Dillard’s residents seek investigation

At least two residents of Dillard’s Addition feel the Oak Harbor City Council’s recent decision to purchase the controversy-laden, low-pressure sewer system from the developer has defied logic and raised more questions regarding motive.

Emma Young and Duane Dillard appealed to the council separately at last week’s meeting, pointedly urging the city to launch an investigation into the legalities of the issue before proceeding.

“Do it,” Young said, “before you go drafting ordinances that will only mire you in deeper doo-doo. Pun intended.”

Young said she was incredulous when she saw notice of a Dec. 4 public hearing for a grinder pump connection ordinance posted in city hall.

“One thing I have not seen is a notice from the city of this hearing, including a copy of the proposed ordinance, in my mailbox,” she said, adding that her neighbor reportedly inquired about the ordinance and was told by the city clerk that it had not yet been drafted.

City Administrator Paul Schmidt said later in the week that the City Council verbally advised staff in October not to enforce the current code, which stipulates that residents hook into the system within six months. An ordinance was codified and, barring a system failure, residents will have five years to connect to the grinder pump.

“I think there was some confusion,” Schmidt said. “We have provided notice to residents.”

The upset resident strongly cautioned the council against forging ahead without exercising proper foresight.

“My question is, why the rush? It’s the same question I asked you in April about the installation of this toy sewer,” Young continued. “There is no need, and it is absolutely ill-advised for the city to pursue this matter at this time.”

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You can refer to a ‘public sewer system’ in Dillard’s Addition, but it’s still only 1,900 feet of untested, two-inch pipe.”

Schmidt said the city is not rushing in to anything, but rather putting words to a City Council directive.

“It has to be backed up by an ordinance,” he said. “Rather than six months to connect, we’re extending it to 60 months.”

Councilman Larry Eaton initially broached the possibility of calling for an investigation at a September meeting, assuming the issue could not be resolved.

“Tonight I ask this council to do that very thing,” Dillard said. “For the citizens and taxpayers of this city, please approve an independent investigation of this issue to find out what has taken place so that it may never happen to the citizens again.”

The sewer controversy began last April when the City Council approved an application for a preliminary latecomer’s agreement submitted by Robert Anderson under the name Granite Parks Holdings Company, LLC. The document allowed the developer to install a low-pressure, grinder pump sewer system for the entire neighborhood without first notifying the residents of the system to which they would ultimately be required to hook up.

The majority of the approximately 30 homeowners in the shoreline development were incensed not only because of the lack of notification but were also displeased with the system chosen without their input.

Young said the city essentially purchased a “private sewer,” not a proper system as it has been billed.

“You bought a substandard sewer from a developer in order to avoid a lawsuit from him,” Young said, questioning the wisdom and motives behind the purchase. “You are, at the moment, the proud – or not-so proud – owners of 1,900 feet of small diameter pipe buried in a shallow trench.”

City staff, which has always defended the project, determined that purchasing the sewer system from the developer for almost $125,000 would be the best decision, satisfying both Anderson, who is seeking reimbursement, and the majority of the residents who did not want to pay to connect to the system. Most of the homes in the low-lying area on or near the beach are on septic systems.

The motion also directed staff to investigate the residents’ proposal for an alternative gravity system to serve the area.

The council members did not respond to the questions or issues raised by the residents, as the one-sided discourse was conducted during the public input portion of the meeting.

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