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Letters to the Editor - Oct. 17, 2011

  • Written by Readers

Ed. Note: In an effort to shed some light on the possibility of required sewer connections by the Woodinville Water District, below are two letters from Christie True, director, Department of Natural Resources and Parks. On the lower part of the page are letters from candidates and WWD customers.

Dear Ken Howe (general manager of the Woodinville Water District with copies sent to commissioners Karen Steeb, Tim Matson, Sandra L. Smith, Ed Cebron and Ken Goodwin)

The beginning of operation at the Brightwater Treatment Plant presents an excellent opportunity to correct misinformation currently circulating in the Woodinville community about requirements to connect to the sanitary sewer system, as well as how Brightwater’s cost will be covered by current and future ratepayers.

Of particular concern are the inaccurate assertions being made about King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) by two candidates campaigning for commissioner positions at the Woodinville Water District, Jack Vermeulen and Hank Stecker. While it is not WTD’s policy to become involved in the elections of our customer agencies or to make candidate endorsements, we believe we have a responsibility to correct the misinformation about our utility that is currently being directed to voters. As a wholesale provider of regional wastewater services, WTD will not, and in fact by law cannot, require Woodinville Water District customers to connect to the sanitary sewer system. Decisions about extending or expanding sewer service are made by local utilities and jurisdictions. WTD also does not direct local agencies to connect new sewer customers, as local sewer utilities have their own rules on connection requirements.

Secondly, wastewater treatment service is provided only within designated urban growth areas, with very few exceptions.

The laws currently in place related to sewer connection requirements and service extensions have been in existence many years before Brightwater was even sited. Brightwater does not change any King County or local agency requirement for connection in case of septic failures or public health concerns.

To provide background, Brightwater was built to serve planned population growth within the urban growth area as defined by the state’s Growth Management Act and local comprehensive plans, which are developed using population forecasts by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

New capacity built as part of the 1999 Regional Wastewater Services Plan, which includes Brightwater and dozens of other projects, will be funded largely by a capacity charge and monthly sewer rates from new connections to the system throughout King County’s entire 420-square- mile service area, which stretches from north Pierce County to Mill Creek in south Snohomish County. Most of these connections will occur as a result of new development as opposed to septic to sewer connections.

In planning for new capacity, King County projects that most homes and businesses within the urban growth boundary will have sewer service within the next two decades. However, the exact timing is up to local jurisdictions and sewer agencies. Under state and local laws, all development within the urban growth area is to eventually be served by public sewer service, although onsite sewage treatment systems may be allowed temporarily in some parts of the urban growth area.

New developments built within the urban growth area, or existing developments that undergo significant expansion and improvement, are likely to be required to connect to the sanitary sewer system if the development is located within a specified proximity to a public sewer as described under King County Code 13.24.136, or under the requirements of local sewer utilities or comprehensive plans.There is no truth to the assertion that everyone within 300 feet of a sanitary sewer system will automatically be required to connect to it.

King County code is quite clear that sewer service is limited to serving areas within an urban growth area, or a rural city or a rural town approved for public sewer service. Under KCC 13.24.134, sewer service can only be expanded to rural and natural resource areas only if it’s needed to address specific health and safety problems threatening the existing uses of structures.

The Growth Management Act makes special exceptions for public school systems with design daily average flows of more than 3,500 gallons per day that can be connected by a dedicated line, or “tightlined,” to an existing sewer system. Public schools in rural areas may also be required to connect if it’s determined that no cost-effective alternative technologies are feasible and that an onsite sewage disposal system would be inadequate to protect basic public health, safety and the environment during the use of a site for a school or school facility.

Hopefully, this information will provide helpful information to respond to your customers’ and community members’ concerns about the sewer service area and system hookup requirements. . .

Christine True, director, Department of Natural Resources and Parks

Dear Mr. Stecker:

I am writing to follow up on my later dated September 13, 2011, to Mr. Ken Howe, general manager of the Woodinville Water District, regarding sewer connections and the Brightwater Treatment Plant. The factual information in the letter is correct. However, the letter itself appears to have become a campaign issue, which I regret.

I therefore wish to retract the letter and reiterate that the sole purpose of the letter was to correct what I believed to be inaccurate factual information regarding the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) and the Brightwater Treatment Plant. To the extent that my naming particular candidates in the letter contributed to any confusion regarding the purpose of the letter, I apologize for including those references.

As my letter indicated, it is not the WTD’s policy to become involved in elections or to endorse any candidates. I am committed to ensuring that the Department of Natural Resources and Parks has a positive and productive relationship with the Board of Commissioners of the Woodinville Water District.

