County: Unprecedented auction likely recovers debt

  • Monday, June 16, 2014

Lindsay Street/Gazette An auctioneer with Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers calls out items for bidding June 11 during Berkeley County’s auction of American LaFrance’s business personal property.

The auction of a defunct manufacturer’s business personal property Wednesday will likely recoup the costs of a $650,000 economic development debt owed to Berkeley County, according to a statement released by the county Thursday.

Every item was sold and more than 275 participated in the event, according to the release.

Firetruck maker American LaFrance closed up shop in January after years of financial trouble. Hundreds of jobs were lost and the company left fees unpaid from a fee-in-lieu of tax deal.

According to officials, the county’s auction of the business personal property is likely the first time in South Carolina history where a county has had to recover money through that avenue. The county and private businesses have been unable to raise any representatives with the company since its closure.

“The debt left by American LaFrance was a major concern,” county Supervisor Dan Davis said in the statement. “Although we attempted to reach out to the company, they were unresponsive. I did not feel it was right or just to allow this burden to fall upon our citizens and taxpayers. We explored several options, and the one which seemed most likely to recoup the full debt was to conduct an auction.”

Although county officials are still awaiting final figures, early calculations indicate the county will likely recover all outstanding taxes and fees under the fee-in-lieu tax agreement, plus costs for operating the auction, which was run by Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers.

Officials expect the final transactions to be complete within the next few weeks, at which time the final results and figures will be released.

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