contract with Pacific West and did not vote.
As part of the vote, council agreed that after the deal expires in three years the mill will return to its regular assessment, which is on par with all other industrial and commercial properties in the county.