Christine True, director

__________________________________________________________________

WOODINVILLE WATER DISTRICT
Pertaining to the ongoing election for Woodinville Water Commission, I received a letter from Christie True, King County director and former project manager for Brightwater apologizing for getting involved in the water district election and involving Jack Vermeulen and myself in her comments. She writes “I therefore wish to retract the letter” to the Woodinville Water District and states “the purpose of the letter was to correct what I believed to be inaccurate factual information.”
The letter’s history is interesting. On Sept. 6, Karen Steeb the chair of our water district, emailed Christie True at King County: “I am running for re-election to the Woodinville Water District Board of Directors.  My opponent and another opponent have made some very interesting predictions about future actions of King County Waste Management and Brightwater that will be forced upon the Woodinville Water District ratepayers ... I would appreciate your comments on their claims.”
Karen Steeb’s request is clearly campaign-related. While Christie True stated she didn’t “want to intervene in elections,” she did just that directing county staffers to compose a letter (on county time) that she knows will be used for campaign purposes.

Ms. Steeb and Mr. Goodwin then used a public water district meeting, with invited press in attendance, to read this letter into the record for the purpose of promoting their election. It would appear that both of these issues violate State Code RCW 42.17.130: “No elective official nor any employee of his [or her] … agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office ….”

Why is the former project manager for Brightwater being asked to and then getting involved in the election for Woodinville Water Commissioners? These same commissioners that have the authority to compel their users to hook up to Brightwater and who just unanimously (with no legal obligation) passed resolution 3725 on July 5 which states: The District (has) statutory authority to compel property owners to connect to the District’s sewer system...when... there is an issue of public interest. Why is the county also working to extend sewer into the unincorporated areas of our district?

Folks, properties built on large lots and on septic comprise 85 percent of the Woodinville Water District. Who is planning our future for sewer and water and why these resolutions? It may help to know that not one water commissioner owns property on a large lot with septic. Of the five commissioners, three are renters and two have homes on sewer in downtown Woodinville. They have nothing at stake.

My family has owned our Woodinville home on large lot/septic (which works just fine) for 22 years. I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for our neighborhoods.We have some serious issues to address that will impact the future of our community over the next several decades. It’s time these issues get addressed in an open forum so the voice of our community can be heard and we can shape our future together.

Hank Stecker, candidate for Woodinville Water commissioner


In early September I asked King County a simple question seeking information that pertains to the Woodinville Water District and its ratepayers.

I corresponded one time with the county via email on September 6, 2011.  The water district commissioner opponents made claims on their websites that involved sewers and King County. Therefore I was compelled to ask the county for clarifications about the opponents’ statements. I acknowledged I was running for reelection.

It was a surprise when the county’s answer was sent directly to the water district. Two letters have been generated by the county.

• The county’s first letter of September 13, 2011, sent directly to the water district, names (the opponents) and states that they were spreading misinformation.

• Their second letter of September 30, 2011, sent to Mr. Stecker, was forwarded to the general manager of the water district. The county’s letter regrets the use of the opponents’ names.

• The county’s second letter also reinforced that all their previous comments in the first letter were factual and remain true.

There seems to be lots of correspondence between Mr. Stecker and the county that I and the public have not seen.  My and Mr. Goodwin’s opponents are working very hard to gain traction on their non-issues with the water district during this campaign.

Bottom line - the Woodinville Water District is a professionally, competently and   transparently operated $31+ million special-purpose district run by highly qualified staff and commissioners.

Karen Steeb, candidate for Woodinville Water District commissioner


Because of yet another bitter election I feel compelled to write this letter. The last city council election was contentious, and this year’s water district commissioners election looks to be headed in the same direction.

The misinformation about required sewer connections has been corrected in a letter from Christie True, director of King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (See above) and printed in the Woodinville Weekly (September 26 edition). I’m hoping we can all agree now that this is a non-issue and move on to a more factual and civil debate.

All of this manufactured strife has been at the water district’s and commissiones’ expense. Speaking for myself I’ve only ever had  positive interactions with the water district, whether it’s help in finding a broken water line or a question about a bill. The response from the water district has always been prompt, friendly and efficient.

After attending a water district commissioners’ meeting last week, it was obvious to me that the current commissioners know their job and do it well and that they are dedicated to serving the entire water district and not just a neighborhood. So the question I have is, why change a good thing?

