Category Archives: What Runs Downhill

McWoods Sewers: Residents with “STEP” Systems Likely to See Surcharge in 2010

The city inherited responsibility for the systems under a development agreement.
By Chris Henry
The Port Orchard City Council is contemplating what to do about 605 homes in McCormick Woods whose septic systems the city services.
The cost of the the service, formerly covered by a 50 percent surcharge on McCormick residents’ sewer bills, fell onto the city’s plate when McCormick Woods was annexed in July and the surcharge went away.
McCormick Woods was not alone in paying the sewer surcharge, and the extra 50 percent was not directly tied to the septic servicing. All South Kitsap residents who live outside Port Orchard but receive sewer and water service from the city pay a 50 percent surcharge on those utilities.
The city council in 2010 will likely add a new surcharge applying only to those 605 homes to cover the cost of inspecting and pumping the septic systems.
The homes in question have a type of sewer system — called STEP for “septic tank effluent pumping system”— that includes an onsite septic with a connection to the city’s sewer line. Solids are processed in the septic tank; liquid waste is pumped to the sewer line and delivered to the treatment plant operated jointly by Port Orchard and Westsound Utility District.
Before the sewer, effluent from the STEP systems was pumped to a community drain field.
An additional 30 homes yet to be built are also vested to have STEP systems.
The remainder of homes in the McCormick Woods annexation area have grinder pumps that deliver liquid and solid waste to the sewer line.
Like any septic system, the STEP systems need periodic maintenance and repair. The city inspects each system every three years. While most people with septics are responsible for servicing their own systems, the city inherited responsibility for the McCormick systems under a development agreement that existed when the sewer line went in.
Before the annexation, revenue from the sewer surcharge paid by all McCormick residents more than covered the cost of servicing the STEP systems. The current annual cost is about $72,000 per year.
Public works director Mark Dorsey gave a summary of the STEP system and its financial implications for the city at a work study meeting Tuesday. According to John Clauson of the city’s public utilities committee, the council plans to address the STEP service cost in its 2010 budget.
Before the end of the year, city utility customers — including those in McCormick Woods —will see an increase in their bimonthly water and sewer rates to make up for the loss of McCormick Woods’ utility surcharge revenue. The increase — $3.50 for water and $7.50 for sewer — will replace an estimated $280,000 to $300,000 per year in revenue lost through the annexation.
While the McCormick Woods surcharge was in effect, the revenue generated more than made up for the septic service cost, in effect subsidizing service for other city sewer customers to the tune of about $128,000 per year, Dorsey said. That helped keep rates down. Now everyone, including those in McCormick Woods, have to share in making up that lost revenue, but only those who have the STEP systems will pay the additional charge for that service beginning in 2010.
Also in 2010, the city must address revenue needed for improvements to the sewer system. Considering the poor economy, the council deferred a rate increase in 2009 that would have funded those capital improvements.

More on What Runs Downhill in McCormick Woods

I thought I’d call out a comment on my recent story about Port Orchard’s sewer and water rate increases related to the recent McCormick Woods annexation.

BlueLight said:
Here’s the way I understand it: The houses in McCormick Woods are on a “stepped” sewer system, which is – basically – a hybrid between onsite septic and municipal wastewater. Each home has a septic tank, but instead of drainfields these tanks pump to the municipal system. Prior to annexation, the City of Port Orchard serviced this system; responding to pump failures, etc. The City also pumped each holding tank – I believe – every five years. This is what the surcharge paid for. Obviously, this design is is more labor and cost intensive to operate than the purely municipal type system throughout the rest of the city. One could easily say that – as a result of annexation – the homeowners in McCormick Woods managed to have residents in the other parts of P.O. assume the cost of pumping their septic tanks.

I replied:
BlueLight – Regarding your comments on McWoods STEP (septic tank effluent pumping system), it is not correct to say the surcharge was assessed to pay for the pumping/maintenance of septic systems in McCormick Woods. What I apparently did not make clear in the article is that all South Kitsap residents who live outside Port Orchard but access its sewer system pay the 50 percent surcharge, not just McWoods residents. The McWoods sewer surcharge, totaling about $200,000 a year, goes (or went) toward the city’s total sewer budget.

You are correct that the city is responsible for inspecting and (if needed) pumping the septic tanks of McWoods homes, under an agreement between Kitsap County and McWoods developers when ULID 6 was formed.

