Manchester sewer plan polarizes residents

A decision on plans to develop a Utility Local Improvement District (ULID) for the purpose of installing sewer service on 59 lots in Manchester was postponed Monday night when the Kitsap County commissioners decided several issues needed to be cleared up before the resolution is approved.

“I think we need more information before we approve this measure,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. “This proposal has changed over time and we need to address these changes.”

To create a ULID, the owners of 51 percent of the affected land must sign a petition in favor of the action, at which point the matter is referred to the county commissioners.

The petition process was completed about a year ago, according to Manchester resident Ron Rada, who heads the local sewer commission.

It was addressed by the commissioners in December, and the first hearing was scheduled for Monday.

Rada said he supported the project because he believes it will help to preserve Puget Sound and protect it from damage caused by faulty septic systems.

Sewers are safer, he said, and the community plan for Manchester calls for sewer coverage for the entire community.

Several local residents objected to creating the ULID, however, claiming the project had changed since it was first proposed and the initial petitions signed.

The required cost -- a minimum of $17,000 per lot -- is also prohibitive for several residents, according to opponents.

The total cost of the action is projected to be $1.18 million, which would be divided up among property owners.

While $17,000 is the baseline, the final bill for each property would be determined by its specific aspects.

Ten people testified at the public hearing, and their reaction was characterized by Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown on his Facebook page as seven against, two for, and “one ambivalent.”

Among those opposing the plan, property owner Tom Warren expressed frustration about his own status.

Warren was initially outside the ULID area when the petition was circulated, but learned later his property was within its boundaries. The discrepancy was the result of some maneuvering by Rada, who told the commissioners he didn’t initially include this property because he knew Warren would oppose the ULID creation.

Rada subsequently redrew the boundaries after the petition was submitted because, “It wouldn’t be fair to everyone else if this property wasn’t included.”

“I suspected that he changed things around deliberately,” Warren said after the meeting, “but I can’t believe he actually admitted it.”

Rada said the sewer hookup does not adversely affect senior citizens or low-income residents, and besides, “There aren’t that many low-income people there because it’s a pretty expensive area.”

Any resident unable pay the fee right away could arrange a payment plan or accept a lien that would be paid when the property is sold.

Such a lien would require interest, which Rada estimated at around 4 percent.

Property owner Nancy English disagreed with Rada’s assessment, saying that the cost would be too steep for her.

Meanwhile, two attendees with strong connection to county government spoke out, even though they did so as public citizens.

Assessor Jim Avery questioned why several adjacent properties were left out of the ULID, and asked for clarification of why this occurred.

Former District Court Judge Daniel Phillips, characterized by Brown as “ambivalent,” said, “This has become a minefield. Septic systems fail over time and will need to be replaced. And I don’t have a problem spending $20,000 for a hookup. So I can go either way.”

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