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West Deptford OKs $15 Million Settlement with Sunoco on Eagle Point

The settlement is pending approval from the state, and would resolve eight years’ worth of property tax appeals by the oil company.

The battle with Sunoco over is over.

voted along party lines, 3-1, with one abstention, Thursday night to approve a $15 million settlement with the oil company over eight years’ worth of property tax appeals.

“We knew it was coming,” said Mayor Ray Chintall. “It's one of the toughest decisions a governmental official can make.”

The deal ends Sunoco’s appeals dating back to 2004 on the 1,180-acre Eagle Point refinery complex. The refinery itself, , shut down for good two years ago, and the company has said it plans to turn the complex into a terminal facility.

“We are pleased we could come to agreement on this important matter and look forward to a future of development and growth at the Eagle Point terminal,” said Sunoco CEO Brian MacDonald in a statement released late Thursday night.

In the same release, Sunoco officials said the $15 million settlement would be applied to a larger environmental fund, which would go toward cleanup at the company’s sites, including Eagle Point.

While a major step in the process, the committee’s approval of the settlement isn’t the final one. Part of the moves Thursday night was an application to the state’s Local Finance Board (LFB), which has to approve the $15 million refunding bond that would go to paying off the settlement.

That can’t happen until April 11 at the earliest, based on the LFB’s 2012 meeting schedule.

After being OK'd by the LFB, a final approval of the refunding bond ordinance would have to be carried by at least a 4-1 supermajority, meaning one of the two Democrats on the committee would have to shift from a “no” vote to issue the bond.

The agreement means taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the settlement, which is split between the township and county, as well as a big hit to West Deptford’s ratable base from a new assessment for Eagle Point.

The 1,180-acre complex is assessed at $153.5 million for 2012, down about $100 million from last year’s assessment.

“It’s not the happiest time that we have to place a burden like this on the township’s residents,” Chintall said. “I’m a taxpayer, too…I take that into consideration.”

It didn’t take long for the detractors to fire back at West Deptford’s committee over the settlement.

Gloucester County Freeholder Director Robert Damminger slammed the deal in a prepared statement released moments after the vote, saying the terms of the deal were bad for residents of both West Deptford and the county.

“I am deeply disappointed that the mayor of West Deptford and the new majority have chosen to settle with Sunoco and let them off the hook, while the hard-working taxpayers of Gloucester County will get stuck with the tax bill,” Damminger said. “This is nothing more than corporate welfare for an oil company that has all but abandoned Gloucester County.”

Damminger said the township committee gave up too easily, rather than take the case to court.

“It is shameful that West Deptford’s new leadership, who has only held office for two months, would choose to hastily reach this decision to settle,” he said.

Given the potential affect on the county’s budget, and the fact that the county cannot bond to pay off its share of the property tax settlement, Damminger said the county will pursue any available appeals to the settlement.

Residents slammed the decision, as well.

Terry Holovachuk called out Chintall and Cianfarini on their campaign pledge to put any new debt out to a public vote.

“When are we going to get a referendum?” she asked. “That’s what you said was going to happen.”

Chintall deflected that, saying there hadn’t yet been time to consider that campaign proposal.

“It hasn’t been addressed yet,” Chintall said. “It’s been 60 days.”

They also took flak from Eric Agren, who questioned the committee’s dedication to transparency, versus the closed-door nature of the settlement agreement, which came out of three-hour closed session.

“I think it’s unfair, I really do,” Agren said.

But whether the township went to court or opted, as they did, to settle, Chintall said the dispute had to be resolved somehow.

“There’s a day of reckoning some time,” he said.

