Published 12:00 am Friday, August 20, 2010

Rolando owner back in Maryland selling water

By Billy Davis

Roland Butler, CEO of still-not-open Rolando Curtis Foods, has reemerged in his home state of Maryland, where he is apparently overseeing a water bottling company.

The month of August, meanwhile, marks the fourth year since Butler obtained title from Panola County to an empty Crenshaw plant that was expected to produce bottled water and other food products.

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But no product has ever been made or shipped, and the reasons why have varied: snow storms, equipment delays, a delayed inspection of water wells, a lack of capable workers and, more recently, the weak economic times. 

In Maryland, however, Curtis Bottling Co., Inc. is manufacturing “Blue Delta Water,” which claims to be alkaline-based bottled water, according to the Web site,

Blue Delta Water sells on-line for $29 for two-dozen 20-ounce bottles.

Maryland state officials have confirmed Curtis Bottling has a bottling license from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Curtis Bottling was incorporated in Maryland in September 2008, according to state documents.  

Butler’s water bottling plant is operating in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The county is known as one of the wealthiest in the nation and it is more famously known as the wealthiest county that is majority African American.

The median household income is $71,696, where 38 percent of families earn more than $100,000 annually.

In 2006, Butler came to poverty-stricken Crenshaw, promising more than 300 jobs to a community of 1,000, where 29 percent of families live below the poverty level. Median family income is $20,781.

Rolando Curtis Foods, if it opened, would also be Crenshaw’s only industrial employer.

Prince George’s County is also home to Rolando Curtis Foods, the food company Butler claimed in 2006 that he was uprooting from Maryland and bringing to Mississippi.

The Panolian described, in a 2009 story, how Butler arrived in Panola County at the same time a U.S. District Court in Maryland was considering a complaint from a New York bank, Sterling National.

Sterling National claimed Rolando had failed to pay back a $103,000 loan, and the court had tried unsuccessfully to locate Butler’s wife, Louise Butler, who was listed as registered agent for the company.

When Rolando Curtis Foods did not respond to the complaint, Judge Deborah K. Chasanow entered a default judgment against Rolando on July 31, 2006.

The next month, the Panola County Board of Supervisors gave Butler the Crenshaw plant, swapping the building and 10 acres for his promise of coming jobs. 

And Mr. Butler is not finished with Panola County yet.

Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons confirmed this week that Roland Butler requested and got a meeting with Simmons on August 6 at the Partnership office in Batesville.

“He asked for $600,000 and said he needed the money for the Crenshaw plant,” Simmons said. “We didn’t offer him any assistance.”

Panola County supervisors Gary Thompson and James Birge also attended the meeting with Butler.

Thompson said Butler bragged about the bottling operation in Maryland, explaining to the Panola County officials that he needs the Crenshaw plant operational to keep up with demand for Blue Delta Water.

“Mr. Butler might find some funding somewhere, but the county is not going to be involved in it. That’s what we told him,” Thompson said. 

Butler has already acquired more than a million dollars for the Crenshaw plant. The Panolian has reported that he borrowed $1.4 million from a Colorado financier in 2007, using the Crenshaw plant as collateral, according to county documents.

Butler was set to pay back the $1.4 million within six months, by November 30, 2007, but no release is on file that would show he has a clear title. Dill Ski Aspen, LLC is the lien holder.
Butler also owes 2008 and 2009 taxes on the property. The taxes total $41,613 for both years.