General Electric is claiming that land in Fort Edward associated with an ongoing dredging project is actually worth only a fraction of its assessed value, according to a challenge filed in state Supreme Court.
The court challenge identifies two properties totaling about 79 acres that are now being leased by the Schenectady-based company. GE constructed a facility on the site where barges bring sediment from the dredging project to be processed and then shipped by rail to out-of-state disposal facilities.
Last spring, the town valued a 28-acre parcel at $29.6 million and a 51-acre parcel at $45.7 million. The company contested these assessments, claiming the properties were instead worth $376,275 and $641,538, respectively.
The facility is located within the taxing districts of the town, village of Fort Edward, the Hudson Falls school district and Washington County. Mark Behan, a spokesman for the company, said the parcels contribute about $2.7 million annually to the four taxing entities and the company has paid roughly $12.6 million since it started challenging the assessment in 2009.
“GE recognizes that the property is taxable but believes the assessments set by the town of Fort Edward are inaccurately high,” he said in an email Wednesday.
Behan said GE also believes the so-called dewatering facility — where water is removed from the dredged-up sediment, treated and poured back into the canal — is eligible for partial property tax exemptions the town has not granted. He said state law provides for an exemption from real property taxes for industrial equipment designed to protect air and water quality.
“GE applied for and was certified for the exemption by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” he said. “The town of Fort Edward has denied the exemptions to which GE is entitled by law.”
If the legal action is successful, GE could be due a massive refund from the taxing entities.
Mitchell Suprenant, the town’s supervisor, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
In 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered GE to conduct and pay for the largest environmental dredging project in the nation. The company is spending more than $850 million on the multiyear project to remove polychlorinated biphenyls from the Hudson River between Fort Edward and the Federal Dam in Troy. GE capacitor plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward discharged PCBs into the river for three decades ending in 1977, when the practice was outlawed. After a lengthy battle over dredging, the company began to remove the sediment in 2009.
Behan said the company has tried to work out an agreement with local officials that would be fair to all parties and consistent with law. He said the company has provided more than 10,000 pages of documents to the town regarding the cost of the property and the equipment it installed there for the dredging project.
“GE seeks no special treatment,” he said. “GE is seeking only what every taxpayer has a right to expect — fair and equal treatment under the law.”