Sewer agreement to wait in Holmes Harbor

"Ratepayers and commissioners in the Holmes Harbor Sewer District learned just last week about a proposed sewer study agreement between them, Island County and the Freeland Water District.Two weeks ago, the Island County Board of Commissioners and commissioners in the Freeland Water District signed an interlocal agreement that would pay $138,000 for an engineering study focused on connecting Freeland homes and businesses to the sewer district's sewage treatment plant. The sewer district was named in the document as a third and necessary signer; however, the district's commissioners did not hear about the agreement until a newspaper article concerning the matter appeared last month in The South Whidbey Record.On Thursday night, Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton apologized to the Holmes Harbor commissioners and ratepayers for what he called extremely poor communication. Nonetheless, Shelton encouraged the commissioners to sign the interlocal agreement because planning for Freeland's future could depend heavily on whether or not the sewer district can provide service to its neighbors.Shelton said that if volunteer planners who are currently mapping Freeland's future decide the area should incorporate as a city or become a non-municipal urban growth area (NMUGA), it would need sewers. Without the sewer district's involvement, he said, sewer service probably is not a possibility.The only way that would ever occur is if we can strike a deal with the Holmes Harbor Sewer District, Shelton said.The district commissioners agreed to hold a special meeting on Sept. 13 to talk about the issue. As of Thursday, none of them had read the interlocal agreement.But there were some questions up front. Meg Wingard, who was appointed to the sewer district board Thursday, told Shelton that she was not comfortable with the firm the county is considering for the engineering study, Coupeville's Datum Pacific. Wingard said she felt the company's principal engineer, Les Killingsworth, is too deeply involved with the district. Killingsworth did the engineering for the district's sewer plant and is the project engineer for the district's controversial involvement in the Silver Sound Corporate Center development in Everett.My personal preference is that it is not Mr. Killingsworth who does the study, Wingard said.Shelton said the county has not signed a contract with Datum Pacific and is willing to search for another engineering firm if that is the sewer district's desire.Rick Brown, a former sewer district commissioner and a current member of the Freeland subarea planning committee, asked Shelton how adding Freeland to the district's sewage load would benefit Holmes Harbor ratepayers. Shelton said the district would receive more wastewater, which it can treat and use to irrigate the Holmes Harbor Golf Course. He also said the district would have a greater cash flow from sewer assessments paid by Freeland customers.Shelton told the district's commissioners that they should take their time to make a decision on the interlocal agreement, even if that means delaying planning efforts in Freeland. "

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