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Wednesday, 26 January 2011 20:21

Industries in arrears on rent and loans face county crackdown

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With what they claim is hundreds of thousands in unpaid rent and loans on the line, Jackson County commissioners have ordered three delinquent tenants at county-owned industrial sites to pay up, or else.

Precisely what “or else” means hasn’t been spelled out. But, in a 5-0 vote, commissioners did make clear last week they want the money they believe is owed the county. That would be $92,700 from QC Apparel; $104,550 from Stanton and Stanton; and $83,166.72 from Clearwood Lumber.

The county has been prodding at least two of the industries to pay up since last summer. The former board of commissioners discussed the issue in closed session on more than one occasion.

Their less-than-stellar track record with the county goes back years, however. Their failure to stay current on revolving loan payments portrayed the old Economic Development Commission as being lax in its oversight of the revolving loan fund. That in turn triggered a county takeover of the EDC, but the county hasn’t done much better since it has been at the helm.

In addition to the back rent, QC Apparel has an outstanding revolving loan of $410,094, and hasn’t made a payment since January 2008, interim County Manager Chuck Wooten told commissioners. Clearwood has an outstanding revolving loan of $76,716.87, and hasn’t made a payment since May, he said.

Neither QC Apparel nor Clearwood Lumber returned phone messages seeking comment. Wooten said he had not received a response as of earlier this week to the dunning letters sent to any of the three companies.

Charles Stanton, owner of Stanton and Stanton, told The Smoky Mountain News on Monday that commissioners are mistaken. He does not owe back rent, because his woodworking company put in “a lot of money fixing up the building” per a lease agreement. Stanton said he planned to meet with Wooten this week and attempt to clear up the matter.

Stanton said his company has six full-time employees and six to 12 installers working at any given time under contracts.

QC Apparel and Stanton and Stanton are located in the former Tuckaseigee Mills building on Scotts Creek Road. Clearwood Lumber is in Whittier.

Jackson County Development Corp., a nonprofit arm of the county’s Economic Development Commission, originally purchased Tuckaseigee Mills.

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