Editorial: Come clean on sewers

Oak Harbor doesn’t need open sewers, but it does need more openness on sewers. It’s the one place where city residents spend much of their time in the dark.

The most recent example of lack of information regards Dillard’s Addition, where residents were surprised to see construction crews move in to begin work on a new sewer system. Most people would agree that someone from the city should have told the 30 or so homeowners there about the project, since it will cost them an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 each.

City officials argue that they followed the correct bureaucratic process by advertising the project in small print in the newspaper. But apparently it caught no one’s attention as the sewer system, proposed by a developer building new homes in the area, continued on with no questions asked.

As residents explain, the biggest question would have centered on the type of sewer system. A simple gravity system was rejected in favor of an electrically-powered pump system. This is disconcerting to residents, who remember all too well the power outages of last winter. People with the more expensive electrically-powered sewer systems are particularly vulnerable in power outages. The sewer system was required by a prior agreement, but residents would have appreciated early notification so they could have some say on the scope and design of the project.

Some residents of Scenic Heights are still scratching their heads over the sewer system they proposed several years ago. Eventually one was approved for the area, but few are privy to exactly how the process unfolded. The system will serve up to 700 future homes, but leaves out some of the people who originally requested the system. At least they won’t have to pay for it.

Obviously, the planning department is working closely with developers, but not letting information out to the public until it’s required, and by then it’s too late to do much about it.

Simply reporting upcoming public works projects in their earliest stages on a regular basis would probably fix the city’s communications gap on sewers and other public works issues. Send out letters, put up signs or at least briefly inform the city council in their televised sessions and word will get around quickly enough.

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