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Missoula County signs settlement for Smurfit mill back taxes - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Missoula County signs settlement for Smurfit mill back taxes

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MISSOULA - Missoula County leaders and local taxing districts are breathing easier Thursday afternoon now that the county has signed a settlement recovering nearly $1 million in taxes from the old Smurfit Stone mill property.

The county has been wrestling with the growing property tax bill held by mill owners M2Green for the past couple of years, watching the delinquent taxes, interest and penalties grow to more than $1.2 million. 

But the county caught a break this summer when a new law sponsored by State Representative Kim Dudik allowed it to file legal action to recover proceeds from an auction of old mill equipment. The county was able to place a hold on the auction revenue and begin negotiations with Wakefield Kennedy, a Washington-based lending company that had backed M2Green’s efforts to redevelop the mill. 

Thursday afternoon, county commissioners signed a settlement agreement allowing Wakefield Kennedy to protect its interest in the property and resolve the tax bill on all but one parcel. That settlement amounts to more than $967,000.

It’s a relief for local jurisdictions like Frenchtown Fire and Frenchtown School District, which had been tapping reserves to try and get by without the money.

“Every time we thought we saw a light at the end of the tunnel with M2Green it ended up being an on-coming train," said Frenchtown Superintendent Randy Cline. "So we strongly support this as I said before. As far as the total amount is 89 percent of the total liability due and that percentage is very high for the tax settlement and frankly way more than we anticipated.”

Commissioners say they aren’t sure what Wakefield Kennedy’s plans are for the property, but they remain hopeful the mill site can be cleaned up and placed back in a productive state.

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