Karen Walsh, Woodinville


I was surprised to see the letter written, on official King County stationery, to the Woodinville Water general manager by prior Brightwater project manager, now director of natural resources and parks — Christie True.

 

So, why was I surprised?

First, Ms. True with this letter has inserted herself into the local water district election: a possible violation of WA RCW 42.17.130. “No elective official nor any employee of his [or her] office nor any person appointed to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition. Facilities of a public office or agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines and equipment, use of employees of the office or agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the office or agency and clientele lists of persons served by the office or agency.”

Second, in her letter, she accuses two non-incumbent candidates of making “inaccurate assertions about King County’s Water Treatment Division with respect to hookups being mandatory.” Yet if one reads the Woodinville Water District’s own Resolution 3725, passed on July 5, 2011, it states,  “Section 2 - Connection with Public Sewers Required Consistent with RCW 57.08.005(9) which provides the district with statutory authority to compel property owners to connect to the district’s sewer system, a property owner may be required to connect the owner’s premises to the district sewer system when a public health authority or land use authority with jurisdiction requires the connection of a property owner’s premises to the district’s sewer system or there is an overriding issue of public interest.”

So my questions to Ms. True are: 1) why are you,  a King County official, involved with a local election and, 2) why are you apparently supporting the incumbent candidates?

I’m no lawyer, but this doesn’t smell right to me.  I think it’s time for fresh blood on the water commission

Steve Yabroff, Woodinville


As one of the supposedly “unrepresented 85 percent who lives in unincorporated Woodinville and has very recently been through the building permit process, as well as the water main replacement in my neighborhood, I believe I can say with some certainty that any change to current policy regarding sewer hookups would be slow in coming, if indeed it ever did, given the rate of speed with which our permit made it through the system (the term “glacial” springs to mind) and how long the water main took to replace. Neither of these were large and complicated projects, unlike the enormous yet merely theoretical undertaking of bringing sewers to unincorporated Woodinville, yet each still took a very long time.

Mr. Stecker’s claim that I am “unrepresented” is patently false given that Washington state law (RCW 57.12.030) has no residency requirements for water district commissioners.  His residency in unincorporated King County will not result in my having better representation merely on that basis.

Mr. Vermuelen characterizes the district’s support of the repeal of RCW 35.13A as the City of Woodinville “no longer being able to manage its own water resource,” when in fact the city does not now manage the resource and would be seizing control of it. As the law now stands this would happen without a vote of the people affected, clearly an undemocratic use of power by the city.  Repealing this statute benefits the residents of the City of Woodinville as well as those in unincorporated King County by ensuring we will have a say in the matter.

Nothing that has been claimed as the “facts” with regard to the Woodinville Water District is borne out by my reading of the water district association’s legislative agenda or Washington state law or recent experience with local government via the building permit process.  I believe instead that the truth is being obfuscated and I would hope that each voter will research these issues. It took me only a few minutes on each one to see the facts and decide for myself on the basis of fact and not hyperbole and distortion.

Karen Isaacson, Woodinville


I attended the regular scheduled Woodinville Water District meeting on October 4, 2011, at 6 p.m. I have been attending WWD meetings off and on for the past year, primarily because of discovering the authority the WWD has to force mandatory residential hook ups. I have made several presentations at the podium during the public comment period. Being involved from 2005 with the Wood Trails high density residential development, it became clear over the years that Woodinville’s very own sewage dump was shaping up to have more of a negative impact on the residential neighborhoods than originally thought and the WWD was a major player. My earlier public comments were that of inquiries rather than opinions. The WWD was extremely generous in allowing public comment time and always thanked me and others for attending. As time went on and the completion of the sewage dump was near, more negative information began to surface, now more questions, more folks now interested in the WWD and their role with the sewage dump, the once warm fuzzy, very accommodating atmosphere was disappearing fast. Fast forward to October 4 after missing meetings for a month or so, it was announced at the beginning of the WWD meeting that public comment was limited to 2 minutes. That’s it and as I did try to squeeze in a bit more time, I was abruptly stopped. Since I have a master egree in government speak translation and small government decoding, I quickly translated what 2 minutes of public comment time really means. We, the WWD, have absolutely no further interest in the public’s opinion. We, the WWD, have a sweet-heart deal going on here, and we no longer want the general public to not only give up on public comment, but we would prefer that the general public didn’t even show up at our meetings. Additional translation means, we the WWD now have no video or audio of our meetings, but now we want no citizen to attend and our new 2 minute rule should do the trick for us. A Woodinville citizen could now assume the WWD has contempt for the rate payers.

