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WELCH'S TO BE PAID $750,000 IN TAX SETTLEMENT

Welch's Inc. will be paid back more than $750,000 as part of a settlement reached in a long-standing dispute about the value of one of its grape-processing plants.

Welch's, based in Concord, Mass., and the Town of Westfield had been at odds about the assessed value of its plant and office for 16 years, with Welch's contending that it was being overtaxed.

Under the settlement, the town, the village, the school district and Chautauqua County each will pay Welch's back some of the taxes and interest collected between 1981 and 1997.

Westfield officials agreed in June to adjust Welch's property taxes.

The village, whose share of the settlement is about $220,000, and the Westfield Central School District, which is expected to pay $436,000, will have to borrow money to make the payments, officials said.

The town's share of $100,000 will come from existing funds. The county's share has not yet been determined, the newspaper said.

Westfield Town Supervisor Harry Ward said the town agreed to settle because the litigation costs were approaching the settlement amount.

"It went on so long, it got ridiculous," he said. "That's why we made a decision to settle it."

Welch's spokesman Jim Callahan called the settlement "equitable."

State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Gerace set wheels in motions for the settlement in a 1994 decision, when he reduced the company's assessment. The property at issue includes a juice-processing plant, a print shop, a crate shed, an office building and vacant land.

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