Doitright March 02, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Do you realize that the case that was settled has been pending since 2004 and if tired could have resulted in a substantially greater refund to Sunoco. Do you really think that this all happened in a three hour meeting? Do you not remember the almost $5 million the town had to pay Coastal 20 years ago when they won the tax appeal? And what about the Citgo settlement a few years ago? The real question is why did the Dems let these cases to go on for so long. The Republicans were given a major problem and they dealt with it in the best interest of the residents of this town, would you rather they continue to drag the case out, spend millions on the litigation and then end up with a greater problem when a court finds that the town then has to refund $30, $40 or $50 million? And where has the county been throughout this litigation, has the county paid one penny towards the cost of this litigation? Has the county tried to get this case resolved sooner? Before we all bitch and moan, you should find out what has really been going on while the Dems where at the helm.
frank shields March 02, 2012 at 05:48 PM
How can someone stoop so low to defame michael krawitz.he wasn't at the meeting last night and this isn't something that he would say.
joann priga March 02, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I normally do not respond to any of these comments, but when someone uses our former Vice Chair's name to put down our Mayor and Committeeman Cianfarini. I am going to say something. I just would like everyone to know I just spoke to Mike Krawitz and he did not write the article above that has his name attached to it. If by chance you have not seen the article it is mainly because I asked Bryan to delete it, since it was not Mike who wrote the comment. It's pretty sad when somone has to stoop so low to use someone's name rather then use their own.
ThomasJefferson March 02, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I for one, stayed until the closed session began, and I am concerned about procedure at meetings. If you can't take the time to learn the nuances of the small stuff, (there were 60days from election to taking office) I do not trust you to read or understand a $$ 15 million settlement. The appeal was based on them being an operating business in WD twp, they are dismantling that business as we speak, why is their tax appeal even valid, so to jump the gun and hand over such a large sum of money seems like the" shoot from the hip" we have been seeing since new committee elected. This isn't over, it has to come to a vote again at a public meeting and I will have my questions ready and expect answers from Mr C and Mr. C, not their lawyer. I can't imaging anyone not asking questions about this.... R or D. just saying....
frank shields March 03, 2012 at 12:57 AM
if they didn't settle for 15 million it could have gone to 43 million. so which is better. settle or lose the battle because sunoco has a lot more money to squander than wd unless the township raises your taxes to litigate with.I m sure the residents do not want that. look what coastal and citgo got THEY WON WD LOST and when wd loses so does the residents.A sunoco representative was at last night's meeting just waiting for the committee to vote no.as for as donna is concerned g white was texting her on a cell phone telling what to say. she is a complete moron. just like a democrat greed and money. Donna S wise up. grow a pair and do the right thing for once or you'll be where len and the rest of the dems are going to be,outside looking in
Jean Elaine McCloskey March 03, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I DIDN'T THINK THERE WERE ASSIGNED SEATS FOR OUR TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE MEETINGS. I'VE ALWAYS SAT WHERE I FELT COMFORTABLE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT PARTY I AM REGISTERED WITH--AREN'T WE A COMMUNITY WORKING FOR THE GOOD OF ALL?
Walter Frockmorton March 03, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Please look at the court decision from a couple of years ago. Then, look at the law firm that has been representing the township in this case. Then, look at the law firm's political donations for the past 10 years. Do you see the incentive to drag this case out at the taxpayer's expense? I knew you would.
helpthedumb March 03, 2012 at 04:40 AM
What are you talking about, "...The appeal was based on them being an operating business in WD twp, they are dismantling that business as we speak, why is their tax appeal even valid..." Clearly you have no idea what is going on since the tax appeal, like any other tax appeal is based upon the assessed value of the property. For over 20 years, the former owner of the refinery and Sunoco have been arguing that the town overassessed the property, just like the town over assessed the Citgo property. And, to allege that anyone jumped the gun is simply stupid. This issue has been debated over and over again and the new administration is doing the right thing, stopping the never ending litigation and getting out of the litigation at less than what the town would have had to pay if the case went to trial. It is the uneducated like you that have been the problem.
ThomasJefferson March 03, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Dear Help the Dumb, I certainly do understand what has been going on in our town and every other small town loacted on coastline. that has been pillaged by BIG OIL and the GOP (grand oil party) sponsored legislation that favors BIG OIL over safety and fairness to the middle class taxpayers. Can we forget the rallying cry "Drill baby Drill?!?!" SUNOCO has left the building and they are leaving their polluted mess and are going to take their check and never look back. We can't be sure it is suitable for the park and planned petting zoo, The quick decision when legislation is pending to hold the funds in a DEP account to insure it is cleaned up seems foolish. After 20 years, they can't wait another 30 days to protect us??? This decision will be far reaching beyond our township borders, I think the committee is getting bad advise and should research their decision further.
