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Oak Harbor strikes Goldie with sewers

Oak Harbor officials have been discussing the notion of building sewer lines to spur development on Goldie Road for a decade. It’s an issue that has caused controversy over the years, partly because the area is outside the city limits.

But construction will finally begin on the $1.19 million sewer project next week. C. Johnson Construction, of Oak Harbor, won the bid earlier this month. It’s just in time for a major project planned for the area.

It’s apparently a good time to build sewer projects. The low bid was $1 million below the engineer’s estimate. The project is funded by $1 million from a grant from the Island County Economic Development Fund. The so-called .09 funds are a percentage of sales tax revenue provided by the state and awarded by the county to assist rural communities with economic development.

In addition, the city will spend about $190,000 from the wastewater fund on the project. The money comes from the rates the residents pay for sewer service.

Mayor Jim Slowik said it’s unusual for the city to do a project that’s completely in the county, but it’s an important step in stimulating the light industrial and commercial “enterprise zone.” The sewer lines will run in the city’s urban growth area, which is the area earmarked for future annexation.

“It’s for the future and the economic betterment of the whole area,” he said. “We certainly want to bring it into the city someday.”

Slowik said he’s thankful that the former council and mayor had the foresight to plan the project.

The history of the project goes back in 2000, when the city’s planning commission opposed an ordinance that allowed sewer lines to be extended beyond the city limits, specifically for Goldie Road businesses. The members argued that the properties should first annex into the city before getting the benefit of city services so that they would contribute to the city’s tax base.

The City Council, however, overruled the commission and passed the ordinance. Supporters said it was necessary to retain and lure more business to the area.

The city received the $1 million county grant for the project in 2006, but it came with a time limit. Former City Councilman Paul Brewer turned it into a political issue when he harshly criticized the former mayor, Patty Cohen, because a sewer project on Scenic Heights Road was prioritized over sewers on Goldie Road.

Slowik, however, said that city was able to get an extension from the county on the $1 million grant last year. He admits that he doesn’t expect a “mass exodus” of businesses hooking up to the sewer system; the businesses will have to foot the cost of connecting and then pay the regular rate for sewer service.

But Ron Wallin of P&L General Contractors is pleased that the lines are finally going in. He’s building a commercial and light industrial project on six vacant acres on Goldie Road. He said he plans to build five buildings in three phases. In the first phase, a 21,000-square-foot building will be constructed for a “sports fitness center.”

Wallin said the project is designed to connect to the city’s sewer system. He’s also behind an effort to get properties on the east side of Goldie Road annexed into the city.

“The wheels of government move slowly,” he said.

The nine-month sewer project will initially serve businesses on the east side of Goldie Road, according to project engineer Russ Pabarcus, though it’s sized to serve the west side in the future. The problem is that the west side can’t be served by gravity, but pumping will be required.

The lines will run under Ault Field Road to a pump station that will be in the county’s right-of-way. Pabarcus said the project shouldn’t disrupt traffic on Goldie Road. He said the county required the contractor to bore under Ault Field Road to prevent traffic problems there.

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