Payback extension considered for Crescent Bar water

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Grant PUD/courtesy photo Lessees at Crescent Bar are asking for an extended payback provision for their part of new water and wastewater treatment facilities after the cost of the project came in above estimates.

EPHRATA — A proposal to increase the payback period for Crescent Bar homeowner associations for new water and wastewater treatment facilities will be considered at the Sept. 25 meeting of the Grant County PUD commission. The payback period would be increased from 10 years to 25 years, in light of much higher costs for the project than anticipated.

The new infrastructure was part of an agreement between the PUD and leaseholders at two residential areas on PUD-owned property. The agreement followed a lengthy legal battle over the status of the residences and the leaseholders. Part of the agreement was that the homeowners association and their members would pay the majority of the cost of upgrades to the water and sewer systems.

Originally the homeowner association portion was projected to be about $2 million. But the overall project cost was $13.7 million, and the lessees will have to pay about $7.9 million. “We understand our obligation,” said Gary Wirta, president of the North Park HOA. However, “the 10-year program would be very much a hardship on our residents.” About 10 percent of HOA members are year-round residents; the rest are seasonal, and a 10-year payback would be very difficult, especially for the seasonal residents, Wirta said.

The leaseholders would start paying the money back in January 2019; interest on the payments would be calculated based on the prime rate throughout the payback period, with a quarter-percent adjustment every five years. Commissioner Dale Walker expressed skepticism about that provision, but general manager Kevin Nordt said the assessment would be adjusted every five years as the prime rate changes.

Commissioner Bob Bernd said he remembered some contentious times, and was pleased that “we have reached this point, where we can work together to resolve our differences.”

“It’s certainly a lot better than it was 20 years ago,” said commissioner Tom Flint. The proposal would be beneficial for the leaseholders and for PUD customers in the end, Flint said. Walker said he was concerned that changing the deal could cause problems as economic conditions changed.

Commissioner Larry Schaapman said he supported the proposal, in light of the increased costs. Assumptions were made in the original deal that turned out to be incorrect, Schaapman said, and he supported making changes to reflect that. “In my estimation, this is the right thing to do.”

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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