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Wilson store owner denied tax forgiveness

WILSON -- A request for county tax forgiveness on a feed store has been withdrawn.

"This request will not resurface in any form," Niagara County Legislator Kyle R. Andrews said last week.

Keith J. Kempainen accompanied Andrews, D-Wilson, to an Oct. 9 meeting of the Legislature's Administration Committee to ask lawmakers to forgive interest and penalties owed on unpaid taxes for Wilson Garden, Farm & Pet, 240 Young St.

He was advised by the county treasurer's office to contact his legislator and see if he could line up a forgiveness resolution. The county would have forgone $2,625 in interest and penalties on a delinquent tax bill of $5,544.

"I was in over my head . . .," Kempainen said. "I was busting my butt to make this thing work. I was trying with every penny I had."

Andrews said he pulled the plug on the idea.

"It was an overall lack of support expressed by my constituents in Wilson and my colleagues in the Legislature," he said. "It's probably not a practice we ever should have started."

The Legislature set a precedent in 2005, when it forgave $39,320 in interest and penalties on Summit Park Mall in Wheatfield.

Later that year, the Legislature passed Andrews' resolution to write off $21,467 in interest and penalties on a property on Ridge Road in Cambria that is now Honeymoon Trail Winery.

Kempainen told the committee that he bought the store for $1 at a foreclosure auction he stumbled upon while visiting the County Courthouse on other business in July 2005. It turns out that's not really what happened.
Kempainen said last week that his girlfriend, Jill Rohring, had bought the store in 2001, and he now holds title to it.

"I got so excited [at the committee meeting] I confused a couple of stories," he said.

He said he doesn't quarrel with Andrews' decision to withdraw the proposal, which the Administration Committee had put on hold.

"With all the flak, it wasn't worth the aggravation," he said.

Kempainen said he recently made a substantial payment on the arrears and was given until the end of 2008 to pay it all off without risking foreclosure.

Tammy Upton, chief tax clerk in the treasurer's office, said $3,923 is still owed on the property, including school and town taxes dating back two years.

Kempainen said he is still constructing an addition to the store.


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