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Ayrshire Coal Co. v. Property Tax Appeal Bd.

APRIL 17, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Fulton County; the Hon. KEITH F. SCOTT, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied May 27, 1974.

This action was brought under the Administrative Review Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 110, sec. 264 et seq.) to review a decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board, an administrative agency of the Department of Local Government Affairs of the State of Illinois which approved the assessment classification of certain heavy machinery and equipment in the preparation plant located at the Sunspot Mine in Fulton County and owned by Ayrshire Coal Company. The Circuit Court of Fulton County reversed the decision of the Property Tax Appeal Board. It is from that judgment that this appeal is taken.

The Board of Review of Fulton County assessed the heavy machinery and equipment of the preparation plant as real property for the 1970 assessment. The Sunspot Mine, of which this preparation plant is a part, has been in existence since the early 1960's. The heavy machinery and equipment from 1964 to 1969 had been assessed as personal property. Ayrshire appealed the 1970 assessment by the Board of Review to the Property Tax Appeal Board which upheld the assessment. Ayrshire then petitioned for administrative review.

The preparation facilities involved served two general purposes, they size the coal to meet customer specifications and they perform a cleaning operation. Raw coal is received from the mine via trucks and is dropped into a 250-ton hopper, from there it travels by conveyor belt to a rotary breaking unit, which reduces the size of the coal to 6 inches. It then travels to washing areas and there is screened into 3 sizes. The 2 larger sizes are distributed then via a drag conveyor to two identical but separate cleaning units which are simply big tanks in which a high specific gravity liquid (water and magnetite) allows coal to float while impurities such as slate, rock, etc., sink to the bottom. A conveyor skims off the surface. The finest-size coal is processed to a settling pond and from it pumped back to the top level of washing equipment where it passes through two cyclone cleaning units. Both the clean coal and rejects from all three factors travel over a series of rinsing screens in order to recover the magnetite which is expensive and also undesirable in the clean coal product. The magnetite material circulates to a unit where the magnetite settles out, clean water overflows and is recycled through rinsing. The magnetite is pumped to storage and reused.

The largest-size coal goes through a two-stage crusher. The intermediate size goes to another screening section or to a heat-drying unit. The smallest size goes to a centrifugal-drying unit where moisture is reduced and then to storage or heat drying. From storage all coal goes to a loading section by conveyor belt where it can be loaded on one or two railroad tracks for shipment. Then there is an oil-treating system for dust control as the freight cars are loaded.

The system described by the witness includes the 250-ton hopper (conceded to be part of the real estate) and 9 conveyors, the drag conveyors, 1 rotary breaking unit, 6 double-decked inclined fibrating screens, 10 centrifugal pumps, 2 dense-media baths, 2 cyclone-heating units, 1 heat-drying unit, 1 centrifugal drying unit, 3 roll crushers, 1 ring mill crusher, 1 hammermill crusher, 1 thickener unit, 5 collecting sumps, 3 storage bins, 3 automatic belt scale units, a 200-horsepower squirrel-cage exhaust fan added to the drying unit, pump for fire protection, and 1 oil-treating system. All of the equipment is attached, either by nuts and bolts or welded, to supporting piers or foundations which, in turn, are firmly attached to the realty to prevent vibration and movement. Other than some conveyors the equipment is sheeted from the weather (enclosed in). Land on which the structures set is, and at all times was, owned in fee by Aryshire. Photographs also show a shop, warehouse, garage and office complex which are conceded to be real estate. The concrete foundations to which equipment is bolted or otherwise attached are conceded to be real estate. The height of the main washing area plant is 65 feet, the height of the storage bins is 100 feet.

It is expected that the mine itself will run out of coal in 4 or 5 more years and the plant will then be moved to a new location. The plant can be moved but could take up to several years to do so. It would have to be dismantled to do so as it was not designed to be moved.

Exhibit 3 shows a 6-story building with windows at each level. This structure is claimed to be personal property.

Associated with the machinery is the necessary structural steel. The complex appears to cover hundreds of feet and overlaps two townships but the two separate assessments are consolidated in this case. The total assessed value of the items in question is $484,950.

At the time the complex was first erected some of the machinery came from other Aryshire locations but some was specially designed and built by McNally-Pittsburgh Company who then erected the complex under a conditional sales agreement which provided that no item furnished should be considered a fixture and that any part may be separated from such real estate for the purpose of repossession. (Emphasis supplied.)

By 1970, McNally-Pittsburgh had been paid in full and the agreement was no longer in force.

At the hearing before the Property Tax Appeal Board, Aryshire contended that the machinery, equipment and structural steel in the preparation ...

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