published Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Injunction stops Coffey from tearing down Rossville mill

by Andy Johns
  • photo
    Les Coffey, owner of the Peerless Mill in Rossville, speaks about how he has recently requested a permit to demolish the 85-year old mill.
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry

The owner of the Peerless Mill in Rossville may have hit a legal roadblock in his plan to level the mill and open a scrap yard.

Les Coffey, who has owned the mill since 2007, said he was ordered to stop tearing down the mill Tuesday when RDC, the company that sold him the mill and still holds the note on the property, was granted an emergency injunction.

An attorney representing RDC said the security note does not allow Coffey to tear down the mill without the company's consent. The attorney said he was not authorized to comment officially but that RDC had not given consent for demolition.

Coffey said he and RDC had a verbal agreement that the land alone was worth more than he owed, so RDC didn't care about the building.

The deed and security note for the property specifically requires Coffey's company, Peerless Self Storage LLC, to "maintain the premises in good condition and repair."

"No part of the premises shall be materially altered without the prior written consent of grantee," the deed states.

Tom Minor IV, of the law firm Minor Bell and Neal in Dalton, Ga., who is not involved in the Peerless case, said such language is common in real estate deals and probably is included in 99 percent of commercial deeds.

"That is pretty standard," said Minor, who has been practicing real estate law since 1983.

He said lenders don't want property destroyed because it would make it tougher for them to recoup losses if the owner defaults.

Coffey said the stop-work order extended until 9 a.m. this morning, when he is scheduled to meet with officials from RDC.

On Monday, Coffey, who bought the Peerless mill in 2007, was granted a permit from the city of Rossville to tear down the 105-year-old structure. He said he plans to sell the bricks, beams and metal from the 27-acre property to salvage companies, bringing in as much as $6.5 million.

When Peerless Self Storage filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, Coffey owed RDC almost $1.1 million, records show.

In the bankruptcy filings, creditors including Tennessee American Water and EPB also listed $18,514 worth of other debts for Peerless.

In a news release Monday, Coffey cited his responsibilities to creditors as the reason for his decision to tear down the mill.

"We must for the benefit of the creditors of Peerless Self Storage and the shareholders change our direction of business," he wrote.

And the demands from those creditors have stacked up -- Coffey and Peerless Self Storage have filed for bankruptcy at least once each since 2005.

In a 2008 personal bankruptcy, Coffey owed nearly $2.3 million to 15 creditors, including a $900,000 claim by the IRS, $600,000 in alimony to his former wife, $515,000 to Washington Mutual Mortgage and $151,000 to RDC for city taxes, documents show.

Coffey is named on a 2005 bankruptcy filing, owing more than $220,000 to Talbot State Bank in Fayetteville, Ga., and Phil Brownrigg of Clarkesville, Ga., among others. The name, address and Social Security number listed in the case match Coffey's, but he denied Tuesday that he had filed for bankruptcy at any time other than 2008.

The Peerless bankruptcy case still is pending, but Coffey's 2008 personal case was dismissed on Sept. 30, 2009, when the judge decided he "does not have the ability to reorganize and that further administration of this case under either chapter 11 or chapter 7 [bankruptcy codes] is not in the interest of creditors."

He was ordered to repay the bills.

Court records indicate the 2005 case was closed in 2006, though Coffey still was repaying thousands of dollars a month at the time he bought the mill.

Staff writer Carey O'Neil contributed to this story.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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raybarker444 said...

Good job Andy and Carey.

February 9, 2011 at 5:08 a.m.
lcoffey1 said...

As Andy has written we will allow this saga to continue. If you notice Mr. Barker was accusing Andy of being a fddle yesterday for me.

After the 9:00 A.M. meeting we will pots furter explanation and comments to the story.

Les Coffey

February 9, 2011 at 5:15 a.m.
lcoffey1 said...

Below is an e-mail I sent the reporter this morning. I think the story will be added to later today and after the 9:00 meeting. As always Mr. Johns makes a genuine effort to report the facts.


With the exception of the 900,000 dollar tax lien or tax bill I do not take issue with what your story says. I would like for you to do further investigation into the tax matter and amend as appropriate in a future story. I think if you will look the 900,000 tax bill was not my bill but rather a tax bill on a property that we bought and another person owed the money. The person's name was Lamar Bearden and the location of the property was 3115 Freeman Ave. In fact Mr. Bearden's name was Doyle Lamar Bearden. I understand he filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lately. There is a lawsuit over the matter and claim against TICOR title in Chancery court as well as U.S. Federal Court. In the Federal case it is N.W. Georgia Bank Vs TICOR title.

Although certain portions are somewhat inaccurate. I think as a whole they are close enough to make the point and not far enough off to modify the story or make a correction in the future.

I think if you were to have investigated further. The 2005 case was an ongoing or extension of a case filed by my ex-wife where she filed chapter 7 bankruptcy and the trustee (Doug Johnson) in her case pursued me. I was forced to pay him 60,000 and pay all my creditors as I did so as ordered and agreed.

It is impossible to know all the back room nuances and when doing a story you can only rely on the public information you see. This is how things get in the media that may not be exactly accurate but not totally untrue either.

Les Coffey

February 9, 2011 at 5:34 a.m.
thatguy said...

has a hazardous material survey been conducted on the building? The EPA requires this to be completed and any hazardous waste removed and disposed of properly before any other work can begin. A building this age would likely be contaminated with such material which handled inproperly would exhaust these waste into the air for all of Rossville and maybe the surrounding area to inhale.

I hope this has be done already, if not maybe Rossville officials will wake up before the poisions are released. If the survey has been conducted properly I thank all involved.

