Health board and original general contractor call the bill grossly inflated, dumbfounding

The Columbia Health District doesn't mind being underwater on this bill.

McNulty Water People's Utility District is trying to collect a water-leak bill totaling more than $10,000 from the Columbia Health District, a year after the leak occurred at the site of the health district's abandoned hospital project on Millard Road in St. Helens.

But no one is paying up. And no one plans to.

McNulty PUD originally sent an invoice to Andersen Construction in March. The invoice alleged that Andersen Construction, the hospital project's contractor, was at fault for a massive leak at the Millard Road site that caused thousands of cubic feet of water to spill out last summer.

Andersen Construction refused to pay the bill.

The former health district board refused to pay the bill.

And now the current health district board, tasked with winding down the district in the lead up to a fall vote to dissolve it completely, is refusing to pay the bill. That decision comes as the board enters talks with interested parties to sell the property.

'Unless there's a contract … we're not paying [that bill],' said Tammy Maygra, chair of the CHD board. She called the $10,000 figure grossly inflated.

Andersen Construction previously stated that sentiment in an April letter to McNulty PUD.

In that letter, project manager Chris Copeland wrote that the leak was the result of vandalism, not unsatisfactory work. He added McNulty's invoice attached 'exaggerated costs' to the work performed.

Those exaggerated costs include billing for 172 hours of labor and 385 miles of driving to fix the leak, according to the invoice. McNulty PUD's office is located less than a mile from the health district's Millard Road property.

Andy Tinkess, McNulty's manager, would not elaborate on the invoice. He said he would send another letter to Andersen Construction explaining the rationale for each expense.

In a phone interview, Copeland said he was 'dumbfounded' by McNulty PUD's bill. He added that even with further explanation, his company would have no intention of paying the bill.

Meanwhile, the health district board has entered into discussions with Columbia County Christian School to sell the Millard Road property. Those talks are preliminary, said board member Peggy Crisp.

Revenue generated from the sale of the property may represent the CHD board's last opportunity to provide residents of the health district with a tax refund for the erstwhile project.

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