Dave Henry, Woodinville


In response to criticisms of the water district, the current board of commissioners has not only not added video for the benefit of the public they have decided to reduce public comment time to just 2 minutes. Is total word count allowed next?

So, how about that fire district? What can you say? Wrongful termination lawsuits, still no video, 5 p.m. meetings (mostly to facilitate executive sessions) and now — Yep, you guessed it: charges of race discrimination lodged by former Chief Daniels. I guess he didn’t like the generous severance offer from the district. I was told by one commissioner that Daniels had countered the severance offer. Bringing in the EEOC, a federal agency, to investigate the district is a nice touch if you want to call that his counter-offer.

I really feel for the firefighters, para meds and EMTs, many whom I’ve met over the last 28 years. The professional demeanor they exhibit day in and day out is to be admired. I only wish the commissioners had their backs. Not once have I seen or heard anything that would goad anyone to use the race card. Really embarrassing!

Steve Maloney, Woodinville


BUSINESS MATTERS

With the general election just weeks away, it’s timely to remember that local businesses are important to our quality of life in Woodinville and that we need city officials who support our local business community.

Local businesses are valuable to area residents because they:

• Generate revenue from sales taxes, property taxes and fees the city needs to provide services and build infrastructure.

• Provide jobs so our residents can work where they live.

• Enable you to avoid burning up gas and wasting your valuable time driving to another city to get what you need.

• So if you are fortunate to live in Woodinville and have the right to vote, please exercise that right and cast your vote. Only 3,463 Woodinville residents voted in the general election in 2009, so your vote will count!

But before you drop your vote into the ballot box, get informed about the candidates’ positions and plans to support local business. Ask them what they’ll do, if elected, to generate economic development in our city and to change Woodinville’s reputation of being a tough city in which to do business. Ask them to share their vision of our future downtown and what their plans are to make that vision a reality.

And please consider that most business owners in Woodinville live elsewhere and don’t have a vote. They have a significant investment in our city and in many cases their life savings – yet they have no say in the decisions made at city hall that affect their ability to operate their businesses successfully. These non-resident business owners rely on you to keep their needs in mind when you cast your vote.

The future of Woodinville is bright and a thriving business community is an integral part of it. Please help elect a city council that demonstrates that business matters in Woodinville!

Dave Witt, executive director, Greater Woodinville Chamber of Commerce


NSD SCHOOL BOARD DIRECTORS

In school our children face peer pressure, bullying and harassment. Teachers and principals work to improve school climate in order to reduce or eliminate the environment in which these negative behaviors thrive.

But what about when the peer pressure, bullying and harassment is being aimed at school staff members by other members of the staff?

This year a hostile environment has been created in some of schools in the Northshore School District  over the school board elections.  Northshore School Board Director Districts 2 and 3 are both on the ballot.  The teachers’ union has endorsed and financed the campaigns of two candidates, B-Z Davis and Janet Quinn.

Some school employees who have chosen to support Davis and Quinn’s opponents (Dawn McCravey and Joe Marshall, respectively) have been harassed and intimidated by some of their colleagues. Fear of retaliation is keeping these individuals from reporting the harassment through the appropriate channels. They fear the union leadership as well as school administrators ,

Such a hostile work environment for our school employees can have a negative impact on our students. What happens in the staff lunchroom can affect the classroom.

The practice of teachers’ unions paying for a school board candidate’s campaign carries with it negative implications ... School board members vote on district budgets and employee contracts. It is a conflict of interest for any candidate for school board to accept the endorsement of, and sizable donations from, any employee group, such as the teachers’ union or its president.

John Mitchell, Bothell


Every two years, our community takes part in one of the most important local elections on the ballots – the decision of who to elect as our school board directors.Therefore, it’s well worth our time to consider the candidates we will be electing to our school boards.

We need to ask the questions of what has our school board achieved, and what do we want it to achieve in the near and distant future.  It’s not news that the NSD has worked on trimming its budget for the past decade.  Yet, in spite of this daunting challenge in the past two years, our school board has managed to restore some of its cut programs (e.g., music and the 5th grade overnight environmental program), invest in updating its math and literacy programs (as well as working toward science and other subjects) and resisted the practice of releasing staff during economic downturns. The board has also been responsive to the community’s requests for more rigorous middle school programs. As a result of the collaboration between administrators, the board and the community the NSD is now implementing the first phase of a middle school “Challenge” program.

