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County to city: sewer plan moving forward

Grays Harbor County Commissioners have issued a letter in response to the contention by Ocean Shores Councilwoman Jackie Farra that the city currently is owed $100,000 for an engineering report on the still-pending Oyehut-Illahee sewer extension proposal.

In a letter addressed to Farra and Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler, all three commissioners say the county “is continuing to move forward with the sewer project” and the report is “complete and has been sent to the Department of Ecology.

“We hope to continue this project and work with the city of Ocean Shores for a cohesive intergovernmental process.”

The report by consulting firm Macaulay & Associates was first agreed to in 2008, with a letter of guarantee by the county. The city agreed to cover the costs up to $100,000 to do an analysis of what it would take to make the sewer connections possible.

The agreement, according to published accounts in The Daily World, “would only receive the money if residents in the area soundly reject the idea of an analysis and decide they don’t want to be on a sewer system.”

Farra had attended several County Commission meetings recently to ask the city be reimbursed since the sewer project has yet to move forward. She confirmed she had received the letter last week and was still deciding how to reply.

“They don’t want to pay us back,” Farra said. It seems to her, she added, like a way for the county ‘“to hide behind the tree a little longer.”

The county letter contends the city would only be reimbursed “in the event the voters did not approve a sewer extensions local improvement district (LID) at an election.”

Since such an election has yet to take place as the county has pursued funding options to lower the cost.

“If there is an election and voters defeat the LID, the county would then consider its responsibility,” the letter states.

“I don’t even know if the residents have any voting power,” Farra said of the sewer proposals.

The study, when presented in January 2010, estimated the cost to create the district would be between $3.4 million and $3.6 million, with the average cost to single-family households being about $9,794. The report also assessed “special benefits” to property, predicting that values would increase with the extension of sewer service. Some of the properties that could be commercially developed were figured to have added values from $15,000 to $350,000, which a number of the residents have called into dispute.

Under a timeline drafted last April by the county, the LID process is scheduled to begin in April 2014, with the anticipated construction to begin in the summer of 2015.

The county has outlined two alternatives — a vacuum collection system or a low-pressure collection system — but the city previously has indicated it “would not own or operate a low-pressure” system, which uses individual or shared grinder pumps at a customer’s property and low-pressure mains.

The county’s April preliminary report on the project said that the anticipated residential rates would be $60 per month for vacuum and $54 per month for low pressure, added to a potential $10 monthly fee to cover debt service reserve if required.

Total costs for hooking up to service would range from $13,000 to $18,000 depending on size of lot.