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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


favorable.


"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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