For the future, there’s ongoing discussion about expanding the nationally recognized International Baccalaureate program and providing more advanced placement opportunities for students. The board has also endorsed district support for preserving the largest forested area in Bothell which feeds directly into the wetlands that are being restored by a group from the University of Washington, Bothell. And, for the first time, the board is tying achieving district goals with senior administrative performance evaluations.

By most accounts, the district under this current board has made significant strides to maintaining and advancing our children’s educations. However, the projections for a prolonged economic downturn will continue to be a challenge. This is, without a doubt, a critical piece in determining the future plans for the district. How will the next school board respond to this hurdle, whether it includes a mix of new directors or keeps the current board intact?  Will these board directors continue to engage the community and collaborate to find innovative solutions?  Will they continue to prioritize and protect student programs?  Will those elected continue to assure oversight of fiscal responsibility and transparency?

Whatever our concerns and criteria are for good school district governance, we need to take the time to consider and elect the most qualified individuals on to the school board. At stake is the quality of our communities as well as our children’s futures.

Tolli Lowell-Forker, via email


I enthusiastically support B-Z Davis as a candidate for the Northshore School Board. Having served with B-Z for years, I can attest to the passion, energy, enthusiasm, caring, commitment, courage, ethical standards, depth of knowledge, thoughtful consideration and respect for others B-Z always brought to the board. She is absolutely the right person for the job.

Rich Baldwin, former director, Northshore School District


During these challenging economic times, I am delighted to know that solid, experienced, policy minded citizens like B-Z Davis are running for a school board position. I know that after previously serving 16 years on the Northshore School Board, she is going into this challenge with her eyes wide open.

For the year that I served as the Northshore School District interim superintendent, I recognized the natural and earned leadership skills that B-Z possesses. Public education is still the foundation of our great country and the intricate balance needed to hold high standards, manage declining resources and do the best for every student, staff and citizen is increasingly difficult. I have witnessed B-Z navigate similar challenges with great finesse and political savvy every day. B-Z has my unwavering support to rejoin the Northshore School District Board. It is a time for steady leadership driven by a solid personal moral compass. B-Z has what it takes; please return her to the school board.

Dolores Gibbons, via email


As Dawn McCravey’s neighbor I’ve observed Dawn over the years make hard decisions when cut-backs were necessary and yet she still kept her eye on the prize (better education). I know that the changes made by the school board with Dawn’s experienced direction and guidance these last few years has given me the confidence to enroll my children in our local public school. The teachers I know of are employed with student/teacher ratios that are still amazingly low in the elementary years. We have friends in other districts that are not faring as well (30+kids/classroom). The past two years the teachers have said to me that they are truly excited by the quality of the new curriculum that they are using to work with our children.  I am truly grateful for Dawn McCravey’s continuing dedication to all our children and teachers.

I trust that Dawn McCravey’s continued presence on the board will bring about the best possible outcome for our district.

Briana Metting, Bothell


Northshore’s paraeducators, nurses, school assistants, and other educators, all of whom are part of the Northshore Educational Support Professionals Association, also support BZ Davis. The school secretaries and office professionals, all who belong to the Northshore Educational Office Professional Association, also support BZ Davis. All of the professional organizations of Northshore educators support BZ Davis.  Here’s why: BZ Davis was on the school board for 16 years. Her record is clear; she is one of the people responsible for making Northshore a great school district.

She is thoughtful and is as committed to our community’s students as we are. She respects the perspective of the teachers and assistants who work in the classroom with our students.  She values our knowledge, experience, and success with our community’s students.

There are major differences between the candidates.  Her opponent, Dawn McCravey, would not meet with our association nor answer any written questions to disclose her views on education in Northshore. Her claim that she collaborates with teachers is clearly untrue.

Signed by 48 Northshore teachers who are the elected building representatives of each school in the district.

Letters to the Editor - Oct. 10, 2011

  • Written by Readers

FITNESS WALKS

As a taxpayer, former math and science teacher and parent of a WHS student, I feel compelled to respond to K. Brady’s letter regarding recent PE fitness walks to downtown Woodinville. I think we can all agree that the state of our public school education is in a decline and I believe that these fitness walks are a way to show students a different and free way to excercise, as well as to keep them eager and interested in class. Brady’s letter asked the question: “I wonder if the teachers pay is reflective of this non-teaching time?” I have no doubt that the highschool students were monitored and take offense that the teachers should somehow be penalized in pay for coming up with such an activity. It seems like this very question and lack of support of teachers is one of the main problems within the state of education.

K. Brady seems bothered by the students mediocre food choices but isn’t that a larger problem within our society — marketing and selling low cost junk food to all of us?

