Editorial – Another day at the office

Jeff Burgar

So you took out a loan at your friendly local bank, treasury, or credit union. Then, for some silly reason, or maybe even a really good reason, you missed several payments. The lender got upset. They are kinda funny that way, as any of us who have blown a payment or four know so well. Heck, they don’t even smile when we miss a minimum credit card payment!

Let’s look at this business closer. We get a loan for a new roof on our house. Or maybe, instead of dealing direct with the furniture store, we get a bank loan for a new couch and kitchen table. Whatever it is, we then take the money, and instead, buy a newer vehicle.

The question is, does the lender have any right to get upset? We changed the purchase, but didn’t tell them. Does it matter?

Well, someplace in all the fine print of most loan agreements these days, one will find something that will say, yes indeed, it really does matter. Lenders, for some reason, are also kinda funny that way. This is understandable. Somebody gets a decent sized loan for a new roof, the “new, improved” house is put up as a guarantee, and the borrower spends the money instead on a trip to Las Vegas. Where, as usual, the money is not doubled or tripled. It’s just gone. Well of course, the lender gets upset. Money for new roofs is not intended to be spent on jolly good times and happy faces. Not without notice or permission anyway.

This is one of many, many reasons why loan contracts have grown from a page or two fifty years ago, to agreements the size of small phone books today. Each time somebody does something unexpected, or figures out a loophole, the rules get changed.

Which brings us to one of those muddles the Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County finds itself in. It wasn’t a loan, but may as well have been. The Town was supposed to spend money on a project. Big Lakes County agreed to pay part of the project when it was finished. The Town decided the money should be spent on another, “better” project, a water treatment, that would benefit both County and Town water users.

Ah but, the small print in the agreement says, if the project is to be changed, permission must be asked, and granted, by the County. Sort of like, if not identical to, taking a loan for a roof, and then taking a trip. The Town argues this is more like taking a loan for a fun trip, then spending it on a “better” roof. Instead of a road in town, some County folks get better water. Does this make it okay? Not really. The “letter” of the agreement says permission has to be asked, and permission granted, to change the project.

One can say it might have taken just one phone or two phone calls from one government to another to get the permission. Or, it can also be said, this is just another reason why arguments between any of the local governments are much more about respect than legal stuff.

As is often very quietly whispered by senior government, “If you folks can’t work together, we will make you work together. Or get rid of you.”

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