Opinion

This time, work together | Editorial

The Oak Harbor City Council’s final 6-0 vote to put the new sewer plant downtown at the “Windjammer” site on Pioneer Way wasn’t as unanimous as it looked. The first vote calling for the plant to be built at an out-of-the-way spot on the north side of Crescent Harbor Road tied 3-3. With Councilman Danny Paggao absent, Mayor Scott Dudley broke the tie by voting against it. Then a motion was made for the Windjammmer site, and since the outcome was obvious, the council decided to make it unanimous.

A check later with Paggao, who was out of town, was somewhat reassuring. He said he would have voted for the downtown site had he been present, so it would have passed without the mayor’s involvement.

Dudley voted for the less costly option, even though in the long view costs were pretty much a toss-up. And he was willing to risk another Native American remains debacle, which is still ongoing after the controversial redevelopment of the east end of downtown Pioneer Way.

The chosen site isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s not in Windjammer Park. The existing plant there may be entirely removed, which would be a relief. The new plant will be built just to the north of the park in a former car lot. Its construction could, however, intrude into the city’s park. Too bad a motion by Councilman Rick Almberg to preclude that possibility didn’t pass.

The council members who originally chose the winning  site, Jim Campbell, Bob Severns and Joel Servatius, obviously struggled with their decision. It was a tough one so there’s no reason to disrespect their conclusion. Councilwoman Beth Munns, however, more accurately portrayed the feeling of the community when she in effect said that the people don’t want a sewer plant anywhere near the park after having lived with one there for 60 years.

We believe Munns, along with Almberg and Tara Hizon, were correct in the first vote for the Crescent Harbor North site. But we don’t want this decision to divide the city all over again.

The modern plant won’t smell, it will make Puget Sound cleaner, and ultimately it may be possible to attract businesses or even arts venues to the area. The job now is to make the new sewer plant’s exact  siting correct and to make it as attractive and beneficial as possible. Let’s work together for a  change and build a better Oak Harbor.

 

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