Monday, May 19, 2008

I screwed up my first post about the debate on how to pay for a new septic system at Granby Heights in Granby, Massachusetts. The 35-year-old septic system, which is already obviously incontinent, especially on hot days, could ``fail'' this year. A new one should be installed before the ground freezes, according to the engineering firm consulting with the Granby Heights Association.
Cost of the project has been estimated roughly at $1.2 million. There are 76 condos at Granby Heights.
Condo owners must vote whether to allow the condominium association to borrow money to replace the system. I used incorrect, second-hand information to say that if the association is not allowed to borrow, each of the condos would have to cough up a $16,000 ``assessment'' to cover the cost. I said wrongly that if the condo owners instead decide to let the association borrow, each condo would face a $100 monthly fee for the next 20 years.
In a May 13 memo, announcing a question-and-answer meeting at 7 p.m. May 21 at the West Street School, the association's Board of Directors does not specify assessment or fee levels. Assessments would be calculated ``proportionate to each owner's share in the Association,'' with a lump-sum payment up front.
The memo doesn't exactly specify who would make the calculations of proportionate financial responsibility -- board members, the association's property manager or banker?
It appears that the association's Board of Directors prefers assessments. Getting acceptable financing could be a difficult, if not insurmountable, ``burden'' -- it could be hard to get a bank to provide a financing package that the condo owners would accept.
The directors said that if residents vote to allow borrowing, it doesn't mean that the board will immediately turn around and shop for a loan. It would just allow the board to do so. ``Too many unknowns'' have to be clarified and too much research is left before the board can feel confident presenting condo owners with a financing package, the memo said.
A March 3 memo, circulated attached to the May 13 memo, addresses, implicitly, the national credit crunch. Even if condo owners vote to allow the association to borrow,
``there is no guarantee that a financial institution will offer to loan us the necessary funds on terms that are acceptable to the association.''

The board said it would not accept financing that would impede buying or selling of condos, and that it would schedule a meeting to talk about a financing package it obtains, if the association goes the borrowing route.
I see debilitating delays. According to the March 3 memo:
If residents vote to allow borrowing, the directors would establish a committee of condo owners, board members (same thing) and the association's finance director to
``explore financing options,'' such as ``conversations with banks and other lending organizations... possible grants, low-interest loans and other forms of assistance.''
The committee would also sound out a real estate lawyer. Sounds like a lot of work.
And then yet another committee would have to come up with a financing plan that would have to be passed by a majority of condo owners. (I rent here.)
The board recommends that condo owners get loans and pay their share of the septic-system cost up front. Doing so could get owners a tax break, depending on how they get their financing. It would ``remove the burden of borrowing from the Association...''

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