Navy stalls city sewer extension

"The Oak Harbor City Council once again put off finalizing a long-running plan to extend sanitary sewer service outside of Oak Harbor city limits after a Navy spokesman said the base has concerns about the idea.Goldie Road industrial business owners have been trying for years to get hooked up to the city's system without having to annex into the city. The proposed ordinance would allow just that.Navy Community Planner Rich Melaas told the council that Whidbey Island Naval Air Station commanding officer Capt. Larry Salter requested the council to wait on approving the plan until Navy scientists can meet with city staff to hash out the details and crunch some numbers.NAS Whidbey contracts with the city for use of the sanitary sewer system. Melaas said the Navy is worried that the sewer system will not have enough capacity to handle Navy waste if Goldie Road businesses are allowed to use the system. In other words, the Navy worries that the city is over-extending the sewer.We have questions about capacity, Melaas said. We want to make sure the capacity we have contracted with you is not used. ... We want to make sure the city isn't looking at the wrong numbers.The proposed ordinance would allow the city to extend sewer service beyond city boundaries for industrial uses only. To hook up to the system, the business owners would have to pay for all of the construction costs. They would also have to sign a pre-annexation agreement that would let the city annex the area without going through the regular petition process.Councilman Paul Brewer said he wanted the pre-annexation agreement to have more teeth and a strict time line as to when the businesses will come into the city. He pointed out that the city has supplied water for years to the same area, but none of those businesses have annexed into the city.The businesses shouldn't be able to get the benefits of the city's services, Brewer said, without joining and contributing to the city. For the city, the benefit for annexing the businesses is that the city would get the property and sales taxes instead of the county.The proposal seems very popular with the owners of commercial and industrial businesses off of Goldie Road, many of whom have been waiting years for sewer connections. Several spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance Tuesday night.Bill Price, the owner of a Technical Road business, said he's been planning to expand for awhile but was limited by the sewer system. He's had to wait to see if the city will come through with hook-ups.He wasn't the only impatient one. We need it, we want it and we want you to move forward with it, said Stan Eelkema of Upchurch Scientific.Local developer Bill Massey chimed in and criticized the Navy for the late date of their objections. He pointed out that the county area under consideration is identified as being part of the city's UGA in the Comprehensive Plan, which means it is expected to be annexed into the city during the next 20 years. In other words, the sewer system was coming no matter what. The city's Comp Plan was completed years ago.Even Mayor Patty Cohen joined in. They've been waiting two years for the city to make a decision. They've had to put their businesses on hold... she said. I'm not sure how much longer they are willing to wait.In the end, the council put off adoption of the ordinance until the next regular meeting, Dec. 19.-------You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611. "

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