Supervisors OK tax break for lumber mill

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One of Brookhaven’s oldest industries finally received along-sought tax exemption from Lincoln County supervisors Monday,allowing a little cash to be put back into the company during itsmost tumultuous time ever.

Supervisors granted a freeport warehouse exemption to ColumbusLumber Monday after sawmill owners Doug Boykin and Jeff Griersonappeared before the board.

The exemption, which removes taxes on products being shippingout of state, will save the company only around $9,000. However,Boykin explained to supervisors that, during the worst housing andlumber markets in decades, every penny counts.

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“There’s been several sawmills in the state that have failedover the last 18 months, but we’ve been able to keep our employeesworking 40-hour weeks,” he said. “Everybody knows the housingmarket has been in decline, and we’ve seen record low numbers ofhousing starts. We think it’s going to turn around next year, butit’s going to be a slow climb. We’re here asking for this board’shelp so we can make it through.”

Supervisors granted the exemption on a unanimous vote.

Last year, the board shot down both a freeport and newenterprise exemption request from Columbus Lumber, with supervisorsfearing the precedent set by granting freeport exemptions. But cityaldermen approved the freeport exemption on a two-year basis lastyear, and supervisors agreed Monday to do the same for the fiscalyear 2010 budget.

Boykin said 19 percent of Columbus Lumber’s inventory in 2008was shipped outside of Mississippi, and supervisors agreed toexempt that amount. Lincoln County Tax Assessor/Collector NancyJordan said the company would be required to pay taxes on apercentage above that number.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said the exemptionwould lower the mill’s tax contribution from $104,360 to$95,311.

The motion to grant the exemption was made by District TwoSupervisor Bobby Watts and seconded by board president the Rev.Jerry Wilson, the same two supervisors whose support for thesawmill was overruled in last year’s 3-2 vote against the taxbreak.

“Nine thousand dollars is one thing, and that’s very important,but I don’t think it’s throwed away – I think it’s a good deedwe’ve done,” Watts said after the meeting. “That company is a bigcompany and we need it. It feeds a lot of mouths and sends a lot ofkids to school. They’re working some smart people, and sometimesyou have to pay a little to get smart people.”

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said the chamber and IndustrialDevelopment Foundation were glad to see the exemption granted forthe sawmill, which employs 115 local workers.

“Columbus Lumber is definitely a survivor in an era that’s beenextremely difficult for all the mills in Southwest Mississippi,” hesaid. “Every little bit that can help that industry at this pointis needed, and Lincoln County has made a move to support this localindustry.”