Tag Archives: City of Port Orchard

PO council reappoints Putaansuu to transit board

Port Orchard City Councilman Rob Putaansuu, who was replaced on the Kitsap Transit board Tuesday morning, was reappointed to the board Tuesday night by the council as the city’s representative to the board. Putansuu will replace Mayor Tim Matthes on the board.

Putaansuu has served in the at-large position on the Kitsap Transit board since the position was created four years ago. Yesterday, in a shuffle of board members, Putaansuu was replaced by a member of the Bainbridge Island City Council.

The at-large position is meant to give representation on the board to Kitsap County’s smaller cities. Putaansuu said that two years ago when the position was open, no one else stepped up. This year Bainbridge expressed an interest in taking a turn at that role.

Other positions on the board are reserved for the three county commissioners, the mayor of Bremerton, and representatives from each of the three smaller cities. Traditionally the small city representative has been the mayor. But Putaansuu at Tuesday’s Port Orchard City Council meeting said the representative could alternately be a member of the city council chosen by the rest of the council, according to transit board bylaws.

The Kitsap Transit board discussion item came up late in the meeting. Councilman John Clauson, who is Kitsap Transit’s executive director, recused himself. Councilman Jeff Cartwright also works for KT, as human resources director, but he said he would not be stepping down.

“Although I work at Kitsap Transit, I don’t believe there’s a conflict because I report to John and John reports to the board. If there are no objections, I do plan on staying for this conversation.”

“I actually do object,” Matthes said. “I would like that you also recuse yourself and Mr. Putaansuu should recuse himself.”

Putaansuu said he didn’t see any reason to recuse himself. Cartwright, however, did step down after Councilman Fred Chang said he also thought Carwright’s presence was a conflict of interest, because actions of the board have a direct bearing on Cartwright’s job. “I’ll honor that,” Cartwright said.

The tension in the air probably stemmed in part from an earlier discussion of emails as public records in which the Mayor and Cartwright grew testy with one another.

The Mayor, as a member of the KT board, also recused himself, and Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Lucarelli took over the meeting.

Putaansuu said he is “passionate about” Kitsap Transit’s study of a fast ferry to Seattle and wants to bring a vote on the proposed service to Kitsap residents, who would help foot the bill for operation of the ferry.

“My position is we’ve spent millions of taxpayer dollars to improve technologies (for the fast ferry) and the business plan (to operate it), and we owe it to the voters to ask them whether or not they want that,” Putaansuu said.

Councilwoman Bek Ashby asked if the council could legally take action on the appointment, given that the meeting was a work study session. City Clerk Brandy Rinearson said they could.

“The rule is you cannot make a motion if it relates to an ordinance or if you’re approving a contract or a bill for payment of money at a special meeting,” she said. Since the appointment was none of the above, they could take action.

Councilman Jerry Childs talked about Putaansuu’s “historical knowledge” of the fast ferry issue and said he was in favor of the appointment.

Chang said he was against it because of the “tradition” of having the mayor represent the city on the board.

When Elissa Whittleton, a member of the audience, asked if the mayor shouldn’t be asked whether he’d like to continue serving on the board, Putaansuu replied, “The bylaws say it’s to be chosen by the city council, not the mayor.”

Putaansuu abstained from the vote. Childs, Lucarelli and Ashby voted in favor of the appointment. Chang voted no.

When Matthes returned to the meeting to find he’d been replaced on the board, he said, “It was all prearranged.”

“In a way it’s a good thing,” the Mayor added, saying now he could still attend meetings and advocate exclusively for Port Orchard’s needs.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter
chenry@kitsapsun.com
(360) 792-9219

Visualize Asbestos Abatement

If you’ve driven through downtown Port Orchard lately, you will have seen the old Los Cabos building wrapped in white plastic.
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The city of Port Orchard bought the eyesore in August with the idea of demolishing it to improve the ambiance of the downtown core. The sale price of $148,000 included demolition by Turnaround Inc., the company that held receivership on the building. The demolition will be ongoing for the next two to three weeks, hence the wrapped building. More on that in a minute

The former site of Los Cabos restaurant was gutted by fire in July 2013. There were boarding rooms upstairs that were occupied at the time of the fire. Three people escaped by climbing out a bathroom window onto a roof and jumping onto the bed of a truck at street level.

