JDA wins a victory in legal battle with Higdon

The Grady County Joint Development Authority (JDA) has won round one in its legal battle with Joseph W. Higdon of Higdon Furniture Company over the senior Higdon’s personal guaranty of a lease for the manufacturing facility on Wight Road constructed  by the JDA for use by the Quincy-based firm.
Chief Judge of Superior Courts A. Wallace Cato issued an order that was filed with Clerk of Courts Debbie Kines’ office last Wednesday in favor of the JDA’s motion for summary judgment.
The JDA is seeking $145,078.55, the total amount of lease payments and payment in lieu of taxes due to the authority when the motion for summary judgment was filed last summer.
According to the authority’s attorney, Thomas L. Lehman, the judgment issued by Judge Cato is for payment due from 2008. Since then, the debt owed to the JDA has continued to accumulate.
Lehman says the original value of the lease guaranteed by Higdon was $1,725,982.72 and the monthly payments are based on prime. “The monthly payments are probably the lowest they will ever be and the current monthly payment is calculated at $9,789.70 per month,” Lehman said.
Judge Cato also awarded the JDA court costs and attorney’s fees in the amount of $21,761.78.
However, it will now be up to the JDA to collect on the judgment against Higdon, who is a Florida resident.
Lehman says it is a possibility that Higdon could appeal the ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals, or he may seek to settle with the JDA.
“They have 30 days from March 30 to file an appeal. In the meantime I will be looking at ways to collect on the judgment,” Lehman said.
The JDA attorney will also be meeting with the members of the authority to discuss the next step in enforcing the lease. Lehman says as of January of this year, the total due from Higdon was $344,118.99. Lehman notes that any payment received from subleases of the Wight Road facility have been deducted from the payments due from Higdon.
The 112,000 square foot facility on Wight Road was built by the JDA for use by Higdon Furniture Company. The company began production here in January 2005 and, at one time, employed 65 employees at the local plant. Then, in October 2007, the company filed for bankruptcy.
Although the company filed for bankruptcy and has since emerged from bankruptcy, the 20-year lease on the Wight Road plant was personally guaranteed by the senior Higdon.
“I will be meeting soon with the authority to see what direction they wish to take now,” Lehman said Tuesday.

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