A tax abatement agreement, demolishing vacant buildings and the financial impact of the closing of the Roche campus closing in Nutley were some of the topics discussed at meeting between a key Roche executive and two township leaders.
Though an executive from the company and township leaders met - they appeared to have a long way to go before agreeing on what would happen to Nutley once the Roche campus closes a year from now.
Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco and Commissioner Thomas Evans, director of Nutley’s Dept. of Revenue and Finance, confirmed Monday they met with Tom Lyon of Roche last week.
Lyon is vice president and site head of the Roche campus in Nutley and Clifton. The mayor said Monday the company will work closely with Nutley, "to best repurpose the land and to provide aid to the employees who will be affected by the closing."
Nutley has been reeling since the pharmaceutical giant announced the closure of its 120-acre campus and the layoff of 1,000 employees, including 72 local residents. The company provided between $8 and $9 million in local taxes to Nutley.
Evans said in an interview Monday night, "This was a very early, initial conversation to better explore and understand the situation. We have got to discuss a range of topics." He said another meeting is tentatively scheduled "later in July."
During last week's meeting, Petracco said he asked Lyon if Roche would revisit the terms of the tax abatement that was given to Roche several years ago to help offset costs they were incurring for new construction.
The abatement, which was being phased in over several years, gave Roche a tax break to encourage the company’s expansion and to give them the ability to sustain their presence in Nutley, Petracco said in a statement.
Lyon said that it had been Roche’s intent to concentrate the Research and Development facet of the company in the Nutley campus but with the changes occurring in the pharmaceutical industry and the recent failure of a costly clinical trial, Roche was forced to consolidate its properties
Lyon said Roche’s short-term goals were to wind down the operations in Nutley and phase out business operations by the end of 2013, Petracco said in his statement.
Evans said a point of contention that remained was whether any of the buildings should be demolished once the capus is closed. Petracco confirmed the topic was discussed.
"The meeting was a first meeting, and we discussed a range of topics, and there was nothing definitive suggested," Evans said. "There was no discussion of a delay in demolition of buildings and there was no discussion of what would happen to the tax abatement. There was a question raised about the status of the abatement, but to link it to the demolition of buildings is a little strong."
Evans said Roche officials have a lot of work to do before they are completely done in Nutley in 2014, including shutting down operations, and preparing a clean-up plan for the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency.
"It could take a year to finish everything, and the abatement is one of multiple topics we will discuss over the next several months," Evans said.
Petracco said in his statement that he asked Roche to continue meeting with Nutley officials so that they can be kept informed of all aspects of the plant’s closing and the ramifications it will have on the township and its residents.