Parish wants to assure Fruit of the Loom pays its taxes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – A lawyer representing Concordia agencies in the Fruit of the Loom bankruptcy case said he will file motions in August or September asking for proof the company will pay taxes it owes for 1999 and 2000.

Attorney Stephen Wheelis of Alexandria said he hopes a judge will set a schedule for taxes to be paid, but there are no guarantees.

&uot;It could take three months to two years for the parish to see its money,&uot; he said Thursday morning.

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In a meeting held that morning at the parish courthouse, Sheriff Randy Maxwell and Police Jury President Charlie Blaney briefed several representatives of parish agencies on the trio’s July 11 meeting with Fruit of the Loom’s attorneys in New York.

Fruit of the Loom – parent company of Vidalia Apparel, Concordia’s largest manufacturer – went bankrupt in December. It owes the Concordia School District more than $700,000, the Sheriff’s Office $547,000, the Police Jury $564,000 and the Town of Vidalia about $92,600 for 1999 taxes alone. But Wheelis said he believes that visiting the company’s attorneys in person, something no other local governments have done, has put the parish higher on the company’s list of prioritized creditors.

&uot;They know now we’re not asking for this to get new equipment or buy buildings, but just to maintain our existence,&uot;&160;Blaney said.

Wheelis also added agencies that do not get the tax money could lose grants because they cannot come up with the matching funds for those grants. And he said he hopes that persuades the judge to approve a plan for the parish to get its taxes.

&uot;I want (the judge) to understand that this could not only put a community out of business, but it could make us lose this extra money, too,&uot;&160;Wheelis said.

Some said the briefing made them feel better about the cases of getting tax revenues owed by Fruit of the Loom.

&uot;I feel more secure now in my hopes that we are a priority creditor and that we should be paid our money sometime,&uot; Jack McLemore, attorney for the Town of Vidalia, said following the meeting.

&uot;What (they’re) saying is that since we’re the squeaky wheel, we’ll get the grease,&uot; said Police Juror Gene Allen.