Hockey association seeks forgiveness of $53,000 in utility fees

The city of Princeton will not honor a request from the Princeton Youth Hockey Association and forgive almost $53,000 in past-due utility fees.

But the city might consider extending a fee repayment schedule out 10 or 15 years.

The fees in question are sewer and water access charges assessed as a result of building a second arena in 2009.

The PYHA was already under the gun to arrange to pay the fees in January 2010.

The city had told PYHA that if it didn’t make arrangements to pay its water access charge (WAC) and sewer access charge (SAC) by Jan. 8, 2010, it would lose the temporary occupancy permit it had for the new arena. PYHA’s total bill for both its WAC and SAC was $52,978.

The council reached an agreement, in January 2010, for PYHA to pay the bill over a five-year period.

Now fast-forward to this summer when PYHA president Chris Flor asked the city for further action regarding the SAC and WAC bill.

Flor, in a July 11 letter to the council, asked if the city could “alleviate this debt burden” of the SAC and WAC bill.

“As you are aware, PYHA is having some financial issues, partly because of the economy and partly because of other issues beyond our control,” Flor wrote. “This past year, Minnesota Hockey decided to take Becker/Big Lake and move them from District 10 to District 5. PYHA lost between 35 and 40 skaters because of this, with lost revenue totaling $40,000 per year. The next thing that happened was the Princeton School District decided not to renew the co-op between Princeton and Milaca, which resulted in another 35 to 40 skaters, with more lost revenue of $40,000 per year.”

Flor noted that the PYHA board directors worked with Village Bank to get PYHA’s mortgage payment current and agreed that the board would address the SAC and WAC fees. Flor asked the city if it would consider forgiving the SAC and WAC bill, and if that was not an option, then consider extending the payment time out to possibly 10 or 15 years.

Princeton City Administrator Mark Karnowski told the City Council on Aug. 23 that he had responded to Flor by saying that the city has not, in the past, forgiven SAC and WAC charges and didn’t think it would now.

Karnowski asked the council what it thought of Flor’s other idea of another time extension for paying the SAC and WAC bill.

The council said it would not forgive the bill, but would look at the idea of extending the payment time beyond the five years, at least for the SAC part.

Only the Princeton Public Utilities Commission could act on the WAC part of the request because the PUC supplies the city’s water and carries all of that associated expense, said Councilman Dick Dobson.

Mayor Jeremy Riddle suggested that perhaps the city could reduce the annual interest rate charged to the PYHA. Riddle noted that the city has enjoyed lower interest rates in the past two years as it has refinanced city loans.