Williams Foods owner Jeff Williams has called campaign letters mailed by two councilmen “complete lies” and continues to say he is willing to sit down with the city council and work out a deal concerning the $1.9 million in tax incentives promised to the new store.
In a letter dated March 24 that was mailed to Ward 4 residents, Hoss Cooley outlined his reasons for being opposed to the grocery store contract and the most recent proposal that includes interest payments to be made by the city to Williams.
“I just thought it was important to let people know the real story,” Cooley told Piedmont Today in a Friday morning interview.
However, Williams went through the letter line-by-line and offered his opinion on why he felt Cooley’s letter was full of misinformation.
The letter states Williams is paying Canadian County property taxes on a $2.5 million building and that “Williams has never shown (the city) proof that he has $3.8 million invested in the grounds of the building.” Williams’ response to the statement is the contract signed in 2010 says nothing about the “grounds of the building” but instead states the $1.9 million to the grocery store is meant to cover half of the “development and operations.”
“He is right that I am paying taxes on ($2.5 million building),” Williams said. “But that doesn’t included the equipment. The equipment is included in the operations and he knows that. The contract does exclude inventory, but I’m the one that put that in there because it wouldn’t be fair to the city. The contract does, however, include operations and equipment.”
Williams also said he has provided the city with numerous documents on his construction costs and investment in equipment.
“I spent $1.7 million in the equipment,” Williams said. “I have showed proof of total cost, and they have had it for a years.”
Cooley’s letter also said Williams is trying to get the city to pay 5.5 percent in interest, which was never a part of the original contract signed in 2010. Interest was not included in the original contract but the original contract was also designed to pay Williams one lump sum through a bond payment and Williams said he wants interest because he has had to borrow more money while he waits for the city to pay up.
“(The city) was going to have to pay some interest either on a bond or note,” Williams said. “If the judge rules they have to go with a note or a bond they are going to have to pay interest in some form.”
Williams also said Cooley was wrong when he said the city would have to pay more money to the grocery store than it might bring in with sales tax revenue.
“That is a complete lie,” Williams said. “Even the city manager has told the (council) that is not true.”
In his letter Cooley writes, “I believe (Williams) should honor the original contract dated August 9, 2010 that he signed. He should also furnish the city attorney and city council proof of what he does have invested in the buildings and grounds.”
Not only does Williams say he has supplied the city with all that information and would do so again, he is also ready to accept the original contract if the city is willing to pay him a lump sum of $1.9 million.
The letter signed by Cooley is also a near exact copy of a letter sent by Councilman Jeff Davis who is also running for reelection. Davis said earlier this month he had received information that Williams wanted to sell the Piedmont store and Cooley referenced that in his letter by saying Williams wants to make the tax incentives transferable to another owner. Williams responded to Davis’ claim by saying he has no intention to sell the store and said making the tax incentives transferable to a new owner is something any bank would require.
“Banks have to have that to get the loan,” Williams said. “I have to be able to do that so my bank can sign the contract incase I died. They would have something to go back on to make sure that note was taken care.”
Williams also reiterated that he has no intention to sell the store.
“If I had contacted anyone about selling this store it would be on the street so fast,” Williams said. “I have absolutely zero interest (in selling).”
The grocery store contract has been a common theme during the council election season with Davis and Cooley saying they are skeptical of the deal. However, several of the challengers for the council say they want to put this issue behind the city. Williams said he was frustrated to see council candidates spreading misinformation, especially since he said some council members will not talk to him about it.
“I would still love to sit down with this council and work it out,” Williams said. “I will do what’s right for the city and my business.”