Lastly, K. Brady is concerned for students who didn’t bring their permission slips back to school and now have to sit in the library during PE. It seems to me that the public would have an outcry if teachers took students off  campus without permission slips. The school needs permission slips in the event of an emergency and at the very least, highschool students should be expected to remember to turn them in. Sitting in the library for 1.5 hours seems a good reminder to the student to follow through on class expections and to catch up on homework.

Aimie Hunter, Woodinville

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

I consider the premium I pay for homeowners insurance to be similar to the taxes I pay for fire and emergency medical services.  I pay for it hoping that I never need to use it, but I make sure I’m insured by a responsive, well-run company. Imagine having a tree fall through your roof, and now wind and rain are wreaking havoc inside your home. Upon calling your insurance company to come out and approve payment on the claim, they tell you that they’ve eliminated the adjustors that serve your area because the board of directors hired a personal assistant for the CEO instead. You’ll just have to wait and hope they can get someone out there from another area before your home is unsavable. I know, this sounds ridiculous, but  consider the following.

Woodinville Fire & Rescue is run by a board of commissioners elected by us.  As you probably know, we will be voting for one of the commissioner seats in this election. Let’s take a look at an alarming reality.  According to public record, Clint Olson, the incumbent commissioner voted yes to hire a personal assistant for the fire chief and to add additional front office staffing while eliminating vital services such as, public education and business safety inspections.  Yes to deficit spending that bleeds the reserve account to zero in 4 years. Yes to closing fire administration on Friday’s without any cost savings and one less day for public access to our fire department. And most egregiously, when station 34 closed, creating “significant degradation of EMS service delivery” to the Hollywood Hill area, according to the chief himself, Mr. Olson sits idly by doing nothing to correct this situation. Trust me, good solutions have been offered by the labor group.  The ridiculous scenario above is the current reality for citizens in and around Hollywood Hill. When you dial 911 for emergency response to your home, you will just have to wait until WF&R can get there from the north end of downtown Woodinville — that is if they’re not already out on another call in their own area.  Mr. Olson’s record speaks for itself and the results are disastrous for the citizens of Woodinville.

What can we do about it?    I urge all voters to vote for Mark Emery, retired battalion chief WF&R.  He brings the knowledge and understanding of effective emergency service management. He’s been there, done that and seen how good decision making brought WF&R to become a nationally accredited organization and a regional leader in training, emergency response and community service. He’s responded to emergencies in our community for decades and now wants to serve to restore our fire department to being the top notch organization it once was.  What’s at stake?  Just our safety and well being.

Roger Kacmarcik, Woodinville

Letters to the Editor - Oct. 3, 2011

  • Written by Readers

WOODINVILLE WATER DISTRICT

[The election campaigns of Hank Stecker and Jack Vermeulen] are based on assertions to the public that the Woodinville Water District (WWD) is going to expand sewer service into the rural areas and force its urban and rural septic system customers to hook up to sewers costing them tens of thousands of dollars is not accurate.

When you published your assertions, people on septic systems began calling the district and the City of Woodinville wanting to know if it is true that they will be forced to hook up to the sewer system to pay for the Brightwater treatment plant.

The WWD held public meetings,  published  an article, and updated an old resolution to clarify to its customers your assertions are false and their concerns are unfounded.

A great deal has been made of the fact the state has granted sewer districts the authority to require hookups to the public sewer system.

While the district has had that authority for decades it has never used it and has no intention of doing so unless an overriding public interest requires it to act, such as a public health emergency. Connection to its sewer system is completely voluntary.

Also, the WWD has no plans whatsoever of extending sewer lines into the rural areas; it would be a violation of state law to do so.

At a recent City of Woodinville public meeting the staff and council members discussed citizen concerns that have been communicated to them as a result of your assertions.

It should be noted the state has also granted cities the authority to require new developments to connect to sewer systems as part of their permitting process, however the City of Woodinville has never done so and has not expressed any intent to do so.

Connection to the sewer system is voluntary as long as a septic system is viable. Both the WWD and the City of Woodinville share this same policy.

The public meeting also clarified that the Woodinville-Duvall Road improvement project does not contain a sewer line, only a replacement water line.

The city manager  also pointed out expanding sewers into the rural areas is prohibited by state law.

King County, in a very unusual move, published a 3-page letter on September 13 responding to the inaccurate assertions being made by both Mr. Stecker and Mr. Vermeulen regarding King County requiring WWD customers to connect to the district’s sewer system.

They also point out wastewater treatment services can only be provided in designated urban growth boundaries, with very few exceptions.