The building sat abandoned ever since, growing a fine crop of mold in what was the dining room.
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But the mold is not the worst problem. The two-story, 6,000-plus-square-foot building was constructed in 1910, accord to the Kitsap County Assessor, and has asbestos within from various additions and remodels.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, is a remarkable material, fireproof, strong, a good insulator, but it has been linked to cancers including mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, asbestos can be found in insulation of houses built (or remodeled) between 1930 and 1950, in textured paint and patching compounds whose use was banned in 1977, some vinyl flooring tiles, some roofing and siding shingles, older hot water pipes and furnaces.

According to Bobby Pelkey, of Rhine Demolition of Tacoma, the company handling the building demo, asbestos isn’t a big problem if it’s contained in materials like tile or widow putty, but if it’s part of insulation or “popcorn” ceiling tile, tearing it our could release the asbestos fibers that can cause cancer on exposure.

To protect themselves, workers wear fully enclosed suits and respirators. They tear out the hazardous material and seal it before removal. Inside the building itself, they construct a three-segment decontamination chamber, which includes a shower for removing any particles. The suits are bundled and sealed after they are taken off, as with the rest of the contaminated material.

The job is hazardous, no doubt, but says Pelkey, “As long as you take the proper steps to protect yourself, there’s nothing to worry about.”

According to crew supervisor David Schultz — who has been in the demolition business and working with asbestos for 21 years now — one of the biggest dangers of older buildings is unstable floor and ceilings. Before demolition begins, the building is tested for asbestos, and a walk through reveals potential hazards, such as a ceiling likely to collapse.
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It’s a living, and decent one at that, Schultz said. “I make a comfortable living.”

And about that plastic wrap, it seals any asbestos fibers inside the building. So when the building comes down, the asbestos will have been removed. Voila a blank slate.

Once the demolition is complete, gone will be the entire building, including this well-established collection of pigeon poop.
Cabo6
What would you like to see on the property?

The Pink-a-Nator petitions to park at the courthouse

Surely you’ve seen the Pink-a-Nator. It’s hard to miss the Pepto-Bismol pink utility truck with the slogan “Servin’ it up curb side.”
Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 6.36.46 PM
The food truck dishing out specialty burgers, po’boys and other hearty comestibles has had a regular spot at the Annapolis Sunday Market and in a lot near the Fred Meyer shopping center (although not so much lately, since owner Michelle Roberts-Wash has been busy with catering).

Now, Roberts-Wash has her sights set on the Kitsap County Courthouse campus.

She attended last week’s Port Orchard City Council meeting to pitch her plan. The truck would occupy more than one space. The council’s public property committee has discussed the idea, said Councilman Jeff Cartwright, a committee member. The committee suggested a 90-day trial pending feedback from the county.

Meantime, the Kitsap County administrator expressed concerns about loss of parking spots that are already at a premium, according to Port Orchard City Clerk Brandy Rinearson.

Roberts-Wash had scoped out parking spaces on Austin Avenue between the county administration building and public works building. Councilman Rob Putaansuu noted that, at the previous meeting Aug. 12, a city resident had complained that she couldn’t find a place to drop off her ballot.

Other spaces Roberts-Wash had looked at were in front of the courthouse or the Sheriff’s Office.

Councilman Jerry Childs asked if this would set a precedent. What if others came along looking for space to sell their wares?

The public property committee talked about that, Cartwright said. In fact the Pink-a-Nator sparked a wide ranging discussion about food trucks, including Portland’s approach of designating whole blocks to meals on wheels. “Should the city have its own designated food truck zone?” the committee pondered.

“We talked very heavily about the parking versus the convenience of having a food service there,” Cartwright said. “We also talk about would that food service impact other businesses that also serve food.”

A hot dog vendor has a permit to sell in front of the administration building. Inside, Coffee Oasis has an espresso stand that sells food items.

Several council members commented — in the spirit of free enterprise — that competition with other businesses shouldn’t drive their decision.

Putaansuu also suggested the Pink-a-Nator might work in “underutilized” areas including Cline Avenue (the flat part not the mountain climb) and the gravel lot off Taylor Avenue.

Mayor Tim Matthes said South Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido “would appreciate more notice and more information than she’s received so far.”

The council agreed to honor Garrido’s request, and Roberts-Wash said she’s fine with that.

So what do you think? If Port Orchard were to designate a food truck zone, where should it be?

And, if you’re a restaurant or cafe owner with a brick-and-mortar location, what are your thoughts on a food truck zone?

