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Manchester sewer debate rages

With the help of the Kitsap County Public Works Department, the Manchester Community Council has already succeeded in gathering the necessary signatures to form a Utilities Local Improvement District (ULID) to replace the included properties’ septic tanks with sewer lines that will connect to the Manchester Wastewater Treatment Facility.

As the council’s Sewer Committee begins the signature process again, sending out inquiries to a stretch of waterfront properties along Colchester Drive, some residents are seeing double.

Ed Miesen, who lives on Colchester, recalled when his septic system began failing he was given only two options by the Kitsap County Health District: replace the system or pay a $500 per day fee and pump the tank every week.

Miesen said he was told sewer extensions would not happen anytime soon, so he replaced his system to the tune of $19,000.

It was barely in the ground before Miesen heard of the potential formation of a ULID.

“I’m in shock,” Miesen said. “We’ve paid once and now we’re being asked to support something where the cost may be even greater than building a new septic system.”

As the letters asking residents along Colchester to think about the ULID were sent out, Miesen said he and many of his neighbors who could not be reached by press time wished the council and the health district had communicated better.

“We cooperated with the Kitsap County Health (District) as many of our neighbors have done,” he said. “Now the area here is getting asked to form a ULID.”

“We’re really sorry about the timing of it,” said Bob Ballard, president of the Manchester Community Council, a group not in any way related to county government.

Still, if a ULID is formed and the sewer lines are extended to Colchester, many residents of Colchester will pay twice.

“It’s an undue burden on the homeowner who’s followed the county’s directions,” Miesen said.

The process of forming the potential ULID is complex, and the county has asked Paul Gilligan of RH2 Engineering to help its Sewer Committee as he has in the past.

However, a potential conflict of interest has already come up. Since Gilligan is an engineer and has been awarded the contract the construct sewers in past ULIDs, some questions whether his financial gain will outweigh his ability to give the council objective advice on where to form ULIDs.

Gilligan, though, said he is confident he can be fair and balanced and the issue of conflict of interest has already been discussed by the parties involved.

“If we’re successful in finding the interest, then the agreement with the county was that they would want us them to go ahead and do the project,” Gilligan said.

Ballard said he acknowledges the appearance of a conflict of interest but is confident if things are left in the open, no harm can come of it.

“If somebody in our group is financially gaining from one of the goals of the (Manchester Community Council),” he said, “so be it.”

“Unfortunately at the present time, this is about the only way of extending sewers with the exception of developers or individuals building them,” Gilligan said.

“It’s such a hotly contested area,“ said Michael Drew, who works in pollution identification and correction with the Kitsap County Health District.

Rick Gagnon, a senior program manager in the Kitsap County Public Works’ Wastewater Division, said the residents of Manchester who have recently replaced their septic systems needn’t be concerned — yet.

“This is very, very preliminary,” Gagnon said. “(Forming a ULID) is very difficult to do.”

Gagnon reminded residents that even if the 51 percent of residents required to approve do so, a 40 percent rejection from residents living within the ULID boundaries can quash the process.

“At this point in time, there is no LID being formed,” Gagnon said. “I would be rather surprised because LIDs are very contentious.”

But according to Bob Ballard, Manchester neighborhoods are moving in the direction of sewers.

“(The current LID) just got the tip of the iceberg,” Ballard said. “More systems will fail and they will fail in the near future.”

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