Ken Goodwin, Woodinville Water District


The Woodinville Water District has the authority to force you to connect to sewers. It’s that simple.

The facts surrounding mandated sewer connections are set by resolutions written and passed by the Woodinville Water District commissioners. These resolutions are optional and not mandated by state law.

They set the authority of the WWD — not the city, not the county.

Is there a regulation created by the Woodinville Water District that can force you to hook up to sewer. The answer is YES. I will explain how that can affect you.

Originally resolution #3027 clearly stated that you “shall connect owners’ premises to the public sewer whenever (1) there is a public sewer within 300 feet of the nearest improvement to be connected to such sewer on said premises.”  Even if you had a functioning septic system.

This was modified by resolution #3725 in July that made the ease of forcing a connection even easier.

The part of 3725 that is never quoted says: “... a property owner may be required to connect the owner’s premises to the District sewer system when ... there is an overriding issue of public interest.” Even if you had a functioning septic system.

What is this undefined “public interest” that the water district can use to force you to connect?

What does it mean? I don’t know and no answer is forthcoming from WWD. It’s never mentioned in any public discussion.

That no one has yet been forced to hook up is like saying that no forced water connections were made in 1959.

However that soon changed with growth and many home owners endured costly legal battles, especially Hollywood Hill around 1992. This is the history of the Woodinville Water District — change.

Now we have a sewage plant that never existed before — change.

The character of Woodinville is reflected by the city motto “Country Living, City Style,” a motto that is embraced by most citizens within and without the city.

Resolutions such as 3725 directly endanger those that embrace that motto by removing any form of protection from future forced changes.

It’s that simple.

Jack Vermeulen, candidate for Woodinville Water commissioner

 

CHANGE

Over the course of the last 10 years, this country has sent to Washington, D.C., possibly the worst litter of politicians in my lifetime — overpaid, over perked and under worked.

On the other side of the country is a little hamlet called Woodinville that has politicians who are underpaid, under perked and overworked at the city council and some of our infrastructure districts such as water and fire.

So if we skip the city council in this piece, why is there so much commotion going on at both the water and fire districts?

I think it’s because the tax and rate payers are starting to sniff some mighty poor management and a seeming disregard for the large sums of coin we contribute to these two districts that are run almost like a fiefdom.

Why is it so difficult to keep track of what is being done by both districts? Are we, the coin givers, considered as marginal? On the water side I don’t see the district making videos of meetings available to the rate payers. It can be difficult for the public to attend. The meetings that are held at 6 p.m. are not rate-payer friendly. Why is that? But wait, it gets worse on the fire side.

The fire district schedules its meetings at 5 p.m, right smack dab at the end of a typical work day and then goes into executive session, time and again, which excludes the public.

Why so many executive sessions? Are we, the taxpayers, not bright enough to grasp the issues they talk about behind closed doors? Not taxpayer friendly!  Why is that? Get this: it’s 2011 and they too, don’t video tape their meetings?

For your information, the council holds their meetings at 7 p.m. and are entirely videotaped.

You get to see the love shown at the dais, between city council members on your computer or on TV  24 hours a day.

Now that’s public access to the process.

Both the fire and water districts are involved in elections coming up in November.  They are contentious and a lot of accusations are starting to fly back and forth — so contentious, that even a King County director has recently involved herself to defend a couple of incumbents in the water district. It’s still not clear if that’s even legal. Neighborhood concerns about forced sewer hookups to Brightwater and the protection of R-1 are real and growing. These concerns have been deepened recently with the passage by the current water district commissioners of resolution 3725 which states “The District has statutory authority to COMPEL property owners to connect to the sewer system. You can bet this, it does bother a lot of property owners. I mean, in my mind, the question is, WHO IS going to pay for Brightwater if not its neighbor Woodinville? Are we a target or not? I hear lip service from county people that we are not targets, yet there is this nagging fear that that’s not really true. The point here, is that these two districts are once again above the radar and in the news it seems daily.

And how about that fire district? They make an offer to the former fire chief which is more than many of us would have offered and now he has countered?

Since I can’t make it to the early meeting times of this tax payer unfriendly district, let me say here that there are a lot of folks in Woodinville who would say that if Daniels rejects our gratuitous severance offer, then there will be no more offers. Fair is fair! For nearly 26 of my 28 years in Woodinville, except for an election, you never heard boo about the fire district — that is until they asked for more coin from the people. Now they are in the news daily, just like the water district.

