Burton Water Cooperative, Burton Water Company begin price negotiations

Burton Water Cooperative’s interim Board of Directors has begun price negotiations with the current owners of the Burton Water Company (BWC) as part of the process to have Burton residents own the water company.

In a community newsletter released by the Burton Water Cooperative on Monday, June 20, the cooperative’s Board and committees “determined that Cooperative purchase and management of the water system appears feasible if there is broad community support.”

Chuck Weinstock, vice president of the Burton Water Cooperative, told The Beachcomber via email that the current owners of BWC, Jim Garrison and Evan Simmons, have stated their firm selling price for BWC is $1.2 million. According to Weinstock, the cooperative’s initial offer was less than the ask of Garrison and Simmons, but he did not elaborate on what the cooperative offered.

In initial meetings held last November, to gauge Burton residents’ interest in forming a cooperative, the BWC’s market price range was valued at between $1 to $1.5 million.

The Beachcomber reached out to Garrison and Simmons for comment regarding the potential sale of BWC to the Burton Water Cooperative, with Garrison not responding, and Simmonds declining to comment.

Weinstock stated that the cooperative is “exploring and anticipating” using a loan offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for community-controlled water organizations, such as a cooperative. The cooperative has yet to apply for this loan.

“We also will be assisted by the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, [which] is a technical assistance provider, specifically on this loan program,” said Weinstock via email.

As part of the ongoing price negotiations, the cooperative will release a “white paper” that details their committee findings, as well as value calculations and financing options. Weinstock said that the white paper is currently in development, but should be released to current BWC customers for which the cooperative has a mailing or email address on file as of the end of June or in the first week of July.

Initially, there was a spring deadline set to vote on the purchase of BWC.

However, according to the cooperative’s most recent newsletter, the group estimates the process to now take the remainder of 2022.

“If we can settle on price, we will take the time to be thoughtful and thorough with all the remaining elements, including securing financing from the USDA and completing the regulatory reviews,” stated the newsletter.

Interest in forming a cooperative began back in November 2021, when Burton residents met with Olympia-based Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC).

Initially, it was believed that NWCDC would be able to fund the organization of the cooperative through a Rural Cooperative Development Grant, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, but this turned out not to be the case.

Note: The next community meeting of the Burton Water Cooperative will be held in mid-July via Zoom.Details will be posted on burtonwater.org.