Where the sidewalk ends: the sequel

Last week, I wrote about public works mowing mishaps that resulted in damage to private property. And our theme of the intersection of public and private land continues.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Port Orchard City Council discussed a disconnect between its own code, which calls on private property owners to maintain and repair sidewalks, and the city’s practice of making repairs on its own dime.

At the same meeting, the council considered the question of sidewalk bistro tables. Bay Street Bistro, earlier this year got permission from the city to place tables on the sidewalk, European cafe-style. The request was screened by the public property committee and later approved by the council.

In the past, the city has regulated things like sandwich boards, tables of merchandise and other temporary sidewalk accoutrements as an accessibility issue overseen by the code enforcement officer. ADA rules require at least four feet of passage on sidewalks. Bistro tables must adhere to that regulation, as well.

With the Bay Street Bistro’s request, and a later request from Cafe Gabrielle, the council discussed a more formal process of permitting and oversight.
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They initially suggested charging a fee of $10 per month for business owners whose applications for sidewalk tables or benches are approved. But Public Works Director Mark Dorsey reminded the council that the sidewalk right-of-way is actually under the state Department of Transportation, which owns Highway 166 (Bay Street).

Dorsey at an earlier meeting with the council opined that the city shouldn’t be the one charging a fee, since the ROW belongs to the state. The ROW runs from the center line of the road to the edge of the building.

Dorsey thought (mistakenly he later found) that the issue of jurisdictional authority could be resolved if the city simply didn’t charge a fee with its sidewalk table permit. He called the DOT and spoke to an official who said not only should the city not charge a fee, they had no authority to grant the sidewalk table permit in the first place. That ball is in the DOT’s court, Dorsey was told.

The state would charge about $90 a month for granting permission to place bistro tables in the right-of-way, he found.

“They take it very seriously that someone is using that right-of-way and making money off it,” Dorsey said.

The council stepped out as middleman Tuesday by approving a revised city permit (that would still give the city oversight over ADA issues) with a notice/disclaimer that the applicant also needs to apply to the state for use of the right-of-way.

“Whether they do or not is between them and WSDOT,” said City Attorney Greg Jacoby.

Voila, problem solved. The issue of whether business owners can afford the $90 fee becomes “an economic decison on the part of the vendor,” Jacoby said. “That’s really a private business decision.”

PO Mayor apologizes for public meetings violation

We got a press release today (May 2) saying that five or more members of the Port Orchard City Council may attend the annual Housing Luncheon of the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County.
There’s nothing unusual in that. The city sends out notice of any meeting or event where there may be a quorum of the seven-member council. That’s required by state law to prevent the possibility of back-room deals being struck.
Recently, however, there was a misunderstanding about how many Port Orchard council members planned to attend an ad hoc committee meeting on a sewer plant contract. And Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes began the April 22 city council meeting with an apology.
“The (ad hoc) committee met (April 17), and a fourth council member attended unexpectedly,” Matthes said. “The city recognizes that proper notice was not given when a quorum of four council members met, resulting in a violation of the open public meetings act. The city will take measures to assure that does not happen again.”
The mayor required members of the committee to recap what was discussed, and he invited members of the audience to request a recording of the April 17 meeting. He also allowed the public to comment on the committee’s recommendation before the council voted on the contract. (The council overrode the committee’s recommendation in a 4-3 split vote.)
Matthes said the city’s risk managers recommended taking these steps to mitigate the error. He announced he would schedule a “mandatory elected officials and supervisory staff training” on requirements of the open public meetings act.
“We want to be very clear and make sure the public understands we take the open public meetings act very seriously,” said City Attorney Greg Jacoby.
Council members Jerry Childs and Cindy Lucarelli disagreed an error had been made, saying the four council members had individually notified City Clerk Brandy Rinearson that they intended to attend, and they believed she had given notice of the meeting.
John Clauson, however, said he had mistakenly understood that only three (himself, Lucarelli and Fred Chang) would attend. Clauson said he sent an email to Rinearson indicating there wouldn’t be a quorum.
Committees of the council include three members of the seven-person council, and meetings are listed on council agendas and the city’s website. If an additional member is to attend, the city must give notice of the “special” meeting at least 24 hours in advance, including emails to the press and others on the city’s mailing list and a notice on the front door of city hall.
Rinearson, in an email to the press on April 21, advised that the city did not give proper special meeting notice.
Childs at the April 22 meeting noted that at some committee meetings a fourth council member will sometimes show up, sometimes to observe. Childs wondered why the quorum issue hadn’t been previously raised.
That question is sure to get some scrutiny at the upcoming training Matthes mentioned. The issue of committee meeting transparency in general has been discussed periodically over the past couple of months. City resident Elissa Whittleton has asked that committee meetings, often held early in the morning at MoonDogs or another local restaurant, be held in council chambers where they can be videotaped.

