Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Hood River City Council was back in session Monday night to once again discuss a controversial deferment deal given to Ryan’s Juice by former Hood River City Manager Bob Francis, who started working as the juice company’s chief operations officer in July.
Staff, council, and Michael FitzSimons, attorney for Ryan’s Juice President David Ryan, deliberated over a new written agreement drafted to outline the terms of the debt repayment.
Council deliberated on a different written agreement two weeks ago that was intended to secure a $419,000 debt owed by Ryan’s Juice for back sewer charges. The debt is now down to $250,000, according to Interim City Manager Don Otterman, after Ryan recently came into city offices and paid $169,000 of the debt with his credit card.
According to testimony given during the last city council meeting Oct. 15, Francis offered Ryan deferment on the debt until his new facility at Riverside Drive was up and running. In 2012, Ryan began paying $10,000 a month, interest-free, per the terms of a supposed verbal agreement between Francis and Ryan, until the debt was paid off.
Council, however, concurred with Otterman and Mayor Arthur Babitz’ opinion that terms of the debt should be secured, with interest, and memorialized in a signed agreement.
However, Francis and Ryan took umbrage with the agreement. Francis said he had deferred other payments in the past without interest and accused council of treating Ryan’s Juice differently than other overdue sewer customers.
A new agreement was put before the council as well as Ryan’s attorney, which provided more favorable terms for Ryan. The proposed interest rate was dropped from 6.75 percent to 3.2 percent, which would not kick in until April 30, 2014.
FitzSimons, however, did not approve.
“I’ll tell you from my review, I have a hard time telling my client to go ahead and sign off on this loan,” he told the council.
“We already had an agreement to pay $10,000 a month, which my client has done, and continues to do,” FitzSimons added.
He argued that Ryan had kept up his end of the agreement and added there were minutes from a meeting that say Ryan was actually offered a credit on a portion of the debt, but City Attorney Dan Kearns dismissed the content of those minutes as “incredibly vague.” FitzSimons added that other sewer customers, as Francis had argued in the previous council meeting, were not subjected to these kinds of arrangements and accused the city of treating Ryan unfairly.
Babitz asked City Finance Director Lynn Rasmussen for clarification on sewer deferments. Rasmussen said she was not aware of any customer that had a deferment fro a debt this size.
FitzSimons argued that the size of the debt should not affect the methodology for dealing with a delinquent sewer customer.
Council continued to deliberate and removed a stipulation of the agreement that denied Ryan’s Juice from using a credit card to pay off the debt. That item had been added due to a substantial transaction fee that was charged to the city after Ryan recently paid off $169,000 of the debt with his credit card. FitzSimons argued this was unfair as other utility customers could pay their debts with a credit card. The provision was removed, but council decided to restore the 6.75-percent interest rate after learning of an ordinance that Kearns interpreted as giving the city the latitude to do so in this instance.
Council authorized Kearns to confer with FitzSimons and continue working on the agreement. Kearns noted that he was “not going to file a lawsuit before the next (council) meeting. I’m not going to shut off their water before the next (council) meeting.”
Councilor Ed Weathers hoped the issue would be resolved to both parties’ satisfaction as quickly as possible.
“We’re all stuck in a really bad position,” he said of the deferment, “that I sure would like to see go away.”
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge