Residents demand sewer vote

CARNATION _ A standing-room-only crowd made up of Carnation

residents packed the City Council room during the council's recent meeting

to ask for one thing.

A vote.

During a public-comment portion of the meeting, which allowed

residents to voice their opinions on a proposed sewer system expected to

cost $6.2 million for the first phase of construction, more than 20 people

told council members, and Mayor Bob Patterson, that they wanted the

issue placed on a ballot.

"We deserve a vote," said John Manning of Carnation.

Many of the residents claimed the city had not provided enough

information about the proposed sewer project, and that the need for

building a wastewater treatment plant and sewer collection system had not

been justified. If all the proposed construction phases are completed, the

project will cost more than $15 million over 20 years.

"The current plan is ill-conceived and unnecessary. There is no

evidence of groundwater contamination in the residential areas," said Michael

Finley, of Carnation.

However, in an interview, Patterson said he is convinced the

city needs a sewer system to replace septic tanks that collect waste from

homes and businesses.

"My conscience is completely clear. We've got to have a sewer,"

he said. As to the request for more information about the proposed

plan, Patterson said documents outlining it have been readily available.

"The people that haven't read anything, that's not our fault," he

said. "The information is there."

On whether the public would be able to vote on the proposed

plan, Patterson said it was possible, but the decision would have to be made

by the City Council.

He added that if it went to a vote, he thought the outcome would be


"We think probably if most people voted, we should get a majority

favoring it."

The need for a sewer system was noted years ago in studies of the

city, some dating back more than a decade, the mayor said. Because of

several factors affecting Carnation _ a high water table, its location in a flood

plain and its soil _ the county's health department has often stopped

business owners from remodeling or expanding their buildings because their

septic tanks could not be brought up to current code.

"These sites are just very difficult sites for onsite sewage systems,"

said Gordon Clemans, a senior environmental health specialist with

Public Health-Seattle and King County.

"Those (factors) all add up to make it awfully difficult" to approve

any new construction, he said.

The acting supervisor of the health department's wastewater

program, Mark Allen, said businesses wanting to enlarge their building, or

remodel, face another challenge: space.

"There's not sufficient ground left over to put a suitable system in

there," he said. "That really hampers

what they do."

Patterson agreed, saying, "If all septics were working fine, that's

great. But we couldn't add any more because we're at (a) saturation point."

At the City Council meeting, Irene Thompson suggested the city

should examine building a sewer system for just the downtown area.

However, Patterson said it wouldn't be cost-effective.

Several of the residents at the August 1, City Council meeting

said those living in the downtown area could least afford the assessment

fee of being connected to the sewer system, which is based on the square

footage of their homes. With that comes a monthly service fee of $51 that

would be added to their water bills.

"It would have an immense, permanent impact on the citizens

and their checkbooks," said G. Miller-St. Germain.

"What we're looking at is a huge financial burden for the people in

the city," said Manning. "Phase 1, which is where I live, has some of the

poorest homes in the city of Carnation."

Patterson said he sympathized with those residents.

"It may be a hardship on those people, but they are the ones in

the worst shape, and most of those septic systems are already 20, 30, 40

years old.

"Our hands are tied pretty much by King County health department."

Some who spoke conceded local businesses were hurting because of

the current reliance on septic systems.

"Sewers are going to have to go there sometime," said Donald

Eddy, manager of the Texaco filling station on Tolt Avenue. "The businesses

need it."

Laurie Clinton, a Carnation resident serving on the Sewer

Advisory Committee, told those attending the meeting a decision on whether to

go ahead with the proposed project was far from finalized.

"This is not a done deal; there are questions that we are still looking

at," she said.

She also tried to allay concerns about growth, saying those issues

can be addressed by the city, namely with its comprehensive plan.

Patterson said Carnation's 20-year comprehensive plan wouldn't

allow the massive growth seen in other areas of the county. In its proposal

for the sewer system and wastewater treatment plant, Redmond-based

American Engineering Corp. expects Carnation to grow to 4, 965 residents by

2020. The town's population in 1998-1999 was 1,725.

"We think we can keep it to that," Patterson said. "You see, we

don't have the area to annex like some cities that are expanding.

"The growth management act says we cannot go outside those lines.

If people want it controlled, it will be controlled."

The City Council met with the Sewer Advisory Committee to

discuss the proposed plan at a workshop held Tuesday, and council members

will decide how to proceed at their next meeting, August 15.

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