Your chance to serve on city of Port Orchard advisory boards

The city of Port Orchard is accepting letters of interest from residents wishing to serve on its Planning Commission, Design Review Board and Building Board of Appeals.

All three are volunteer advisory boards that carry considerable clout. The Planning Commission advises the City Council on land use policies. The Design Review Board oversees the aesthetics and amenities of proposed construction projects in the downtown area.

The Building Board of Appeals is actually more than an advisory board. Its members, with a two-thirds vote, can reverse or modify the decision of the city’s building official. This board meets infrequently on an as-needed basis, according to Senior Planner Jennifer Haro. The board, made up of individuals with expertise in the building industry, holds hearings open to the public to review appeals of building permit applications.

The city is looking for applicants who represent a cross section of the community and “who will use their best judgement in deciding upon the issue before them,” according to a news release.

Applications and brief volunteer job descriptions are available at www.cityofportorchard.us.
Applications are due by Friday. Mail to City Clerk Brandy Rinearson, 216 Prospect Street, Port Orchard, WA 98366 or email cityclerk@cityofportorchard.us.
For more information, call (360) 876-4407.

Waterfront pathway process complicated by federal regulations

Owners of five Beach Drive properties are alarmed anew at news the Port Orchard City Council has taken the next step toward construction of a public waterfront pathway that could go right through their homes.

The city recently approved a contract that sets in motion steps for possible acquisition of the properties by eminent domain. But other options are being considered, and taking of the properties is far from a done deal, City Engineer Mark Dorsey stressed. The contract includes financial capacity and authority for Universal Field Services to negotiate with the property owners on total acquisition, when and if the city council gives the OK.

The council needs to know the pros and cons of all options, Dorsey said, which is why the contract includes the most extreme scenario. Under other scenarios, the houses could be left standing, but there are liability and public safety issues.

Property owners are miffed that city officials didn’t personally contact each of them before the contract was approved. To explain why, we need to get down into the weeds, so hang with me here.

First, let’s jump back to 2011. The property owners have known for at least two years that eminent domain is a possibility. The issue came up in a properly noticed public meeting in which the council discussed early design of the pathway, causing an uproar from the property owners. According to homeowner Randy Jones, then-Mayor Lary Coppola visited him a day or two after the meeting. Coppola assured Jones that the eminent domain option was at that time hypothetical and the taking of his home was not imminent, Jones recently said.

That’s still the case. It will take the city a long time to jump through the hoops of regulations put into play by a $300,000 federal grant the city accepted under previous Mayor Kim Abel for preliminary design of the pathway.

The grant requires Port Orchard to complete the whole path, one way or another — through the homes or around them — or the city must return the $300,000.

The Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway is seen as a great amenity by most city officials. Two segments are already completed and have been well-used. So it’s unlikely the city will turn back now, but that’s yet another option the council will weigh, according to Dorsey.

The city faces the same use-it-or-lose it issue with the Tremont Street Corridor, where more than $3 million in federal funds were used for design. According to Dorsey, the federal government, dispersing money through the state Department of Transportation, used to spread money around “like peanut butter,” leaving a trail of partially completed public works projects. Since 2009, the feds require assurance grant-supported projects will be completed, making it harder on public officials, but reducing the likelihood that taxpayers’ money will be squandered on nice ideas never executed.

So why didn’t Port Orchard officials recently come knocking at the property owners’ doors? Under one of the federal grant regulations, the city must use an intermediary to contact residents about the potential taking of their properties to avoid the appearance of “collusion,” according to Dorsey. The law requires a clean division of roles. The city, acting on the public’s behalf, could be seen as having a conflict of interest were any staff members or elected officials to discuss the eminent domain issue with property owners outside of a public meeting.

Speaking of which, the council takes public comment during its meetings. The next one is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 216, Prospect St.

Roger Gay gives a pop quiz

Roger Gay, a regular reader and commenter on the Kitsap Sun’s website, posted a comment on today’s story about the Port Orchard’s sales tax revenue boost due to annexations.