February 9, 2011 at 6:18 a.m.
raybarker444 said...

He can not develop anything with that debt and no credit. Finally the truth about his finances are in the open. What a small small man.

February 9, 2011 at 6:47 a.m.
dendod said...

Surely those buildings are full of asbestos. HELLO!!!!

February 9, 2011 at 9 a.m.
mkelley said...

Les you seem to have a lot of verbal agreement with folks. Maybe that would keep you outta trouble.

February 9, 2011 at 12:02 p.m.
littleoleme said...

I love how the attorney representing RDC states that he is not authorized to comment, then turns right around and... wait for it.... comments. Lawyers. Gotta love 'em.

I have personally witnessed many people-through various forums, social networks, and media comment sections like this one-publicly bash Mr. Coffey and the Peerless site, calling it an eyesore and suggesting he give up efforts to continue renovations and raze the property. Now that he intends to do just that, there are some that appear to have had a change of heart citing pollution concerns or assigning sentimental value to the property when really they couldn't care less about the Peerless site, but instead are scared to death of the possibility of a transfer station or landfill ending up in the middle of their town. You can't have it both ways, people.

Whether you like or dislike Coffey is not the issue. Neither is it how many times Coffey has filed bankruptcy. The issue is this--Either insist your city's leadership conduct themselves in a way that is conducive to promoting a positive business environment and growth or accept the fact that somewhere in your near future you'll be getting a nice landfill to mingle amongst the pawn shops, numerous vacant buildings, and Roy's Diner. While it has been claimed that many businessmen got disgusted with the small town politics and bailed on Rossville, one thing is increasingly apparent to me. Coffey is a stubborn old goat. He doesn't care whether you like him or not. He is determined to earn a profit on his investment in the Peerless site. Landfill or not? Your choice.

February 9, 2011 at 1:40 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

In order for a salvage operation to work well, one of the highest costs is with the skilled labor required to do the sorting and systematic dismantling. Even if the materials have a high value, and the workers were paid but minimum wage, this would still require hundreds of man hours in trash sorting.

For example, the copper may be worth a great deal, but smashing a building with heavy equipment will not efficiently reclaim the cooper wire and pipe.

Let's hope there's no 40 year old standing sewage in some of that pipe.

Knocking a wall down may make a pile of bricks, but unsound bricks with hundreds of pounds of concrete and mortar attached may be of less use, and of less value.

Quartersawn hardwood flooring may fetch a great price in boutique materials markets, but where are those markets? What kind of rejection rate will those board feet face? What's the cost of planing or joining those boards?

Let's hope there's no hard varnish to be cut off.

Every broken nail embedded in that lumber is pretty much a board foot lost at market. Wood reclamation can make great furniture, but it also has a high failure rate.

So on with the entire list of materials projected to be reclaimed. It's not impossible to salvage a building like this factory for good, and for profit, but we're seeing only hypothetical projections of gross revenue. It looks like a guess price for the value of what's inside the building.

Is there an effective-looking, realistic cost analysis for this plan?

While I'm not so sure we should concern ourselves with the idea that someone is now to be paid half a million dollars for not being married to this man, those other outstanding bills can also be seen as great motivators for success. Many a business looks at debt that way.

Yet, what we need to see is more planning, forethought and coordination. Something stinks about a project that involves a cascade of lawsuits when the people seem to want to do well: yet, we're not seeing the groundwork for a massive --and organized-- demolition, are we?

It sounds like a nice idea; but, if it gains millions, maybe it needs that kind of leading for everyone involved. Judging by the injunctions, it seems like some people who stand to lose something are taking swift action to stop everything.

Time for some homework on how to salvage a building for fun and profit. We'll see how it works out.

Please do not copy us in on your private correspondence along the way. That type of thing, carried out in the comments here, does not look like what we expect from a large, professionally led project. Let us hope that was not authentic. We'll count it as a hiccup.

Piece of advice: anything not in a place where it would naturally occur, in the quantities and the qualities that it would naturally occur, could be potentially counted by a federal regulator as pollution.

"If God didn't put it there, pick it up."

February 9, 2011 at 9:25 p.m.
lcoffey1 said...

This is the last I am saying about this article. The buildings have 6.5 bricks per square foot of wall space. Of that only 3 brick will be usable.

The amount of wood in the site is enourmous. The amount that will end up being usable as salavge will be less than 20% of the total wood there.

The copper is just that and we know just how to process it.

The steel is just that and will be shipped to Nucor in Decatur, AL

I met with the EPD and EPA today. We do not see any issues there. We will need to meet certain safety and enviromental guidlines.

Dust is not a problem as we have plenty of water and can do dust control.

An RFP went out yesterday for the sale of the items. We will have hard numbers by the 15th.

What many of you don;t know is I worked at the WTC, the Antrax case and almost every huricane for 15 years. We have extensive experience in dealing with debris.

So everyone enjoy second guessing me while I make my children rich and the community gets just what they asked for.

February 9, 2011 at 11:03 p.m.
alprova said...

lcoffey1 wrote: "What many of you don;t know is I worked at the WTC, the Antrax case and almost every huricane for 15 years. We have extensive experience in dealing with debris."

Sure you did.

February 9, 2011 at 11:29 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

Coffey is reported carrying millions of dollars in unpayable debt, and he plans to tear down a 27 acre facility. He is operating under an LLC. This thing is a hair's breadth away from becoming a superfund site through operational error. The reported conditions don't inspire confidence. This looks like a recipe for a disaster that may end up in the laps of taxpayers.

February 9, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.
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