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City Still Pursuing Bedmaker

Tammy Daniels

WCW Inc., a New York mattress manufacturer, is reportedly negotiating to purchase the former Sprague building in the Hardman Industrial Park.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A mattress manufacturer eyeing sites in the city and Manchester, Vt., is expected to make a decision early next week on where it will move 100 jobs.

The city and state are continuing to work with WCW Inc., a maker of specialty beds for the medical and hospitality industry, despite the company's legal tangle over property taxes in New York State.

"This will be resolved," said Mayor Richard Alcombright on Thursday. "I don't see it in the way of the city moving forward in pursuing this company and these jobs."

WCW and the town of Hoosick and the village of Hoosick Falls have been in a standoff over the valuation of the company's 1 Mechanic St. building purchased in 2006 by its realty arm, JW Realty.

The town accuses WCW of failing to pay $1 million in taxes and reneging on an understanding about a lowered evaluation. Rensselaer County, which is stuck with the bill that WCW hasn't paid, is asking the court to foreclose on the property.

WCW says the assessment wasn't lowered enough to reflect fair market value and the town hasn't been willing to work to resolve the issue. The owners also say the town's claim WCW has a bad "track record" on taxes isn't true and that it's up to date on its three other properties.

There have been accusations between them of tactical delays, failing to file paperwork, outsized assessments, and useless negotiations. The matter has been tied up in court since 2007; the most recent move is the summary foreclosure judgment requested by the county.

Owner John Wilkinson has been mostly silent on the issue, declining to speak to the media despite numerous phone calls. On Thursday, he sent a response to Alcombright addressing the recent news articles and outlining his side of the dispute.

Wilkinson said the company had purchased the property for $400,000 and had an appraisal done that came up with a value of $1.2 million, to which it agreed. The village has valued the property at $13.3 million; the town has set an assessed value of $2 million. (New York has multiple taxing authorities.)

Alcombright, a former banker, said it was not unusual for such a dispute to take four or five years to resolve. But it has raised eyebrows on this side of the border and fears of a fly-by-night business taking advantage of the city.

Alcombright said the letter was in line with what Wilkinson had discussed with he and Michael L. Vedovelli, regional director for the state Office of Business Development. The city and state are crafting an incentive package to induce Wilkinson to choose the Berkshires over the Green Mountains and the deadline is tight for both the public initiative and the private relocation.

"I'm not seeing this as a huge red flag," the mayor said. "To slow down this process because this has been politicized is insane."

WCW is looking to purchase the empty Sprague Electric building in the Hardman Industrial Park owned Curran Memorial Realty Trust. The city would offer a limited property tax discount, estimated at about $175,000 over five years based on the current assessment of $2.2 million. The valuation of the building has been abated several times and is about the half the value from when Sprague was operating there. Its fiscal 2011 taxes were $70,781.

The City Council will have to approve any agreement.

Wilkinson wrote that a final attempt  in June to talk to the town and village was rejected and the failure to achieve a resolution was the determining factor in the decision to relocate.

"At the time WCW/JW Realty determined a new location was essential and would be leaving Hoosick Falls," he wrote.

Tags: Hardman Industrial Park, jobs      
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