Roger begins:
“Why did Home Depot withdraw from building in Port Orchard? What is the expected impact from the apartment complex’s being built at the Sidney/Sedgwick intersection? What happened to the proposed roundabouts on Tremont and improvements to that corridor? Has the new waterside park facilities and trail in downtown Port Orchard increased downtown walk about traffic? When is the farmers market facility scheduled to open?

I felt like I was in eighth grade, walking into class and getting a pop quiz.

Roger went on to say that with recent improvements, Port Orchard actually seems to have it going on, whereas Bremerton … not so much. Roger, correct me if I’ve misstated your opinion.

Anyway, I got out my number two pencil and jumped in to answer Roger’s questions, which many of you may have as well:

Home Depot: Company sales projections didn’t justify moving forward, although HD has done most of the heavy lifting on the site, which is now set for any other big box store that wants to try its luck on the Bethel Corridor.

Tremont Street: Roundabouts were redesigned over a period of several years in part to better accommodate emergency vehicles. The city used federal grants for much of the $3.6 million it took for design and right-of-way acquisition. The city needs $15 million to build the gateway project. City Engineer Mark Dorsey will apply I believe in August to the state Transporaiton Improvement Board. The city will need to come up with an additional $2.7 for undergrounding utilities and other costs not covered by the grant. According to Dorsey, the fact the city used any federal money on Tremont means the clock is ticking on the project. There has been a tightening of rules regarding federal transportation money so that projects don’t just get started and lie the fallow. I’m guessing when and if the $15 m grant comes through, we at the Kitsap Sun will hear Dorsey’s whoop of excitement across Sinclair Inlet.

Apartment Complex: The Sidney, a 105-apartment complex at the corner of Sidney and Sedgewick, is open and leasing. In fact the council discussed the impact of the project at an April meeting. Rush Construction met all requirements for traffic and environmental impacts, Dorsey told the council. All of this was reviewed in detail and approved by the city’s hearing examiner several years ago, so if the council had any concerns about the size of the project or its impact on the surrounding area, the horse is out of that barn, Dorsey in essence said. The council agreed to look carefully at urban density regulations within the city the next time its comprehensive plan comes up for review. City planners are already working on population estimates to get ready for that process.

Port Orchard Market: In June contractors working on the building (which is actually two or three buildings spliced together) found a wall that they weren’t expecting, meaning they had to do a redesign of the facade. That required going back to the city for another permit, which I have heard was recently issued. Don Ryan, who is heading up the project, was reluctant to say exactly when the market will open so as not to disappoint, but the project is not dead, he said.

Port Orchard Marina Park: Based on my general observations (and especially the night of the July 4th fireworks) people are loving the park expansion, with its viewing platform, pedestrian path and interactive mural. Unfortunately, the new features attracted vandals, but POPD is on it.

Oh, and BTW, the newly renovated DeKalb Pier is to open soon, and it looks really classy.

As for cooperation between Port Orchard and Bremerton, there has been considerable talk and some action on that front. The cities and the Port of Bremerton partnered on expanded summer hours for the foot ferry between the two towns.

If you count the recent opening of the South Kitsap Skatepark, you might say, yes, there is a sense of momentum right now in good old PO/South Kitsap. I can say that city and port generated projects are the result of years of government wheels grinding slowly.

Chris Henry, reporter

Here’s a video of the skatepark opening:

Neighbors would be notified of extra pets, under PO ordinance

The city of Port Orchard allows residents to have up to three dogs and up to three cats per household. Licensed kennels are excluded from the pet limit.

But what about the family who moves into town with more than the allowed number of dogs or cats? Or the family that inherits a pet from a family member who moves into a nursing home or dies?

For those folks, the city offers a “pet variance.” Up to now, getting a variance has been a simple matter of filling out a form to document “hardship.” The city council recently revising the ordinance to factor in the impact of extra pets on neighbors.

The original proposal, discussed at an April 16 work-study meeting, was to require written permission from neighbors on either side of the residence slated for bonus pets.

The council discussed the issue of barking dogs, the most obvious potential source of annoyance. The city’s nuisance ordinance prohibits, “frequent, repetitive or continuous noise made by any animal which unreasonably disturbs or interferes with peace comfort and repose of property owners or possessors …,” Licensed kennels, shelters, vet clinics, pet shops and service dogs are exempted.

Councilman John Clauson pointed out that the number of dogs is not always the issue, when it comes to noise.

“You got five dogs that are little quiet dogs that live in the house, and you never see ‘em, I don’t care if you have 10 of ‘em,” Clauson said. “But you could have one sitting in your backyard that howls all night long, and I’m going to be unhappy.”

