MOULTON — Officials from Lawrence County, its schools and the town of Courtland estimate their annual budgets will lose a combined $2.3 million after closure of the International Paper mill next spring.
But members of a committee formed to weigh the impact said Wednesday that figure won’t measure all the damage.
“Taxes may not include all the implications to government,” committee member Larkin Martin said at the first formal meeting of the panel.
Martin is a farmer in Courtland and has served as a corporate board member for Rayonier, a pulp company in Florida.
Lawrence County workers receive an estimated $23 million of the mill’s annual payroll. Committee members agreed taxes are merely a starting point for understanding the whole picture.
Their first goal is to determine what information is necessary to understand the total impact of the closure.
“Obviously right now there’s a lot more questions than there are answers,” said county Commissioner Bobby Burch, who serves as the committee’s chairman.
The committee asked Courtland Mayor Clarence Logston to seek bond information from the Courtland Industrial Development Board, to which most of the property is deeded. Logston, who took office in 2012, was not certain of the total bond amount.
Luke Slaton served as executive director of the Lawrence County Industrial Development board from 2008-11 and said the bond was re-issued during that period because IP received stimulus money during President Barack Obama’s first term.
The group decided to try to meet with International Paper executives in Memphis to gather details about the plant’s closure, such as the company’s plans for the property, the water treatment facility and the port to the Tennessee River.
“IP’s been a very good citizen for this county for a long time. They’ve made a decision we have to respect,” Martin said. “We have to find out how to work with IP in a constructive way.”
The committee also includes District 1 Commissioner Mose Jones, school Superintendent Heath Grimes and former District Attorney Tim Littrell. Burch said he will ask the county commission to add Logston to the committee at the next commission meeting.
The group also discussed potential changes to the property’s tax classification and environmental concerns.
“You’ve got the potential for sale or you’ve got the potential for environmental issues,” Martin said.
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey’s deputy chief of staff, Taylor Nichols, also attended the meeting.
Meredith Qualls can be reached at 256-340-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.