ThomasJefferson March 03, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Re@ another voice, The county GOP chair chose the new solicitor based on recommedations from State Party Higher ups, he a loyal GOP soldier charged with keeping our new committee in line, out of trouble and re-electable.. How's that working out for 'ya , IMO Nothing has changed is just got worse.
joann priga March 03, 2012 at 05:04 PM
WD Mary 78, I really don't know who you are or do I care. The County had nothing to do with picking our new Solicitor. We are not the democratic machine where we are told who to vote for or how to vote. As far as Sunoco this has been on going for years before the Republican took control. You need to start calling the kettle black it was the democrats that got us into this mess. Now we are trying to fix it with out paying more court cost. Its your tax lawyer that charging us mega bucks and also giving large some of donations to your democratic committee. Before you make any more statements you better get your facts straight.
Another voice March 03, 2012 at 05:18 PM
It's working out great for me so far! I would've been happy with a frog over Angelini's firm.
Another voice March 03, 2012 at 05:25 PM
You guys, who keep spouting this junk about the big republican regime here in Gloucester County, crack me up!! So, Mary, let me ask you point blank. Do you believe there is a democratic regime in Gloucester County? Was there one in WD prior to November? Do you believe there is a republican regime in Gloucester County? Was there one in WD prior to November? Is there one in WD now? As far as big oil. During the Pelosi/Reid regime, which was not so very long ago, I might add - ask yourself, why didn't they legislate against big oil during their majority? Did they forget?
Samantha McCall March 03, 2012 at 05:37 PM
No, you are right, Dave Shields and Anna Docimo didn't let Angelini tell them how to run the town, it was Gerry White!
Tom Stanton March 03, 2012 at 06:49 PM
From what I can tell, it seems that the Democrats didn't want to make a decision which is why this issue has been delayed for the past 7-8 years. If the Democrats were still in charge, this issue would still be undecided. The Dems have had a strong hold on this town for over 20 years and have put us all into a tremendous financial position of enormous debt. Due to their lack of decision making, they are still making our debt climb after they have been kicked out of office. At least a decision has been made. Isn't that what our elected, and in some cases, appointed, officials supposed to do? Damminger, of course, doesn't like the decision. I guess he would prefer to take it to court, while costing tax payers more money in legal fees, and take the decision out of our elected officials hands and place it the hands of the court. WD Mary 78- You have been listening to our Socialist President a little to much with your "fairness" comment. Is it fair for our government to pick winners and losers in the private industry? You do recall that BP (you know, one of the "Big Oil" companies) was one of the biggest contributors to the President's campaign. As far as the texting accusations of Gerry White to Donna S., I truly hope that is not true. IF (that's a big if) it is, was Gerry White elected to make decisions for our town or was it Donna? I would hope Donna would have more self respect to make her own decisions instead of being a puppet for the liberal New Jersey machine.
canodit March 03, 2012 at 06:54 PM
This 20 year battle over the suposed "over-assessment" is related to a business retention act from 1992. Under this act, oil refineries along the river somehow classified their structures as movable, and were therefore in need of preferential tax assessing so that they wouldn't feel unloved and their winnebago/refinery and drive right out of town. Well, let's think about this, my house can be picked up with a crane and put on a truck and rolled out of town. One truck, one crane, a few days work, much less cost. How come I don't get a homeowner retention preference? That unfairness aside, this business has not been retained, they are getting up and leaving, and so the idea of cutting them a settlement check based on a failed business retention policy doesn't sit very well with me, and it shouldn't sit well with any homeowner or other tax payer in this area who never got this kind of preferential treatment. Perhaps if the new lawyer lived, or worked, in West Deptford or even in Gloucester County, maybe he wouldn't be so quick to advise us to give the oil company a giant severance package.
canodit March 03, 2012 at 08:51 PM
A little info about this issue and why it hasn't been settled. There was a law passed in 1992 that is very ambiguous and open to interpretation. Prior to the enactment of the "Business Retention Act," P.L.1992, c.24 (C.54:4-1.13 et al.), all petroleum refinery property was assessed for taxation as real property. Following the enactment of the "Business Retention Act," municipal tax assessors were directed to re-assess the land and buildings of petroleum refineries as real property, and the machinery, apparatus and equipment directly used to manufacture petroleum products as business personal property. What this means for us is that while we pay taxes on every part of our property, including large sheds, oil refineries can argue structures should somehow be classified as movable, as if they could get up and leave. The ambiguity of the law is why it should be fought in court. The definition of what structures are not considered "real property" and thus not part of the assessment for ratable is unclear and it is up to the courts to decide this issue. The reason this litigation has never been settled is because since 1992, there have been many attempts by the NJ state legislature to amend the act to clearly define all parts of the refineries as "real property." These amendments were always voted down by state politicians (D&R both) who were donated to by oil companies because these amendments would end the tax appeals in favor of towns like WD.