Since the sewer line went in, liquid waste from McWoods has been diverted from a communal drain field to the sewer line that runs along Old Clifton Road and eventually to the sewer treatment plant operated jointly by Port Orchard and Westsound Utility District. The solid waste is processed through on-site septic tanks that, like such tanks everywhere, require periodic inspection and maintenance.

Under the ULID 6 agreement, the city inherited the responsibility for maintaining those septic systems. That is unique to McWoods. The city takes care of 605 McWoods septics; that’s 133 per year on a rotating basis, which costs the city $72,000 a year.

While the surcharge was in effect, the revenue generated ($200,000) more than made up for the septic service cost ($72,000), said Public Works Director Mark Dorsey. So in essence, McWoods residents, while they were paying the surcharge, were subsidizing city residents’ sewer service to the tune of $128,000 per year.

Dorsey said the McWoods surcharge, which was significant, actually helped keep rates down for city residents. Now everyone, including those in McWoods, have to share in picking up that lost revenue.

The council will be discussing McWoods sewers at its work study meeting, Tuesday. The meeting is open to the public, but comments from the audience are taken at the discretion of the council, unlike at a regular council meeting, where the public always gets a chance to speak.

Hope this helps. Chris Henry, SK/ Government reporter

McCormick Woods Annexation Results in Utility Rate Hike

Port Orchard officials have delayed implementing a rate increase related to sewer system improvements.
By Chris Henry
Port Orchard residents will see an increase of $11 bimonthly in their sewer and water bill as a result of the recent McCormick Woods annexation.
The city council held a public hearing on the impending rate hike Tuesday, but no one testified.
Before becoming part of the city in July, McCormick Woods was subject to a 50 percent surcharge on sewer and water services, which are provided by the city. Now that the annexation is complete, the surcharge goes away, and the entire city — including McCormick Woods residents — must absorb the loss of revenue.
The city’s financial department has calculated it will cost an additional $3.50 for water and $7.50 for sewer bimonthly per household to make up the utility shortfall totaling an estimated $280,000 to $300,000 per year. The actual amount depends on consumption, according to City Treasurer Kris Tompkins.
City residents currently pay $72 every other month for sewer. That will increase to $79.30 every other month with the change.
The city has a two tier system for water, charging $15 every other month for consumption of less than 3,000 gallons per month and $19 for more than 3,000 per month. The city also has an overage charge for people who consume more than 5,000 per month. The new water rates will be $18.50 and $22.50 every other month for the two tiers.
The city’s water rates are low compared to other cities and utility districts in Kitsap County, Dorsey told the council. Port Orchard is the only utility provider in the county that does not have a commodity charge, he said. Users are charged only the flat rate per tier, not per gallon.
The city’s utility committee decided that now is not the time to institute a rate hike to finance the city’s capital improvement program for sewers. The city and Westsound Utility District jointly own the wastewater treatment plant on Beach Drive. Port Orchard, as part of its comprehensive plan for sewers, identified work that needs to be done on the system over the next several years.
The utility committee felt that adding an additional $11.20 bimonthly for sewer system improvements would put too much of a burden on residents, especially given the economy, Dorsey said. So the city will have to wait to fund those repairs and improvements, at least through 2009. The city will revisit how to fund sewer system improvements in 2010.
The city has also had to impose other utility rates and rate increases over the past couple years, another factor in the committee’s decision, Dorsey said.
There was a water rate increase in 2008, and at the beginning of this year, the city instituted a new stormwater utility, in compliance with state and federal regulations on water quality. The money will be used to prevent pollutants from making their way into Puget Sound through stormwater runoff. Cities and counties around the state have had to comply with the state law.

Kitsap Commissioners to Consider Sewers & “the Laughter of Children”

Two public hearings of note on Monday’s agenda for the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners.

1. The board will hear an appeal by the Farmhouse Montessori School in South Kitsap of the county hearing examiner’s denial for a special permit that would allow the school/day care to operate in a rural neighborhood.

2. The Board of Commissioners also will take up the issue of whether to form a Local Improvement District to extend a sewer line along Colchester Drive in Manchester.

Farmhouse Montessori

Kitsap County planners recommended approval of the school’s permit request, but when the project reached the Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter, several nearby residents said they weren’t too keen on the proposal, especially considering the extra traffic, noise and potential damage to the environment.
Hunter denied the permit, saying the use would be detrimental to the surrounding property owners.

“Educating children is an admirable profession and laudable goal,” Hunter wrote in his findings. “Montessori schools offer a unique perspective on the educational process and can provide a valuable service to the community. (But) noise generated by laughter and screaming of young children during outdoor playtime and by up to 84 vehicle trips to and from the property would be materially detrimental to single-family residential properties in the immediate vicinity.”