City Clerk Brandy Rinearson said the city’s contract with the Kitsap Humane Society covers barking dogs and yowling cats. Animal control officers from KHS are contracted to enforce this part of the city’s nuisance ordinance.

Public Works Director Mark Dorsey said health and sanitation also were concerns in allowing people to have more than three of any type of pet.

According to Rinearson, three was a somewhat arbitrary number set by the council that established the pet variance ordinance in 1999. Some cities have different limits (up to five dogs in one town she knows of); others have no ordinance limiting the number of pets allowed.

The council, after some discussion, decided it would be adequate to simply notify neighbors on either side if someone applies for a pet variance. The notification would come before the variance is approved. Members of the public can comment on any city council agenda item at the start of each meeting.

“My heartburn was we were constantly granting these with no process, and so the neighbors didn’t know,” said Councilman Rob Putaansuu. “So for me it’s about notifying the neighbors. I think you notice the issue so they know this is coming before us, and if they’ve got heartburn with it, here’s an opportunity to come and testify.”

The council agreed to place the amended ordinance on an upcoming agenda for formal approval.

Another “process” gap in the city’s code is how to handle the occasional request from a business for after-hours music and other goings-on. Such a request came before the council in early April, when Amy Igloi of Amy’s on the Bay sought permission to play music on her deck after 11 p.m. (the city’s noise curfew).

The city’s nuisance ordinance prohibits a host of public disturbances between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., including the sound of machinery and power tools like lawn mowers, blowers, grinders, drills and power saws. The code bans loud vehicles and music from both inside and outside buildings, along with “yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on or near the public streets” during those hours.

What’s missing, said City Attorney Greg Jacoby, is “a fair and reasonable process that’s applied consistently regardless of who makes the request.”

The city now issues special event permits, reviewed by staff and approved by the council. Jacoby said the council might choose to roll the music-after-hours requests in with special events.

Several people at the meeting raised the concern about “what if” authorized events became a magnet for complaints either because of mismanagement by the business owner or in spite of their best efforts and intentions.

Rinearson said then-Cmdr. Geoffrey Marti, now Port Orchard’s police chief, suggests that such events be allowed on a one-time basis only, not as recurring events.

Marti said his officers get many complaints about noise after 11 p.m., coming from both inside and outside Bay Street establishments.

Two city residents who were at the meeting testified to the remarkable ability of noise to carry up the hill from Bay Street.

“I hear the music all the time. It wakes me up,” said Bek Ashby, who is a member of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association, a business owners group.

The council was in a quandary as to how to proceed on the after-curfew music question. Rinearson offered to see how other cities handle the issue and get back to them at a future meeting.

Everything you ever wanted to know about that nasty odor in McCormick Woods

Port Orchard public works officials on Wednesday will answer questions about a major, long-term capital project to replace degrading septic systems within McCormick Woods.

A meeting is set for 6 p.m., with a second meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 5, both at city hall, 216 Prospect Street.

The development’s 605 poorly functioning septic systems use hybrid technology. The “STEP” tanks — for septic tank effluent pumping systems — draw off liquid effluent to the city sewer line. Solids remain in the tank.

The STEP systems were approved for lots too small for regular septic systems by Kitsap County in the 1980s, when McCormick Woods was in the planning stages. Because of how the system works, decomposition of waste starts in the tank, causing strong hydrogen sulfide odors and corrosion at the pump station. Corrosion from the STEP systems threatens the integrity of sewer lines and equipment throughout the city, Public Works Director Mark Dorsey has said.

The city will swap out all “STEP” systems within the development over the next several years. Replacement of the septics has been on the city’s capital sewer projects plan since 2010 and will be paid for out of a sewer rate hike implemented that year.

The need to replace the STEP tanks has nothing to do with the city’s 2009 annexation of McCormick Woods. The city inherited maintenance of the STEP systems from Kitsap County in 1994, when a community drain field was replaced by a sewer line jointly owned by Port Orchard and what is now West Sound Utility District.

The STEP systems’ malfunction also had nothing to do with a sewer and water rate increase in 2009, shortly after the annexation. Before becoming part of the city, McCormick Woods was subject to a 50 percent surcharge on sewer and water services provided by the city. Once the annexation was complete, the surcharge went away, and the entire city — including McCormick Woods residents — had to absorb the loss of revenue.

For more information, contact public works at (360) 876-4991.