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North Bend sewage spill leaves youth groups without 'home' — for 8 months and counting

Sewage inside the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activity Center in North Bend was several inches deep after a sewage treatment plant overflowed last spring. The building still hasn’t been cleaned up. - Jim McKiernan / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Sewage inside the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activity Center in North Bend was several inches deep after a sewage treatment plant overflowed last spring. The building still hasn’t been cleaned up.
— image credit: Jim McKiernan / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Eight months after the Youth Activity Center in North Bend was inundated with sewage that overflowed from a nearby treatment plant run by the city, the site is still off-limits, leaving local Boy Scouts, Venturing members and Girl Scouts without a regular meeting place.

Several members of those youth groups told the North Bend City Council how much the site means to them at the council’s Tuesday, Nov. 18 meeting.

“The YAC was not just a meeting place,” said Eagle Scout Josh Yoker, who has been a member of Boy Scout Troop 466 since 2003. “It’s more of a home for the Boy Scouts and all the organizations that meet there.”

He said his troop took pride in caring for the building, which is community-owned and run by the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Activity & Community Center Association.

Youth groups have had to find alternative meeting places since March, when clogged pipes at the treatment plant created an overflow of human waste that deluged the center, located near the intersection of Bendigo Boulevard and Sydney Avenue.

Following the spill, the city of North Bend cordoned off the site and sent an insurance adjustor to assess the damage.

The adjustor determined that the city was liable for the cost of cleaning up the site, which the insurance company estimated at $30,000, said City Administrator Duncan Wilson.

Representatives from the SVYAC Association said that it did receive an initial estimate from the city’s insurance adjustor for repairs, but the city’s offer to pay for clean-up never came.

“The SVYAC Association has never been presented with an offer to settle this matter for $30,000 or for any other amount,” the association’s attorney, Michael Brandt said.

Brandt said the association gave up its keys to the building after the spill, was told that anyone not inoculated against the pathogens in the building should not enter it for 30 to 60 days, “and that the city would move swiftly to get the YAC cleaned and repaired.”

In April, the association opted to fix the site using its own insurance company and bill the city’s insurance later.

Following an inspection in June, the association’s insurance company assessed clean-up at around $18,000. However, the association’s coverage capped pay out at $5,000. The association accepted that money, and has put it “toward the cost of further investigation” of how to fix the facility, Brandt said.

Brandt said that the association’s board hired an industrial hygienist to inspect the site and provide a report on how to remediate the sewage, mold and asbestos in the building.

The next step, Brandt said, will be to solicit bids from contractors “to obtain the cost of remediating the building or, if it is cheaper, of demolishing the facility and rebuilding it.”

Brandt expects the remediation to cost well in excess of $30,000.

Janice Howard, a claims manager for the city’s insurance company, said her company won’t pay for the degradation of the building that has occurred since her insurance adjustor made the initial March assessment.

She said the city took swift action to work toward fixing up the facility, but the association board didn’t provide a timely response to her company’s estimates.

“Our issue with this is, you let this sit for months. We don’t think we should pay,” Howard said. “If you let things like that sit, it causes more damages.”

Wilson added that the city paid for a meeting space for the displaced Boy Scouts at Si View Community Center for six months.

“We have the utmost sympathy for the position the Scouts are in,” Wilson said. “We’ve done everything we could from a city standpoint to assist them.”

While the YAC clean-up is figured out, the youth groups are having a hard time finding a regular meeting facility that isn’t too costly.

“We used to spend about $1,000 a year to rent the YAC, to contribute to the maintenance of it. That bill will go to $3,000 (or) $4,000 at Si View” when rent goes up in January, Doug McClelland, leader of Boy Scout Troop 466 told the city council. He also passed around images of the damaged building.

“I wanted you to know that nothing has been done to fix it up yet, and as you can see, there’s a lot of folks interested in having that opportunity to get back,” McClelland said, indicating the dozens of scouts and family members who filled the council chambers.

McClelland said the group was looking into other sites including schools, but “nothing works like the YAC. It’s really important that we move in and get that taken care of.”

Wilson said the city was continuing to work toward finding a solution for the youth groups.

“We need to get them into a place they can afford,” Wilson said.

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