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Legal challenges wind down, sewer study ahead

The legal challenges by Main Street Sewer District to become the sewer entity for Freeland appear to be finished. But that isn’t going to stop commissioners with Main Street from pushing their case forward in the court of public opinion.

In spite of losing a lawsuit against the state Department of Health and withdrawing from a second suit with the state Department of Ecology, Main Street is still pressing its alternative plan for sewers in Freeland.

Main Street commissioners are now going to take their battle to the voters of Freeland.

Customers of Freeland Water District will vote on whether they support the water district becoming a utility local improvement district, or ULID. Only customers within the area covered by sewer project’s phases will get to vote; Phase 1 is the business core of Freeland.

But Main Street is not going to give up. Main Street Commissioner Erl Bangston said he plans to host public meetings to discuss issues facing Freeland residents, including sewers and incorporation.

“It will now be up to the business people in Freeland to decide if they want the Freeland Water District to form a ULID,” Bangston said.

“We will leave it up to the public. That’s where the decision belongs,” Bangston said.

The water district and the Freeland Chamber of Commerce have been waiting for the lawsuits to be resolved.

Chet Ross, who led the chamber’s effort to have a sewer feasibility study done, said he was glad the end of the legal squabble was near.

“We are pleased,” Ross said.

He and several other chamber members raised $60,000 from local business people to fund the study.

Ross said his group is moving forward with plans to ask for bids for a cost analysis study of the sewer plan.

“As soon as everything is official we can start the process,” Ross said.

In the meantime the state departments of Ecology and Health are reviewing Freeland’s comprehensive sewer plan and engineering report, which was completed by Tetra Tech Engineers in February 2005.

The lawsuits brought by Main Street delayed the Freeland Water District from forming a sewer district for the purpose of a feasibility study.

Main Street sued the state departments of Health and Ecology over the agencies’ decisions to issue “certificates of necessity,” required approvals for the Freeland Water District to become a sewer district.

A judge in Thurston County Superior Court, however, ruled against Main Street in favor of the Department of Health, saying Main Street would not offer sewer service to a large enough portion of Freeland to be a viable alternative to Freeland Water District’s sewer plan.

The suit, filed in April against Island County and the Freeland Water District, came after the board of Island County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the county’s own plan over Main Street’s competing plan.

Gayle Saran can be reached at 221-5300 or gsaran@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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