http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20080215/NEWS/802150302

 

There is a whole host of notable bits and pieces that did not make it to through the editing process . . . If the PDN had lots more column inches, a lot more could have been said . . . like . . .

 

More than 200 Jefferson County citizens sacrificed several hours of quality time with loved ones on one of the most romantic evenings of the year to attend a public hearing that was sold as being scheduled for the only available time and place for the coming month.  (It appears that Monday would have been open . . . but that would have meant county employees would have lost part of the three day weekend resulting from a federal holiday.)

 

Just about everyone in the audience stuck it out for the entire two and a half hours . . . even though there was no heat in the auditorium.

 

The Jefferson County Board of Health was seated on the stage instead of being at eye level with the people they are convened to serve.

 

Every member of the public was limited to three minutes speaking time, and other members of the public were not allowed to yield their time if a speaker had not completed his or her remarks . . . except for one instance where the time-keeper forgot to start the timer, allowing for some very pointed comments from a lady who had thoroughly studied the ordinance draft.

 

There were many excellent suggestions for dealing with the septic operations and maintenance program that would be far less expensive than what is being proposed.

 

The next Jefferson County Board of Health meeting on this topic will take place next Thursday afternoon (again during working hours for most of the people who will be affected by any decisions made) at the Pope Marine Building in Port Townsend.  The Chair of the Board of Health said they may or may not take action at that meeting.  At that point we should learn whether our turning out to speak to the Board of Health is taken into consideration . . . or not . . . and to what degree.

 

 


Complaints pour out on septic fees in Jefferson County

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Diane Johnson of Tarboo Valley is one of about 70 people speaking Thursday night before the Jefferson County Board of Health at Chimacum High School auditorium. More than 200 people attended, many protesting fees and state-mandated regulations proposed for monitoring septic systems. -- Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News

 



By Jeff Chew, Peninsula Daily News


CHIMACUM — The Jefferson County Board of Health heard protests of fees and state-mandated regulations that would come with the county's proposed on-site septic system monitoring and operations program at a hearing that drew more than 200 people Thursday.

The 70 who spoke during the two-hour meeting asked county officials to slow the process and consider forming a stakeholders group to come up with a better solution.

Many had questions or asked for more information, saying they did not understand what the proposal meant to their personal situations.

Although some called for an extension of the public comment period, John Austin, Board of Health chairman, said the comment period ended Thursday night with the close of the forum at Chimacum High School Auditorium.

Next meeting Thursday

The board will meet at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pope Marine Building, at City Dock, Water and Madison streets, to resume deliberations on the proposal.

"We may or may not take final action at that meeting," Austin told the audience.

Many questioned the costs associated with the septic monitoring program.

Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer — who was chairman of the state Board of Health when it passed new state septic monitoring regulations in July — said the rules were "based on known or projected costs of a particular program.

"When you have a new program, the fees are best guesses," he said.

"We're only going to know when we move down that road."

That did not sit well with many at the hearing who saw the fees proposed as unreasonable, especially a $200 charge to homeowners for instruction on how to inspect their own septic systems.

Locke explained that Jefferson County was a pilot program to test a program to train and allow homeowners to inspect their own systems.

No other county is doing this, he said.

"Control and money"

"What this is really about is control and money — control of our property, control of us," Lorna Ward of Quilcene said.

"Do you really think we don't know when our septic system goes bad?" Ward asked the board.

"We're not stupid."

A Board of Health hearing on the proposal was postponed Jan. 17 after homeowners jammed the Public Health conference room, which proved to be too small and lacked chairs.

Several attending the Jan. 17 hearing also opposed the new fees and county officials having the ability come onto their property.

Tom Thiersch, a Port Townsend-area resident, said Thursday night that the 185 repair permits issued by county Public Health Director Jean Baldwin's office in the last three years for failing septic systems represents less than 1 percent of all systems countywide.

Canadians pump raw sewage into Puget Sound waters, Thiersch told the board.

"The state got it wrong," he said, "and you should tell them that."

Jefferson County Public Utility District is getting out of the septic system monitoring business to focus on water service. PUD now serves about 4,000 customers.

Proposed fees

Fees proposed for the program and under consideration are:

·  A $39 electronic filing fee charged professionals who submit evaluations of existing systems.

·  A $46 paper filing fee charged to homeowners, with county employees filing for homeowners. It is charged for each inspection.

·  A $97 certification fee for homeowner/operator and monitoring certification, which would be valid for three years.

The licensed operations and monitoring specialist pays $369 for initial certification, which includes testing through the Public Health office, with a yearly renewal of $260.

·  A $200 training fee, which may or may not allow homeowners to inspect a limited number of other owners' systems.

Baldwin said the program's emphasis is operations and monitoring to prevent systems from failing, not for the sole purposed of identifying failures.

She said ShoreBank is also being considered for financing identified system repairs.

Jefferson County and Clallam counties are already working with nonprofit financial institution, ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia, to help septic-system owners secure low-interest loans to people with septic system troubles.

About 19 Jefferson County residents have so far contacted ShoreBank for loans that can have zero interest, depending on income.

The program for septic system loans to homeowners started with Willapa Bay homeowners in Pacific County in 2001, then was offered to counties along Hood Canal, including Jefferson.

ShoreBank is now asking the state Legislature for $3 million to expand the program.

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Jefferson County Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-385-2335 or jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 14. 2008 9:00PM