Proud D March 03, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Please Joann, you must think we're all stupid. You expect us to believe the County had nothing to do with picking our new solicitor? I suppose it's a mere coincidende that the firm you chose is the same firm recommended by the County Republicans at their reorg? Is that the case?
Ernest Mouse March 03, 2012 at 09:56 PM
The lack of transparency and brains of this new administration is utterly amazing and quite sad. I dont understand how they could be so foolish.
redcoat March 03, 2012 at 10:23 PM
what transparency did the previous admin. did? ZILCH! . The person that established that the symbol of a donkey( ass) is going to represent the democratic party did a great job.Kudos goes out to that individual. There are some really dumb people on here,especially the comments from the dems. maybe a tornado will hit and lets see the segregation between the dems and rep to help each other lmfao
Tom Stanton March 04, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Alright, I'll say it... I usually leave the name calling to the Dems, but "redcoat", you sound like a fool. First, although you don't agree with what others say, everyone has the right to speak no matter how "dumb" it may sound to you. Although I don't agree for the most part with the Dems, I welcome their view point. Second, how insensitive must you be to make a ridiculous reference to a tornado with our fellow American citizens dealing with the most recent deadly tornadoes. I know that no matter what sort of differences we may have on how our town, county, state, and country are ran, we are on the same team and we would all pull together to assist our fellow neighbor any way we could. We all want the best for our families, friends, and neighbors. We just happen to disagree how to accomplish the common goal of making our town and country the best there is. Canodit- I appreciate the information and how you presented your point. With all that you said, and if what you said was accurate, it sounds like a settlement should not have been made until clarification on what is "real property". It would be nice to get a law that is 20 years old cleared up. How are towns like WD suppose to move forward without this clarification.
redcoat March 04, 2012 at 01:53 AM
quick making inane comments on here and move on. it's always the dems that hold things up.because of the greed. for example I see sweeney just about every morning at heritages getting the local newspaper,then he'll head over to riverwinds to work out ( free ) membership ride around in that cadillac payed by the taxpayers with that ss plate. sweeney great for me screw you.people struggling in this township and the county.
Samantha McCall March 04, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Wow!!!!!
WDNeedsHelp March 05, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Tom, Donna's husband works for the County, IE Gerry White. She is a Gerry White, Steve Sweeney tool and nothing more. Her excuse for not being ready to vote on the Sunoco was poor at best. If you are not prepared then step aside and let someone compentent take your place.
WDNeedsHelp March 05, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Well said....do the research before you complain...
WDNeedsHelp March 05, 2012 at 03:41 PM
One word.....Democrats.
WDNeedsHelp March 05, 2012 at 03:47 PM
The real Ernest Kraus would be flattered you chose to mock his name in a moronic attempt to look "offical". You Dems are utterly pathetic and we can wait until November to pick off another one of you hapless fools...The People are awake and they have had enough of your crap. Keep playing your party politics..... PLEASE !!!!!
WDNeedsHelp March 05, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Red, his union thugs paid for the Caddy, the County taxpayers pay for the gas that goes in it. The West Deptford taxpayers pay for the Riverwinds membership. I guess he paid for the dollar coffee...Lets ask Steve to make his tax returns available for us to review. Should be interesting reading....
SamNeedsHelp March 05, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Sam, how is life at the giant one man computer empire? Still talking to yourself on blogs all day? How about some transparency from your secretive regime would be nice.
Terry Holovachuk March 05, 2012 at 06:39 PM
To Tom Stanton, I very much agree with u. No matter different opinions, we should agree to disagree. I also will restate my very former opinion that pseudonyms should not be allowed in on-line communication. At that former time, someone messaged to me the ills of using your own name on such sites. After much thought, I think that is the only way to have a civil and more positive dialogue. If concerned with on-line predators, perhaps those folks should stay off-line. That being said, I have and will as long as I am able, help my neighbors in WD, in Gloucester County, and less directly those around the world. I have never asked nor cared about their political affiliation. Sounds to me, Tom, that u are cut from the same cloth. Nice chatting with you whatever your party affiliation.

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