Manchester sewer debate extended

The 30 residents who gathered in the Manchester Library Tuesday evening had just one thing on their minds — something’s rotten in the neighborhood of Manchester.

Rick Gagnon, senior program manager for the Wastewater Treatment Division of the Kitsap County Public Works Department, was the evening’s guest speaker and extending Manchester’s sewer lines, especially along Colchester Drive, to avoid costly septic tank repairs and upkeep was the topic of debate.

According to residents, septic tanks don’t work in an area like Manchester, where the soil doesn’t soak up water and backups can cause offensive odor and may pollute the waterfront.

To replace or repair an existing tank to better handle the marine conditions can run as much as $30,000.

According to Gagnon, though the Manchester Wastewater Treatment Facility is under the Kitsap County Public Works Department, Manchester makes up only 5 percent of the county’s sewage customer base.

“The county doesn’t extend sewers,” Gagnon said, explaining that the county replies on developers to extend the sewer line to new customers.

According to Gagnon, if residents want the sewer line extended, there’s a process they must go through that could take years.

Gagnon said the Manchester Wastewater Treatment Facility is currently at about 43 percent capacity, which means the additional sewage into the plant would be inconsequential.

Kitsap County has already planned for a plant expansion when the time comes, but Gagnon said he could not see it happening in the near future even with the additional sewage.

“Somewhere along the line, someone has to come to us and say, ‘We want to form a ULID,’ ” Gagnon said. “We will try to help you with that process.”

A ULID, or Utility Local Improvement District, can be formed in two ways, Gagnon said, either by the petition method or through a commissioners’ “resolution of intent to form,” which often ends up going through the petition step anyway.

After deciding the boundaries of the ULID, 51 percent of property owners must OK the proposal. Gagnon estimates the project will cost a Manchester homeowner anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000, which residents can pay over time but acts as a lien on the house if it is sold.

Residents also pay an approximately $5,000 connection fee up front and a monthly bill of $45.

Gagnon also explained there was no real chance to receive federal or state funding for the project. There is currently a similar ULID effort already underway on Beach Drive.

“It’s a two- to three-year experience,” Gagnon said. “It takes a strong, patient advocate.”

Residents were split as to whether a sewer was really necessary. In an informal poll, 14 people at the meeting were already on sewers. Eight wanted to be, but four were vehemently against it.

As one resident said, “We owe it to everyone to be on a sewer system because we’re on the water and we might pollute.”

Another resident said she felt it was just too costly for older residents and explained that if people would just become educated about how to properly use a septic tank system, there would not be any problems.

Bob Ballard, the recently elected president of the Manchester Community Council, explained the council had no opinion on the issue of sewers but is merely acting as a “facilitator of community interest.”

At the next meeting of the Manchester Community Council on Tuesday, Sept. 28, agenda items will include discussion on the formation of a sub-committee to further discuss the issue of Manchester sewers as well as a potential visit from a representative of the Kitsap County Health Department to address concerns about residents forced to leave their homes because of unsanitary conditions.

“Take a look at the future,” said Manchester resident Bob Lamb, who was concerned that residents who paid for a new septic tank might have to go to a sewer system eventually anyway. “The sewer is the only way we can go.”

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