- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - The owner of an industrial site in western Montana owes Missoula County more than $1.2 million in delinquent property taxes, the county said in a complaint filed Wednesday seeking to collect the debt.

The county says M2Green Redevelopment LLC is overdue on taxes as far back as 2012 on two of the 15 parcels at the former Smurfit Stone paper mill site in Frenchtown. The total property owned is about 4 square miles (11 square kilometers).

The subsidiary of the Illinois-based Green Investment Group bought the property in May 2011 with plans tear down the buildings and redevelop it. Work stopped when salvage steel prices declined.

Missoula County also is asking the court to order M2Green to turn over the proceeds from an auction of fixtures and equipment scheduled for next month and that the company not be allowed to sell any property or water rights while the case is pending.

Meanwhile, the Missoula City-County Health Department filed a civil complaint alleging M2Green is violating health code regulations by leaving industrial debris in piles at the site for years.

Green Investment CEO Ray Stillwell did not respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.

The county’s lawsuit was made possible by a bill passed by the 2017 Legislature allowing counties to sue over delinquent taxes if the amount rises above $250,000. The county did not want to take a lien on the property due to environmental cleanup issues. Preliminary testing found cancer-causing chemicals in sludge ponds, groundwater and river sediments.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had proposed adding the property to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites nearly four years ago, but offered M2Green and other potentially responsible parties the option of a voluntary cleanup that it would oversee.

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