Jefferson County officials: Sewer hookups not planned for unwilling property owners in Port Hadlock area

Posted 4/21/21

Jefferson County officials batted back some of the recent criticisms on the proposed Port Hadlock Wastewater System during a special commissioners meeting on the project last week.

Officials …

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Jefferson County officials: Sewer hookups not planned for unwilling property owners in Port Hadlock area

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Jefferson County officials batted back some of the recent criticisms on the proposed Port Hadlock Wastewater System during a special commissioners meeting on the project last week.

Officials stressed that property owners outside the Phase 1 boundary of the sewer service area won’t be required to connect to the system or help pay for the first-phase improvements.

People with property outside the boundary, they added, would only pay later if they agreed to extend sewer lines onto their land, they added.

The two-hour outreach meeting was held as opponents to a Port Hadlock sewer system have become increasingly active in their fight against the infrastructure improvements, and submitted a petition protesting the project.

Those who submitted the petition, a group called Concerned Citizens of Port Hadlock, said it showed a high level of opposition to the sewer system, and said more people were signing every day.

If county officials did not agree with the sentiments presented in the petition, the group added, the county should poll residents.

“I was glad to hear the diversity of input at our meeting,” Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour said during Monday’s board of commissioners meeting.

She continued the commitment she made during her campaign last year for District 2 commissioner.

“I really want to hear from more of the community,” Eisenhour said.

Eisenhour said she appreciated the input from Concerned Citizens of Port Hadlock.

“I look forward to hearing from a further diverse set of opinions in the community,” she added.

“We need to continue the conversation locally,” added Commissioner Greg Brotherton.

He suggested doing more subarea planning in the county.

Brotherton said he had also talked to those who had signed the petition before the meeting and added those discussions would continue in the future.

“It was presented with a position that was easy to sign on to,” Brotherton said of the petition. “I don’t necessarily take it at face value.”

He added some people may have a reasonable fear that sewers will lead to gentrification of Port Hadlock, and said that issue was worth looking into.

Commissioner Kate Dean said county staff did a great job of presenting a lot of information on the project, and added that much work has gone into a creating a plan that “has had both the curse and a benefit of a lot of time to work through a lot of these challenges.”

The plan hinges on using more affordable technology, and is being tailored to commercial property owners who want sewers and parcels that support affordable housing.

The initial sewer system is expected to cost $23 million.

The county is trying to create a project that will work for those in the community who want it, while not forcing people who don’t want it to pay for the project or hook up to the system.

“We know that this is totally dependent on getting enough federal and state subsidy to make it affordable,” she said.

Dean said the county had offered Concerned Citizens of Port Hadlock six pages of clarifications on statements they were making about the project that were not entirely accurate.

Officials have also offered to sit down in a meeting to talk through concerns with the group, but the offer has gone nowhere.

“Which is unfortunate,” Dean said.

The commissioner also noted that most of the people who signed the petition do not live in the Phase 1 core area that the wastewater system would initially serve.

“It is largely folks who live outside of the core area; some who don’t live in Port Hadlock at all,” Dean said.

County Administrator Philip Morley also emphasized that those who don’t want the sewer system will be forced to pay for it. 

“We don’t see the sewer being expanded there over the wishes of local folks,” Morley said.

Public works is trying hard to set the boundaries to include those who are interested in participating, and trying to exclude those who don’t, he said.

There hasn’t been any decision on mandatory hookups, Morley added.

The county hopes to complete the final design of the Port Hadlock Wastewater System by the end of the year.

That design will lead to better details on the cost of the project.

The Phase 1 sewer service area covers 269 acres, according to information presented at last week’s meeting.

Most of that land — more than 158 acres — is zoned for commercial and industrial uses. Residential properties make up 75.7 acres of the Phase 1 area.

Officials noted that in the Port Hadlock Urban Growth Area, the total area where sewers could be installed, currently has about 1,200 septic systems, with 35 percent of those installed before 1985 and beyond their useful life.

During Monday’s commissioners meeting, officials considered awarding a contract for the design, fabrication and installation of membrane bioreactor equipment that would be needed as part of the wastewater treatment system.

Ovivo USA of Salt Lake City, Utah, submitted the low bid for the contract with an amount of $1.6 million.

Commissioners agreed to postpone the bid award recommendation until their next meeting to give time for further research.

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Pamela Roberts

You can read the Concerned Residents of Port Hadlock's analysis and response to the well-written points in this article by Brian Kelly at: https://hadlocksewer.com/2021/04/24/commissioners-attack-concerned-residents/

This article features a special commissioners meeting on April 15 about the proposed Hadlock Sewer. Before that meeting the Concerned Residents of Port Hadlock (CRPH) submitted a petition to the Jefferson County commissioners demanding “straight answers” from the county about the sewer project. Over 100 Hadlock residents signed the petition and wrote extensive statements to go along with their signatures. Almost all the comments were in opposition to the sewer. You can read the comments at: https://hadlocksewer.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/hadlock-sewer-petition-signatures.pdf

The Concerned Residents of Port Hadlock are not just afraid that they will be asked to pay for the Core Area sewer installation. They don’t want their aquifer depleted, they don’t want an open cesspool near their properties, they don’t want sewage spilled into Chimacum Creek and they don’t want to have their septic systems declared “failing” as an excuse to later force them to hook up to the sewer system. The increased property taxes, monthly fees, costs of decommissioning their septic systems and hook up costs will drive many residents out of their homes. Jefferson County has almost 50% of its residents already paying beyond 30% of their monthly cash flow to mortgages or rents, leaving little for other basic needs such as food and healthcare. Residents can ill afford more financial pressure from the high costs of building a sewer.

Saturday, April 24
Dage Corvish

"Count Administrator Philip Morley also emphasized that those who don't want the sewer system will be forced to pay for it."

One hopes something was left out of that statement.

Wednesday, April 28