Sixth site added to Oak Harbor sewer plant mix
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
February 18, 2012 · Updated 5:55 AM
Although pressed for time and confronted by a handful of concerned property owners, the Oak Harbor City Council has agreed to consider a sixth site for a new wastewater treatment plant.
The 20-acre area is located north of Crescent Harbor Road and east of Regatta Drive, just outside city limits. It consists of nine different parcels, all of which are under private ownership.
Residents and property owners near and within the area’s boundaries were informed by letter that the council would be discussing whether to add the site to its existing list of five possible locations during its Feb. 7 meeting.
Several showed up and voiced their displeasure of the proposal.
“We’d like to live out our lives in peace without having to worry about the city taking us over,” said Bob Wojciechowski, one of several residents who spoke out during the meeting.
Under a tight timeline to submit a facilities plan to state regulators before the end of the year, the council has struggled to pare down its existing list to three finalists since September.
Absent council members has resulted in the issue being tabled twice, and with a deadline looming, many appeared loath to add another site which would only further delay the selection of a final choice.
“This is urgent,” said Councilman Rick Almberg, during a Feb. 7 council meeting.
However, the sixth site, which city officials said was presented largely as an alternative to other problematic sites, received a unanimous green light by the council despite the voiced community concerns.
It joins candidate sites Windjammer Park, the Oak Harbor Marina, the old city shops on City Beach Street, Beachview Farm, which is more commonly known as Fakkema Farm, and Navy property located behind the city’s existing lagoon site on Crescent Harbor.
Eric Johnston, city engineer, emphasized during the meeting that although a detailed map had been presented, no specific location was being proposed. The city’s hired engineering firm, Carollo, is looking at the area in general and it’s doing so because there are hurdles facing every site on the list.
“There is no good site,” Johnston said. “There will likely never be the perfect site for the city to place a wastewater treatment plant.
Of the three locations proposed as finalists months ago, Windjammer Park has seen significant public push back, the old city shops would require the acquisition of private land from unwilling sellers, and the Navy property, which has gotten the most support, could only be secured through an act of Congress.
The likelihood of the Navy property working out is a matter of considerable debate, even among council members.
Councilwoman Beth Munns, the wife of a former base commander and the Navy League’s Oak Harbor Area Council National Director, said she is less than optimistic the site will ever prove viable.
“It has me very much concerned,” Munns said.
At the same time, Campbell, who also has a past working relationship and ties with the Navy, said it’s too soon to give up on the site. With the right incentive, it could still prove a strong candidate, he said.
“Don’t give up on the Navy,” he said. “We have not given them a big enough carrot yet.”
Johnston said the sixth site will undergo the same level of review by Carollo, including a public vetting, as the other sites. Once that’s complete, the council will once again be tasked with selecting finalists.
That should happen sometime in April, he said. While that leaves a narrow window for picking a final site, Johnston said there is still time to meet the December deadline as long as there are no more delays.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.