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Massena leader rips town businesses

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MASSENA — Businesses that have filed lawsuits challenging property assessments they called unfairly high drew the wrath of Supervisor Joseph D. Gray in a news release sent out Monday after an executive session of the Town Council.

“The town of Massena is once again being sued by multi-million dollar companies who feel their property tax assessments are too high,” Mr. Gray said in the release. “Granted, these multi-million-dollar companies have a right to challenge their assessments, but they also have a legal and moral obligation to pay their fair share of property taxes.”

The Johnson Newspaper Corp. last year challenged the approximately $2 million assessment on its printing plant and offices it has 1 Harrowgate Commons. The company filed its lawsuit against the town last year after the challenge failed to have the assessment reduced.

“Since the Johnson Newspaper Corporation’s request for a fair assessment last year, we have examined the valuation of our printing facility in Massena. That study shows a lower value than the current assessment, which was established a decade ago as part of our investment in Massena,” said John B. Johnson Jr., chairman of the JNC board of directors. “Over the last 10 years, St. Lawrence County’s industrial infrastructure has deteriorated in value as businesses have closed and the population has decreased, and our facility and its utility has aged and declined in value as well.”

The newspaper company is seeking to have its assessment lowered to $1 million. In a separate lawsuit, HHSC Inc., owners of Harte Haven Shopping Center, are seeking to have its $5.1 million assessment lowered to $2 million. Attorneys for HHSC could not be reached for comment Monday night.

“The Harte Haven Shopping Center has seen a dramatic rebirth over the past few years,” Mr. Gray said. “The place is booming and the owners say it’s only worth two million bucks? Will they sell it for that? If so, I will try to put together a group of investors to take it off their hands.”

Mr. Gray asked the same about the Johnson Newspaper Corp. property in Massena, although he didn’t make an offer for the newspaper plant.

“Would you sell the building for that amount?” he said. “I know the print media business is in a tough spot right now, but my guess is they would not sell that printing plant for a million bucks today or tomorrow.”

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