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Gorst cleanup grant pending

Kitsap County Public Works is preparing to send an application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a grant that would give Gorst a $2 million facelift.

The application for a Brownsfield Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) grant would be used to improve Gorst’s economic potential, updating the sewer system and thus cleaning up the community to save jobs and attract economic growth.

Public comment on the BEDI grant application is invited.

“The money would be used for a sewer project that responds to health concerns about the drainfields,” said Rick Gagnon, senior program manager for wastewater in the Kitsap County Public Works’ Wastewater Division.

Gagnon said the money would be used primarily to improve Gorst’s existing septic system, perhaps even delivering waste to the Bremerton wastewater treatment facility or the plant shared by the City of Port Orchard and Karcher Creek Sewer District.

“It’s a feasible option and we have the room for it,” said Dick Fitzwater, general manager of the Karcher Creek Sewer District. “It’s a Kitsap County problem, but we’d be willing to take its waste at the plant.”

According to Gagnon, Gorst would have to be considered an “economically distressed community” to receive the grant. BEDI grant money must be used to improve the economic viability of a region by attracting or retaining jobs.

“I don’t know that we’d be creating jobs,” Gagnon said, “but we’re saving them because the health department would not be closing down businesses.”

“There’s a number of failing systems out there,” said Jerry Deeter, director of environmental health for the Kitsap County Health District.

According to Deeter, a study done in the mid-1990s found that most of the failing systems were contained in businesses along the SR-16/SR-3 corridor.

“We called it the ‘failure zone,’ ” Deeter said. “We’re not trying to vacate any business out there. If they want to expand, they need to come up with a conforming system. They need to bring their system up to code.”

Deeter said the recent regulations stop commercial expansion because lots are small and repairing sewage systems is expensive.

Gagnon said he believes improvements to Gorst’s waste system might prompt more economic development in the area.

“(Economic development) would probably be a result of (the project), yes,” Gagnon said.

If the Public Works Department receives the BEDI grant, the county will be required to take out a Section 108-Guaranteed Loan for at least $2 million, matching the BEDI amount.

“The HUD grant also requires a loan be taken out,” Gagnon said. “We would have to pay $2 million loan back with fees.”

The drafted grant proposal is available for public viewing at the Public Works office, though people are urged to call ahead and make an appointment at (360) 337-5777.

After comments are received, they will be reviewed and addressed appropriately. Barring significant changes, the final application will be submitted to HUD.

Comments from the public will be accepted until Tuesday July 13 by e-mailing Gagnon at rgagnon@co.kitsap.wa.us or by mail to Rick Gagnon, Kitsap County Public Works, 614 Division Street, MS-26 WA, 98366.

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