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Commissioners delay decision

The Board of Island County Commissioners wants to compare apples to apples. In this case, it means comparing the Freeland Comprehensive Sewer Plan with the Main Street Sewer System.

On Monday, commissioners delayed their decision until March 20 on which sewer plan will best serve Freeland for the next 20 years.

Commissioners have been leaning toward the Freeland comp sewer plan. During a public hearing Monday, commissioners considered adopting a resolution to approve the Freeland plan, but held off until more details could be provided.

“We are asking for a more accurate comparison,” Commissioner Mike Shelton said.

“At issue is it appears that Main Street can save subscribers some money in the short term, but once it has reached capacity, then we have to start at ground zero and build a second plant,” Shelton said.

Main Street supporters, however, continue to say their system is the better buy.

David Voigt, an engineer for Main Street, detailed possible options for sewer planning in Freeland and expanding the Main Street system.

Main Street Sewer System was built to serve the village at Maple Ridge, a senior housing development, and the newly opened Coastal Community Bank.

Main Street has challenged the county’s plan on price and flexibility issues.

“The Main Street Sewer District offers Freeland an opportunity to implement sewer service at a lower cost,” Voigt said.

“The county sewer plan forces the community to make a major commitment to a single wastewater treatment facility that is expensive, cannot be in service until 2013, and lacks flexibility in meeting specific needs of the community.”

Main Street has claimed they can provide service for $3.5 million less than the cost of implementing the county plan.

Voigt works for CHS Engineers, the private company representing Main Street in its bid to provide service to Freeland’s business core. He provided some answers about the Main Street plan, but not enough for the commissioners to move ahead with a decision.

“Based on what we heard today, I feel the need for more clarity,” Shelton said.

Commissioners Mac McDowell and Bill Byrd agreed.

“I definitely agree with Mike we need more time,” McDowell said.

Main Street is challenging the Freeland plan not only on costs, but on timing, as well. Proponents say they can provide the service for the business district sooner.

Even so, Voigt said Main Street recognizes that it will reach capacity within eight to 10 years, near the year 2015, and that additional new wastewater treatment capacity would be needed.

Voigt offered two possible scenarios to handle the need for future wastewater treatment capacity.

A large new plant could be constructed, he said, or two or more new small package wastewater treatment plants could be constructed at relatively small sites within the community. That’s similar to the option recommended to Clinton several years ago during its sewer planning process, when CHS developed a plan for Clinton.

For Freeland, considering the natural drainage system, Voigt said it would be logical to build a facility on Highway 525 near Main Street and near Nichols Brothers boatyard.

Whatever plan the county adopts will have to be approved by the state Department of Ecology and the state Department of Health. Main Street is also challenging the county’s push for the competing Freeland sewer system plan at the state level.

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