FRENCHTOWN – The company that bought the former Smurfit-Stone Container mill site nearly three years ago has missed its last three tax payments, costing Missoula County, Frenchtown schools, state school lands and special districts more than $425,0000.
Missoula County records show that M2Green Redevelopment LLC of Alton, Ill., is nearly $300,000 in arrears in 2012 and owes more than $128,000 for the first half of 2013. The year’s second half taxes will be due in May.
M2Green hasn’t paid a property tax bill since 2011, the year it purchased the shuttered mill and more than 3,000 acres that surround it.
According to the county’s chief financial officer Andrew Czorny, almost 50 percent of M2Green’s delinquent tax dollars were ticketed to the Frenchtown School District. That’s a hit of more than $200,000 for the district that opened a new junior high school in 2009, four months before Smurfit-Stone closed the 50-year-old plant for good.
The linerboard factory paid nearly $1.8 million in taxes in its final year of operation.
The Frenchtown Rural Fire District is out some $32,000 over the past year, while Missoula County’s own coffers are roughly $110,000 poorer without M2Green’s tax dollars.
“The county can weather the storm,” Czorny said. “But those other guys are going to be hurting.”
M2Green announced its purchase of what was originally a 3,200-acre site in May 2011 in a three-way deal with Smurfit-Stone and MLR Investments, which had signed a buy-sell agreement for the site earlier that year with the intention of scrapping it out.
The company sold 158 acres to a neighboring ranch last year, but still owns a dozen parcels of varying sizes at the site east of Frenchtown. Four parcels accrue tax liabilities of less than $50 a year each.
By far the most valuable is a 69-acre parcel at the hub of the former milling operations, where owners spent nearly two years removing buildings and scrapping out the papermaking equipment. According to the Missoula County property tax website, M2Green owes $377,000 on that land, with penalties adding some $20 a day.