Manchester Sewer LID 9

The Board of commissioners deferred a decision on the matter, after testy testimony from area residents, who questioned the accuracy of the costs and the process by which LID boundaries were drawn.

Ron Rada, chairman of the Manchester Community Council’s sewer committee, is spearheading the LID process. After the previous meeting in June, he submitted to the board a detailed response to questions raised during the hearing.

Among other questions, Rada addresses a concern about LID boundaries raised by Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery, a Manchester resident. Avery asked why some properties between the previously formed LID 8 and the proposed LID 9 were not required to be part of either district. Avery said it was unfair to other residents that these folks weren’t obliged to pay their share of the cost.

Rada, in his letter, explained that some property owners joined LID 8 as latecomers, a move approved by the board. The latecomers and those who didn’t want to hook up to the sewer form a patchwork of properties between LID 8 and 9, some with sewer service, some without.

The committee couldn’t legally require the unsewered properties to be part of LID 9, Rada explained, because the sewer line had already been extended to accommodate the latecomers in LID 8. The law permits LID boundaries to include only properties without current access to sewer. When and if the septic on the properties in LID no-man’s-land fail, they will be required to either fix them or hook up to the sewer, Rada said.

Rada also sent me an article by John Carpita, a public works consultant, explaining how local utility districts are formed . The title of the article, “Are We Having Fun Yet?” hints at the complexity of the process, but Carpita spells it out in his introduction, saying, “LIDs are more fun than root canals without novocaine, a three-month visit from your in-laws, balancing city budgets… (with) a reputation as difficult to administer, time consuming and a public relations disaster waiting to happen (my emphasis added).”

The article addresses the issue of proportionality of assessments. “Statutes specify that the assessment per parcel must not exceed the special benefit, which is defined as the fair market value of the property before and after the local improvement project,” Carpita writes.

Resident Tom Warren questioned whether residents were proportionately represented. The petition approval was determined by area of property, giving those with larger properties more weight in the vote, yet the amount assessed per property is the same, he observed. Carpita’s article confirms that the LID petition “needs to be signed by owners of 51 percent of area within the LID.” (The LID 9 petition just barely met this threshold.) Clearly, Rada & company followed the statutes. However, the question the commissioners need to answer (and one that perhaps Avery himself could address) is whether having access to the sewer line conveys equal value to each property regardless of its size.

I’m going on vacation next week, so will pass this off into other capable hands. But I’ll be watching to see how the commissioners rule and invite your comments of enlightenment before or after the meeting. Cheers.

Manchester Sewer District Draws Fire … Even from County Assessor

I just submitted my story on the proposed Utility Local Improvement District 9 along Colchester Drive in Manchester. While some who testified at Monday’s public hearing before the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners said sewer was needed in the area, the overwhelming majority who spoke – including Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery – raised concerns about how the boundaries were drawn, how the petition was certified and how the costs were analyzed.

The board, in consideration of multiple apparent discrepancies, has agreed to delay its vote on finalizing the district and to keep the public hearing open until its July 14 meeting. I’ll post a link once the story goes on the Web site. In the meantime, here are a couple of quotes I didn’t have room to include.

“There seems to be a great deal of confusion over how they handled the voting. It seems like it was all pretty loosey goosey to me.” Jim Avery, in a conversation I had with him this afternoon.

“I lose sleep over this. It just makes me sick to my stomach. I may have to sell my house.” Nancy English, who is on a limited income and estimates her cost to hook up to the sewer at $28,000.

On the flip side, resident Bart Lovely, who is a contractor, said although the cost is “a hardship for most of us,” it’s only going to get worse. Now is the time to commit to sewers, he said. Lovely said the soils in the area are clay and not conducive to septic systems. Some who testified seemed to suggest Lovely had a vested interest in promoting the sewer. He served on the sewer committee of the Manchester Community Council that forwarded the petition, but he is not building any homes in district 9 (nor in the already formed district 8).

This is the third story I’ve done within the past week on waste management, including the apparently resolved Bremerton-Port orchard SKIA squabble and West Sound Utility District’s methane initiative. My working title for the latter story was, “Port Orchard Has Gas and Knows How to Use It” but they don’t pay me to write the headlines … for obvious reasons.

Blackjack Creek Trail System Revisited

Within the City of Port Orchard, the Blackjack Creek ravine is a world away from civilization. The creek drops through the watershed, shouldered by hillsides thick with vegetation and alive with bird song.

