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Saturday, August 22, 2015

HOT NEWS: Copar Quarry closes

Owners file for bankruptcy
By Will Collette

Phil Armetta - Copar's money guy. Photo courtesy

of Stephen Devoto, Middletown (CT) Eye News.

Ammbar Espinoza reported earlier today on Rhode Island Public Radio that the infamous Armetta LLC quarry – more commonly known as the Copar Quarry - on the Charlestown-Bradford line has “voluntarily” closed and the owners have filed for bankruptcy.

Espinoza quotes interim Westerly Town Manager Amy Grzybowski as saying that “earlier this week, the property owners [the politically connected Comolli family] sought to place Armetta in receivership in state court, and a temporary receiver was appointed….“We also recently learned that Armetta filed a chapter 11 petition in U.S. bankruptcy in Connecticut.”

This announcement is not especially surprising.

When I first started reporting on the Copar Quarry, I noted the troubling records of its principals, including federal and state convictions for fraud (click here, also), as well as failed businesses.

In August 2013, I noted that Copar was saddled with crushing debt and appeared to have a business model that did not seem to be designed to make money in the conventional way that businesses make money.

My conclusion that Copar was always something other than a regular business were confirmed when the top players in Copar started to turn on each other and began filing lawsuits and criminal complaints against each other.

As expected, it was the money that has brought Copar/Armetta down, not the unsuccessful civil lawsuits or bumbling attempts by the Westerly and Charlestown town governments. Not even the intervention of underachiever state Rep. Flip Filippi (I/R-from somewhere other than District 36) brought this about.

Not known at this point is the status of Copar/Armetta’s operation of the Morrone sand and gravel pit in Charlestown or its work at the proposed site of Richmond Commons

There are also Copar/Armetta operations in Connecticut that may be affected by this financial collapse. 

The status of payment of the numerous fines Copar/Armetta has accumulated is also unknown.

We also don’t know what will happen at the property – i.e. will another operator take it over? Or whether that property will be reclaimed, an important question since the quarry just recently claimed the life of a neighbor who fell off a high wall.

Finally, we don’t know what lessons, if any, the town governments of Charlestown and Westerly will take from this sorry story about dealing with bad actors, regulating mining and dealing with the kind of corruption the Copar adventure revealed in Westerly.