Berkeley County has started the process to collect a $620,000 debt owed by now-defunct firetruck maker American LaFrance.

"We have actually seized the property from American LaFrance," said county Supervisor Dan Davis. "We have the buildings on watch by the sheriff's department to make sure they don't move property. ... We've done everything that the law allows us to do until this point to collect the taxes."

The seizure notice was sent Jan. 13, four days before American LaFrance closed its doors, owing the county $620,599.81 accrued since 2009 on a fee in lieu of taxes agreement. American LaFrance also owes $5,879.09 in delinquent taxes, according to Berkeley County Attorney Nicole Ewing.

"What complicates this is that where American LaFrance is now, is not where the fee in lieu was," Ewing said.

From 2007 until August, American LaFrance was housed at Jedburg Commerce Park, owned by RT Jedburg Commerce Park. RT Jedburg and American LaFrance had the fee agreement together.

In August, the company moved to a smaller location on Spring Grove Drive in Moncks Corner.

"(RT Jedburg) signed the fee agreement and they own the building and the land," Davis said. "They're actually more solvent than American LaFrance because they've got real estate."

The county has met with RT Jedburg about the situation. RT Jedburg lawyer Burnet Maybank was not available Friday for comment.

"We don't know all the procedures that we have to go through because this is the first time that we've ever done it, and we have not been able to find another county that's ever gone through one of these," Davis said. "What we think is right now that we have everything in place."

Although the fee is not a tax, Ewing said, the law allows the county to pursue payment as it would for delinquent taxes.

"We are trying to pursue whatever legal remedies we can," she said.

If American LaFrance doesn't make good on its debt by Feb. 13, the county can seize the property, Ewing said. If it gets that far, the personal property can be sold on March 3, she said.

"If we seize the property and we can sell it and we can get enough money for the taxes out of the sale, that's wonderful," she said. "But if for whatever reason it's not, we're exploring all of our options."

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.