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NIAGARA FALLS – TAM Ceramics is trying to persuade the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency not to take away the property tax break it received in 2010.

IDA attorney Mark J. Gabriele sent TAM a letter Jan. 25, starting a 30-day clock for TAM to pay more than $627,000 it owes Niagara County, or face the consequences March 13, at the IDA board’s first meeting after the time limit expires.

Gabriele said Friday, “TAM has asked for consideration … They requested additional time to work out the back payments.”

About two-thirds of TAM’s debt consists of unpaid Town of Niagara sewer charges from 2009 through 2011. The remainder covers taxes levied on TAM by the county Water District and the Fire, Water and Sewer districts.

Those were added to TAM’s tax bills in the ensuing years. By state law, the county must pay any town the amounts of unpaid special district charges and then try to collect them itself.

Gabriele said, “Upon the end of the 30 days, if it’s paid, there are no issues. If not, it goes to the [IDA] board for consideration.”

The terms of the 15-year tax break for TAM called on the company to pay all back taxes and water and sewer bills by Oct. 1, 2011. It did not do so.

TAM President George H. Bilkey and the company’s attorney, Robert L. Bencini, could not be reached Friday.

Assistant County Attorney R. Joseph Foltz said the county would not be commenting on the situation because of the potential for litigation.

The county and the Niagara Falls Water Board are debating whether some of the money the county paid to the Town of Niagara to make up for TAM’s unpaid bills should be refunded by the town. It appears some of the money was really owed by TAM to the Niagara Falls Water Board, with which the company had a private service agreement.

John J. Ottaviano, the Water Board’s regular attorney, is representing the town in its dispute with the county, and he said the amount at issue may be $200,000.

TAM’s failure to pay its bills does not mean the company is unprofitable, if figures in a State Supreme Court lawsuit from 2011 are accurate.

The company has been suing the town to try to have its assessment reduced.

In the past two years, the suit demanded that the valuation, now $1.5 million, should be reduced to $1. That case remains unsettled.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com