The city on Friday will submit applications for more than $100,000 in state grants that would be used to develop a trail system throughout the Blackjack Creek Wilderness.

Port Orchard drafted a plan for the area in 1987 — the Blackjack Creek Comprehensive Management Plan. The city is hoping to land $53,782 from the Washington State Regional Trails Program and $50,000 from the Washington State Land and Water Conservation program to see that plan to fruition, with help from community groups, businesses and developers.

Read more about the city’s plans for the watershed in a story to run Friday. Meanwhile, here’s a map to play with.

View Blackjack Creek in a larger map

Seattle Web Site Mistakes Port Orchard for Bremerton

It’s a common error. People hear “Bremerton” and they think “Kitsap County.” Hence the persistent perception that we are still the Bremerton Sun.

Check out the Seattle Web site urbanspoon, where Bert Chadwick gives the Koi Bistro a thumbs up in his “I Won’t Carp About Koi Bistro” post. Chadwick writes,”Koi Bistro is one of those that have taken the shell of a failed restaurant (Baja Outpost) and moved in like a hermit crab .” The site clearly lists the restaurant on Piperberry Way in “Port Orchard” under the heading of “Bremerton,” linking to a list of that city’s restaurants.

And check out the Stimulus Watch Web site, where you can browse by state/city. You’ll see the only Kitsap city listed is Bremerton. Well now doesn’t that make the rest of us feel special?

No doubt this is why writers of the Bremerton Beat have such a hard time getting over themselves. I was on vacation when typically mild-mannered Editor David Nelson became intoxicated with power and put Port Orchard back on notice.

Let me spell it out for those of you who can’t tell Port Orchard from Bremerton.

Bremerton, population 37,259 … Port Orchard, 8,500 (soon to be @10,000)

Bremerton, north of Sinclair Inlet … Port Orchard, south of Sinclair Inlet

Bremerton, medium-sized waterfront urban center with semi-deserted streets … Port Orchard, potentially charming waterfront village with semi-deserted streets

Bremerton, annexing the South Kitsap Industrial Area (effective April 1)

Port Orchard, annexing McCormick Woods (finalization expected in early August)

Bremerton: Wants to provide sewer to SKIA. The city is building a sewer line through Gorst that could be extended out to the SKIA area.

Port Orchard: Wants to provide sewer to SKIA. The city’s recently approved comprehensive plan update shows that the city plans to extend a sewer line out through the McCormick Woods/Sunnyslope area with the potential to serve SKIA. Bremerton challenged Port Orchard’s comp plan before the Kitsap County Boundary Review Board. The dispute between the two cities over Port Orchard’s plans to sewer SKIA have not been resolved.

Does that mean that all this rivalry between the two cities is about sewer line envy?

McWoods, Flush Away. Water Main “Good to Go”

Repairs were completed on a broken water main at McCormick Woods about 1:15 p.m. today. Although testing on the main was being wrapped up, Jay Cookson, public works supervisor, said residents are free to turn on the tap and … sigh of relief … flush those toilets that have been in a holding pattern since 5 a.m. when the 12-inch main serving approximately 700 homes in the development sprung a leak.

It’s the little things that make my day. Flushing toilets are high on the list. I’m working from home today as I have meetings in Port Orchard. About 1 p.m. I heard the toilets and faucets making strange noises, kind of like Jack Nicholson’s gut rumbling in “The Witches of Eastwick.” Then, voila, H2O!

“Everybody’s good to go,” said Cookson.

Literally .. good to go.

Cookson said that work on a sewer line in the area about two weeks ago may have compressed the ground above the plastic pipe, which is buried about four feet deep, causing the leak. Workers turned off the water, removed the section of damaged pipe and repaired it with a metal band. The pipe is on the main line serving the McCormick Woods development.

PO Council Ponders its Next Move on SKIA Sewers

Clarification 9/8/08: In a comment below, Bob Meadows called into question the following statement on this entry:

“With financing, the expansion cost $21.5 million, of which $4.5 million represents expanded capacity set to be dedicated to SKIA.”

Regarding the total cost of expansion, I checked with City of Port Orchard Treasurer Kris Tompkins, who replied:

“I think there needs to be clarification.  The expansion cost of the treatment plant was $21.5 million including the debt (financing) of $16.8 million.  The City & District (Karcher Creek Sewer District, now Westsound Utility District) together contributed $4.7 million (50/50%).  These numbers do not include the interest (of 1/2 a percent), which over the life of the debt will be an additional $775,000+.  One loan will be paid off in 2022 & the second in 2024.”

