Baucus, Tester demand answers from Army Corps on Ft. Peck Lake cabin sales
Senators call out agency for unexplained fees, extensive delays
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester are demanding answers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on expensive fees and lengthy delays for cabin owners on Fort Peck Lake attempting to purchase their cabin lots from the federal agency.
The cabins sites at Fort Peck are managed by the Army Corps. Baucus passed a provision in 2000 that allowed Fort Peck cabin owners to buy their lots. The revenue from the lot sales will fund improvements to the CMR Wildlife Refuge. However, the Army Corps has slammed the cabin owners with expensive and unexplained fees and major delays during the process.
“We are concerned that the proposed costs by the Army Corps of Engineers for appraisals and transfer fees may be unacceptably high, especially in light of the substantial funds appropriated by Congress,” the Senators wrote to Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp with the Army Corps. “Additionally, the length of time to complete these transfers has taken an unacceptable amount of time.”
Baucus and Tester demanded that the Army Corps:
- Review comparable properties to the Ft. Peck Lake cabins and adjust administrative costs accordingly
- Provide a summary and justification of the $6,735 sanitation and survey fees, the $1,481 labor charge, and the $349 per lot fee levied against cabin owners
- Document the use of federal funding for the transfers and prove that the fees levied are not duplicative
- Expedite the lot transfers
Tester last week questioned Army Corps chief Jo-Ellen Darcy on the cabin sales during a Capitol Hill hearing.
The full text of Baucus’ and Tester’s letter to Lieutenant General Van Antwerp with the Army Corps appears below.
Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Omaha District
1616 Capitol Avenue
Omaha, NE 68102
Dear Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp:
We are writing to express our concerns about the Fort Peck Lake cabin lot sales process. We are concerned that the proposed costs by the Army Corps of Engineers for appraisals and transfer fees may be unacceptably high, especially in light of the substantial funds appropriated by Congress. Additionally, the length of time to complete these transfers has taken an unacceptable amount of time. To that end, I ask that you consider and respond to these requests to assure that the potential buyers of the Fort Peck Lake cabin lots are accommodated and these properties are transferred in a reasonable time and manner.
First, we ask that you take steps to ensure that the appraisals developed by the Army Corps of Engineers can serve a dual purpose of valuation for the Corps and for prospective owners to obtain a loan to purchase the property. As you consider changes to the appraisal process, we ask that you coordinate closely with the prospective purchasers to evaluate any changes in the cabin sale schedule that could occur as a result of these changes.
Second, the administrative costs being levied on each lot may not commensurate with area prices. Regional real estate professionals are questioning the costs and the comparable properties used to determine these costs. We request you review comparable properties and adjust administrative costs appropriately to be commensurate with locally prevailing charges.
Third, we would like a summary of the $1,481 charge for labor executed by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and its relationship to funds appropriated by Congress for these cabin sales.
Fourth, please provide a description and explanation of the $349 per lot fee for the Montana DEQ as well as the $6,735 Sanitation and Survey fees. Please explain how these fees are reasonable not duplicative.
Finally, we urge the ACOE to expedite these transfers. Buyers should receive proper and timely information so they can make financing decisions based on current interest rates for loans.
We look forward to your response and we trust that all parties can work together on the matter, as you have in the past, and take a big step towards finalizing the sales of these lots.
Thank you for considering our request.
Jon Tester, Max Baucus