Red Willow County will try again -- this time in the newspaper -- to notify the owner of a now-defunct helicopter kit company that the county plans to sue him for the $300,000+ he owes in back loan payments and interest.
County Attorney Paul Wood told commissioners at their weekly meeting Monday morning that a notice of intent to sue that he mailed to Ron Willocks in Longmont, Colo., came back "undeliverable."
Wood said his next option is to advertise the notice of lawsuit in the legals of the newspaper, the Gazette. The proof of publication will then serve as service of process, he said.
"I hate to do it that way," Wood said, because of the cost added to the process of recovering the money that Willocks borrowed for his helicopter kit company in 2004. Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said, however, "We have to do what's necessary on our end. He's got to be served. We'll do what we have to do."
Fellow commissioner Leigh Hoyt added, "It's been three or four months since we started this process. It needs to get done."
Wood agreed, "We need to bring this to a close."
In December 2004, Pawnee Aviation borrowed $200,000 from the county's revolving loan fund and received a $100,000 grant tied to the creation of full-time jobs. Until the county received a payment of $3,524.45 in August, 2008, Willocks had paid a total of $4,416.40 in payments since receiving the loan and grant 41⁄2 years ago. The grant must also be paid back because jobs were not created and maintained.
During talks last year to modify the loan payment agreement, Willocks told commissioners through his attorney that he was trying to work with an investor in Mexico who would take over repayment of the county loan in exchange for certain manufacturing rights in Mexico.
Willocks has closed the plant and moved to Colorado.
Rex Nelson, director of the McCook Economic Development Corp., which oversees the county's revolving loan fund program, told commissioners that banks involved in loans to Willocks and Pawnee Aviation have taken collateral to which they have claims. And what equipment is left in the plant in McCook is the county's collateral, although, he said, one individual claims that some of that equipment belongs to him and that it was leased to Willocks.
The county started the process to sue Willocks for non-repayment of the loan in October of 2008, going through what Wood called "the natural process" of serving Willocks with papers. "For whatever reason, he's not getting service of process," Wood said, nor is he admitting that he's refused service.
Wood said there are many questions: "Why would he say he hasn't been served? Why did he say the Mexicans wanted it? I don't know."
Wood said there is no notice that Willocks has filed for bankruptcy.