Regarding the cost of the expanded capacity dedicated to SKIA, Bob also called into question the $4.5 million (in the statement above), saying he could find no such reference on the city’s annual financial report. The figure I was using came from an e-mail to me from Lary Coppola on why the city wants to pursue its perceived right to provide sewer to SKIA. City Councilman John Clauson cited an amount of $3.5 in a recent interview.

Kris Tompkins, who replied:

“To my knowledge there has not been any calculation of a monetary value that represents the expanded capacity to be dedicated to SKIA.  So I don’t believe the statement “…of which $4.5 represents expanded
capacity set to be dedicated to SKIA” is correct.  Part of the expanded capacity was in order to service SKIA but I never even have heard that a certain percentage of capacity was attributed to SKIA.”

Here’s the original post:

Members of the Port Orchard City Council are considering what to do next on the issue of Port Orchard’s desire to sewer the South Kitsap Industrial Area, since Wednesday, when the Bremerton City Council voted 7-0 to accept SKIA property owners’ petition to annex SKIA south. The council already voted to accept annexation of SKIA north, for a total of 3,400 acres to be annexed.

The council has yet to meet as a whole, yet in previous meetings, said Councilman John Clauson, they have been united in their desire to see Bremerton uphold a 2003 memorandum of agreement between Port Orchard and the Port of Bremerton, primary property owner of SKIA. The agreement designates Port Orchard as the entity that will provide sewer to the area, slated for development as an industrial park.

But Bremerton officials have said they are under no obligation to honor an agreement to which they are not party.

Mayor Cary Bozeman on Wednesday said the city would look for the deal that best served the residents of Bremerton, be it through Port Orchard or another provider.

“Obviously I’m disappointed in the sense that the City of Bremerton and the City of Port Orchard have had a great relationship forever, and I hate to have it get tarnished in this way,” Clauson said. “I do have a great respect for Mayor Bozeman and the city council. I’d like to talk to them directly.”

As to how far Port Orchard will go to press the matter, Clauson said, “We’ve been talking about the possibility of a lawsuit over this whole issue.”

Although he hoped it doesn’t become a matter for the courts to decide, Clauson said, the council and the Mayor Lary Coppola will do what they need to to defend the city’s investment in an expansion of its wastewater treatment plant, made in part on the assumption that Port Orchard would serve SKIA. The plant is operated jointly by the city and Westsound Utility District (formerly Karcher Creek Sewer District). With financing, the expansion cost $21.5 million, of which $4.5 million represents expanded capacity set to be dedicated to SKIA. The city anticipated money from new hook-ups in SKIA would contribute significantly to the debt, Clauson said, but without SKIA, the burden will fall back on city residents.

“It’s just not fair to the rate-payers if we don’t have the expansion growth that we anticipated,” Clauson said. “So, yeah, I expect it could ultimately make it to court. I’d rather not have to go that direction, but if we have to we have to.”

Rob Puutaansuu, chairman of the city’s utility committee, said talk of a lawsuit was “premature.” Puutaansuu said the council needs answers to certain questions from its own legal council and staff now that Bremerton has made the next move. For one thing, “At what point to we have to force the issue,” said Puutaansuu. “Is it now or down the road when services are provided?”

In anticipation of the need for expanded sewer service to SKIA, Port Orchard, were it the provider, would have to expand its collection line from the pump station on Feigley Road near McCormick Woods that was built with SKIA in mind, said Puutaansuu, who also mentioned being “disappointed” with Bremerton’s stance.

James Weaver, Port Orchard’s development director, said the county’s Boundary Review Board will have to address the memorandum as it rules on the proposed annexation. The board’s review could take 45-120 days. At Wednesday’s meeting, Weaver would not rule out a lawsuit, but said the city was “exhausting every avenue.”

“Litigation is an ugly word,” Weaver said.

Port Orchard Issues Analysis of SKIA Sewer Plans

Following up on the story I wrote about the meeting between City of Port Orchard and Kitsap County officials, James Weaver, the city’s director of development, sent me its SKIA Infrastructure Assessment and Technical Memorandum. The 28-page document compares Bremerton’s analysis of its ability to provide infrastructure, including sewer service, to SKIA with Port Orchard’s ability to provide sewer. Bottom line, Port Orchard figures it can get the job done for 20 percent less than Bremerton. The report will be posted within a day or two on the city’s Web site.