Lower interest rate possible for Pasco theater owner

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMarch 22, 2014 

Liberty Theater Pasco

The former Liberty Theater building at 114 N. Fourth Ave. in Pasco.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Pasco expects to impose a special lien against a theater that burned last year, but it might give the owner a lower interest rate than initially planned.

The city already filed a $29,224 lien against Octavio Rodriguez of West Richland after he failed to pay back the city for demolishing and removing unsafe parts of the Liberty Theater after the Aug. 13 fire. But that money can't be collected unless the building is sold or refinanced.

What the city staff requested this week would make the lien part of the property taxes on the building, giving Rodriguez three years to pay it back. The city could then foreclose if Rodriguez doesn't pay.

Rodriguez, who was remodeling the building for retail shops before the fire, told the council that he would need a year to raise the money.

He said he hasn't been reimbursed by his insurance company and questioned the amount the city is charging him.

"I've been building for seven years," he said. "I know that wasn't a $30,000 job to clean that part."

The council held off on approving the lien. Council members agreed that the city's typical 12 percent annual interest rate on a lien should be lowered for Rodriguez.

"It's in a downtown area that we want to revitalize," said Councilwoman Rebecca Francik.

But they disagreed on what the rate should be.

Mayor Matt Watkins said it should be about the rate the city charges residents in local improvement districts, which was 4.5 percent on recent projects in the Kurtzman Park area. But councilmen Al Yenney and Bob Hoffmann said it should be 1 percent to 3 percent.

"I saw the amount of work going into that (theater) before the fire, and then to have a $30,000 bill on top of that ... I think that would make my blood pressure a little higher than his," Yenney said of Rodriguez.

Staff will look at possible rates and bring the issue back at a future meeting, said Rick White, community and economic development director.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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