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Freeland sewer talks return

Freeland residents may soon be considering yet another proposal for sewers.

Freeland Water and Sewer District officials will meet at 5:50 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at its headquarters on Woodard Avenue. On the agenda is a review of existing water rates and discussion about a future sewer project in the downtown commercial core. Public comment will be accepted.

Still in the early stages of consideration, a district engineer has only just begun looking into details, such as flow rates and phasing.

“Right now we’re in the feasibility stage of this,” said Commissioner Lou Malzone, president of the board.

The loose plan is to hammer out details of the project, approach and gain the support of downtown property owners, and approve a general plan sometime this summer.

The commercial core encompasses the general area between the Post Office and China City, and from the Freeland Library to Highway 525. District officials have speculated that building sewers for the commercial core would fall somewhere in the realm of $8 million.

“There’s no true estimate; that’s just off the top of our heads,” Malzone said.

Determining just how much such a project would cost individual property owners in the affected area is one of the big questions that must be answered. It’s the first thing they’ll want to know, said Malzone, and is why the district hasn’t approached them for feedback yet.

“I’m optimistic [about gaining property owners’ support], but at this point in time, until we come up with numbers, it’s just conjecture,” Malzone said.

According to district manager Andy Campbell, the project is heavily funding dependent. Downtown property owners would likely incur expense, but the district has $3 million squirreled away already and Campbell hopes to secure more money through state and federal grants.

“It’s going to proceed forward when there is funding available and commercial core property owners want to do it,” he said. “We’re not going to force anything.”

The district’s interest in building sewers is due to potential benefits to the water system and increased commerce. Sewers may reduce the nitrate levels in the district’s wells, a nagging worry for district officials, but would also provide the infrastructure for new development and density increases on properties within the commercial core.

The district is also mandated by the Growth Management Act of 1990 to plan for future growth, but Campbell reiterated that nothing forces the district to move forward, despite the potential benefits.

“We’re required to plan, not build ... but, it would be a good thing from Freeland water.”

Campbell said even if a plan is adopted this summer, construction would be two to three years out.

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