The Watertown Industrial Center Local Development Corp. agreed Tuesday to take legal action to collect $137,923 in overdue rent and utility charges owed by Junction Boyz Inc., an auto body and stereo business that has leased space for a number of years in the facility.
The WIC board met with Junction Boyz owner Edward A. Sampson before deciding to pursue legal action for nonpayments of rent for the 34,200 square feet of space it has in the small-business incubator at 800 Starbuck Ave. The company owes an additional $15,000 for its share of a capital project at the center.
As a part of the legal action, the board intends to terminate the lease with the company.
Board members said they hated to lose a tenant, but they had to be fiscally responsible as an organization that deals with public funding.
We cant continue to go down this road and dig deeper to be in debt, board President Donald W. Rutherford said.
Board member Donald C. Alexander, who also is CEO of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, said Mr. Sampson should have known legal action was pending after the owner failed to meet an amended payment agreement that began in January 2011.
The company made a few $2,500 payments in 2012, but it did not keep up with the full months rent of $8,882, said Lyle V. Eaton, chief financial officer of JCIDA.
The company installs car audio equipment and car starters and does custom body work, collision repairs and paint jobs.
The lawsuit also would deal with the companys violating its lease agreement because it runs a kennel in some of its space at the center. Board members were surprised to hear Mr. Sampson bred Presa Canarios, a large, expensive breed of Spanish show dogs, there.
In the meeting with the board, Mr. Sampson said he was surprised that he was facing legal action, adding he did not realize it was a last straw. He left the meeting before the vote.
Like many other north country companies, Junction Boyz experienced a couple of tough years when the national economy took a downturn, he told the board. Mr. Sampson said he expected Junction Boyz to bounce back with my biggest year in 2012 with so many Fort Drum soldiers home last year.
When 2011 ended, it went off the cliff, he said.
Fort Drum families on which the business previously relied, for example, stopped bringing their cars in to be repaired. He blamed more people buying new cars with their insurance checks, rather than repairing their damaged vehicles.
Mr. Sampson blamed some of his problems on soldiers failing to pay for repairs, noting that he had a 47 percent delinquent rate during the past six months. During the last 90 days alone, soldiers have accounted for $148,000 in nonpayments, he said, adding he used financing as a marketing device to attract customers.
Mr. Sampson, who also owns the Junction furniture store in Seaway Plaza, told the board he was forced to cut staff from 36 employees to 14 after spending thousands to expand and upgrade equipment for the auto repair business.
It was tough to tell them they could no longer pay their mortgage, he said.