Couch: IEI Plastics owners have unpaid fire fee tickets

PARKERSBURG — The owners of companies involved in the 2017 IEI Plastics fire are among the 4,028 fire fee tickets that have not been paid in Wood County this year, the county commission said Thursday.

Surnaik Holdings of West Virginia and Evergreen Holdings, owned by the Naik family, were at the top of a list of local businesses, organizations and residents who have not paid the fire fee for 2019. The two companies owe $18,471.51 and $19,023.95 respectively, the commission said.

Commission President Blair Couch, who is on the County Fire Board, said as of Aug. 12 the county has collected $964,726.20 of $1,146,546.80 that was billed. Collections are behind of where they were this time last year, he said.

”The (fire board) requested the commission send them a certified letter, requesting payment,” Couch said. ”We will be reaching out to them making sure they are aware of their deficiency.”

The Naiks were the owners of IEI Plastics on Camden Avenue that caught fire Oct. 21, 2017, at the former Ames shovel plant site. The facility was being used for storage of various materials.

The fire continued to burn and smolder more than a week before being extinguished. For much of that time, a plume of smoke was blown as far as northern Ohio by the prevailing wind.

The Naik family has been dealing with lawsuits as a result of the fire. At the 2018 West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition the Naiks hosted a gathering for local first responders as a way to thank them for their efforts.

”It is upsetting that they are the big offenders after they saw, up close and in person, what the volunteers are able to do,” Couch said.

Naik properties representative Sunny Naik could not be reached for comment. Their attorney, Michael B. Hissam, also did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Some new businesses and existing businesses may not have the bills reaching the right person for payments, Couch said. If a fire would occur at a property that had not paid the fire fee, the owners could be billed for having it extinguished.

As of Aug. 12, 2016, the county had collected 95 percent of the fire fees. As of Aug. 12, 2018, the county had collected 90.70 percent of the fire fees. As of Aug. 12, 2019, the county has collected 84 percent of the fire fees.

”The collections have been going down over the past few years,” Couch said. ”Our collections are behind.”

The county is still looking to collect $181,820 for this year.