HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The City of Hattiesburg will be taking legal action against the Stion Corporation after the company announced it would be closing its plant next month.
After an executive session Tuesday evening, city council voted unanimously to authorize the city attorney, Randy Pope, to work with Forrest County and Hattiesburg Public School District attorneys to file a notice of delinquency, or a legal notification of an overdue payment, regarding scheduled in lieu payments from Stion Corporation and take whatever necessary steps to move forward in collecting said payments.
Located in the Hattiesburg-Forrest County Industrial Park, the American solar panel manufacturer qualified for a fee in lieu of ad valorem taxes (FILA or FIL) agreement with both the city and county in 2013, but had not been able to make the required fee payments.
In May, Hattiesburg City Council and Forrest County supervisors reached an agreement with Stion Corporation to make monthly fee in lieu of tax payments. According to the agreement, Stion was to make monthly payments of $75,000 to the Forrest County Tax Collector to be divided among the city, county and Hattiesburg Public School District to repay fee in lieu of tax money owed.
On October 23, Forrest County Board Attorney David Miller said Stion has made three payments under the agreement, for a total of $225,000. $79,000 was paid to Forrest County, $61,000 to the city and $84,000 to the Hattiesburg Public School District.
"Hopefully we won't have to file suit, but that is a possibility," said Randy Pope, City Attorney for Hattiesburg. "We want to protect the taxpayers of Hattiesburg and obviously, Forrest County wants to protect the taxpayers in Forrest County."
In October, Stion notified the state it would be closing the plant on December 13 and laying off its 137 employees.
We have confirmed the Attorney General's Office is representing the Mississippi Development Authority. According to the Associated Press, that is the action taken in previous issues between companies and the state. The Stion Corporation owes Mississippi the entire $74.8 million it borrowed.