Local ministers want to keep Titan equipment here

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 13, 2001

A group of ministers hope to schedule a meeting with Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith to ask that the city take measures to keep Titan Tire in Natchez – or quickly get another company into the building it occupies.

But a question at the heart of that effort is whether the City of Natchez owns equipment in Titan Tire’s Kelly Avenue plant. Officials with United Steelworkers of America Local 303L say the city owns the equipment, but City Attorney Walter Brown disagrees.

&uot;That’s what we want to find out,&uot; said the Rev. Cliff Marvel, one of a handful of ministers who met Wednesday afternoon to discuss meeting with Smith.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Titan CEO Morry Taylor said the plant will not close completely.

&uot;But if the city does own (the equipment), then they could use it to bring another company to that building&uot; in the event that Titan does choose to close the plant completely, Marvel said.

Smith could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Leo &uot;T-Bone&uot; Bradley – president of Local 303L, which has been on strike from the Natchez plant since September 1998 – insists the equipment is owned by the city.

The city leases the equipment to Titan under a 99-year lease, although Titan could pay $100 to buy the equipment outright, Bradley said. &uot;We’ve showed the mayor and Walter Brown documents that show that,&uot;&160;Bradley said.

But Brown said documents he has reviewed from the bankruptcy case of Titan’s predecessor at the plant, Condere Corp., show that Titan owns the equipment subject to a bank mortgage.

&uot;And although the building and the land it sits on are still titled to the city, Titan has the option to buy those for $100 any time,&uot; Brown said.

Marvel said Local 303L attorney Paul Koerber of Jackson met with the ministers Wednesday to brief them on several Titan-related issues.

But Marvel would not say what specific issues Koerber discussed or whether the equipment’s ownership was one of those issues.