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Freeland sewer fund gets a big boost from county

Freeland got a big boost from the county on Monday in its quest for a downtown sewer system.

Island County commissioners voted to give the Freeland Water and Sewer District a $2.5 million lump sum from sales-tax revenue, plus an additional $100,000 a year for 20 years.

“We’ve been waiting for the county to make the award before moving to the next step,” Gary Hess, a consulting engineer working with the water and sewer district on the sewer project, said Tuesday.

“We’ll continue to work on this and hope that it comes together,” said Hess, of the Davido Consulting Group of Freeland.

Hess said the district hopes to complete a new feasibility study, then take it to commercial property owners in the downtown core.

“There’s no target date,” he said. “We need to get together and map out where we’re heading.”

Meanwhile, he said district officials and other proponents of a sewer system will continue to try to put together a financing package with state and federal grants.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised that money for local infrastructure projects will be a top priority with his incoming administration. It’s hoped a program will be in place by February.

For years, proponents have been pushing for a sewer system in Freeland to advance residential and commercial development and the cause of incorporation.

The latest attempt stalled when the estimated cost of a sewer system ballooned to $15 million.

Chet Ross, president of the Freeland Chamber of Commerce and a big booster for sewers, said recently that proponents are putting together a grant application for $30 million, which would be enough to accomplish more than four of the five phases of the project, providing sewers to almost every segment included in the Freeland Sub Area Plan.

“You’ve got to shoot high,” Hess agreed.

While sewers aren’t a prerequisite for cityhood, a sewer plan that can be implemented “in a reasonable amount of time” is required, Ross said.

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