County, Country Club settle on delinquent sewer fees

The board of apartment owners of a beleaguered Banyan Drive condominium has worked out a plan with the county to pay off more than $100,000 in delinquent sewer bills.

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The board of apartment owners of a beleaguered Banyan Drive condominium has worked out a plan with the county to pay off more than $100,000 in delinquent sewer bills.

In a stipulated judgment and order filed Thursday in Hilo Circuit Court, the Association of Apartment Club Owners of Country Club Hawaii agreed to pay $110,372 in wastewater fees accumulated since June 3, 2013. The building’s board also owes the county $40,053 in interest that has accrued at a rate of 10 percent per year since the last sewer fee payment was made on June 3, 2013.

The county filed suit against the building’s board on Dec. 23, 2013, and Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara ruled the owners’ association owes the county $150,425 for the unpaid fees and interest.

County Deputy Corporation Counsel Chris Schlueter said Thursday the county and the condo board have worked out payment terms.

“They’re on a payment plan to pay off the principal balance, which is 110-thousand, After the principal balance is paid off, the interest will be forgiven,” he said. “On January 15, they have a 22-thousand-dollar payment due, and then every month, they pay eight-grand until December of next year, when the 110-thousand will be paid off.

“… I think it’s a fair compromise and I hope this condo association will make good on their promise to pay back this money.”

The building had been mired in legal and financial gridlock since a group led by apartment owner Carl Oguss and calling itself “The Association of Apartment Owners of Country Club, Inc.” held a mail-in election and declared itself the building’s board. Meanwhile, Herbert Arata, who holds the master lease on the building, which sits on state land, recognized another board chaired by Pearl Elena Macomber.

Oguss’ board filed multiple lawsuits against Arata, Macomber and others. The two main actions were dismissed earlier this year by Kauai Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano, who was brought in to preside after every Hawaii Island circuit judge recused himself or herself from hearing the suits. Valenciano also ruled the Macomber board is the building’s rightful board.

While the court battles raged, some apartment owners paid their maintenance fees to Macomber’s board, others to Oguss’ board, while some took a wait-and-see stance or chose not to pay fees at all.

Earlier this year, the building was more than $200,000 in arrears in paying its electric bill to Hawaii Electric Light Co., and the utility has threatened at least twice to turn the lights out at the six-story Hilo building if payments weren’t made.

A receiver was appointed to oversee the building’s affair, but was discharged when Oguss’ lawsuits were dismissed.

The Macomber board also retaliated with a suit against Oguss, which is still active and also being heard by Valenciano. The building’s managing agent, Richard Emery of Hawaii First, testified during a September hearing that the building owner’s association was owed about $1.3 million in delinquent maintenance fees by apartment owners, which he was beginning to collect. He added the condo association owed about $400,000 in accounts payable.

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The Tribune-Herald tried to contact Emery, but a Hawaii First employee who answered the phone Thursday said he’s on vacation and unavailable.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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