You tend to cringe when the word “change” is used in today’s environment, but come this November I will exercise my right to vote for just that, in the fire and water districts’ election, CHANGE!

Steve Maloney, Woodinville

 

WOODINVILLE FIRE & RESCUE

The firefighters of Woodinville Fire and Rescue may soon be knocking on your door – not in response to a fire or medical emergency, but to inform you about how you can help create positive change in the fire district. These firefighters are encouraging voters to elect Mark Emery for Woodinville fire commissioner.

It’s time for a change at the elected board level. The incumbent, Clint Olson, is asking for another six-year term in spite of the damage that has been done to the fire district in the wake of the current board’s bad decisions and ill-advised policies.

Mr. Olson has recently overseen the closing of a fire station, as well as the reduction in firefighters and other service providers. Public education has been eliminated and fire prevention has been essentially dismantled. While these sacrifices have been made, Mr. Olson endorsed a dramatic increase in non-essential administrative executive staff, bloating the budget even as more essential services and personnel are cut.

Commissioner Olson advocated for the many unpopular policies and decisions carried out by former fire chief, David Daniels. And although the former chief has been replaced, the problems he embodied are still alive and well as the current board struggles to change course.

Additionally, the fire district will soon be facing an annexation by the City of Bothell. This could have similar impacts to the Woodinville fire department as the Kirkland annexation, resulting in lost revenue and a reduction in services and emergency responders. With competent and careful leadership at the elected level, however, creative and collaborative solutions can be found and essential services could be maintained.

It has become clear that there is only one way to make real, lasting and positive change to the Woodinville fire district — by electing the right person to the contested position in the current election.

This is your chance to change and improve the Woodinville Fire Commission and send the clear message that WE CAN DO BETTER. Vote for Mark Emery for fire commissioner.

Mr. Emery has the knowledge, experience and oversight philosophy to return the Woodinville fire department to its core mission – providing public education and fire prevention, as well as fire, rescue and emergency medical services to the community of Woodinville.

If we happen to knock on your door, thank you for your time and consideration. It is an honor to serve you!

Paul Peterson, treasurer, Local 2950, Woodinville Firefighters

 

After attending many commissioner meetings and reading many articles and editorials about the recently departed fire chief at Woodinville Fire, I feel it is time to express my thoughts and concerns. I devoted 32 years to the Woodinville Fire Department as a volunteer and retired at the time that Chief Daniels was hired. The board of fire commissioners is the body that represents the citizens of the community in the operations of the fire department and in turn directs the chief as to the direction they would like to see the department take, as mentioned in Chief Daniels’ interview with the Woodinville Weekly the week of July 26 2011.

During my time as a volunteer, I was a part of the change from an all volunteer department to a fully paid professional department. Woodinville Fire over the years has been recognized as a very proactive department by many surrounding departments.

At the time that I retired, the board of fire commissioners had just “gutted” the entire executive staff at Woodinville to include the fire chief, two deputy chiefs and the executive secretary.

Chief Daniels was hired from Renton and I must say I am utterly appalled that the board of fire commissioners allowed the fire department to be totally dismantled in just 18 months.

I think it is time that they are held accountable for their actions.

Below is a list of their accomplishments since hiring Chief Daniels.

1) Eliminated 6 of the 7 positions in fire prevention and plans review.

2) Eliminated almost all of the inspections by the fire department which allowed the personnel to identify safety and code issues before they cost someone their life.

3) Pulled out of a regional fire training program with Kirkland and Redmond. Involvement in this program helps reduce costs by combining efforts of three departments towards the cost of training.

4) Damaged relations with the City of Woodinville.

5) Lost its international accreditation which took years to achieve. Very few departments have achieved this accreditation.

6) Eliminated the public educator’s position which was instrumental in developing and implementing community safety programs.

7) Brought morale of the department to an all-time low which was demonstrated by the union’s unanimous vote of no confidence in Chief Daniels.

8) Took away all line personnel involvement in the budgeting process which actually was one of the reasons in the past the department was able to grow and provide the level of service our community deserves.

9) Hired three additional administrative positions that did not exist under the previous chief: a finance manager, an emergency manager and a personal secretary for the chief.

10)  Changed the name to Woodinville Fire & Rescue at a cost of several thousand dollars while eliminating two key components from the name for which the department does most: “Life and Safety.”

11) Greatly increased the response times to the area of Station 34 which was closed as a result of annexation into Kirkland.

The board knew several years in advance that this was occurring yet no action was taken to provide some form of coverage or an alternative location somewhere in the valley.

12) To my knowledge a lawsuit filed by the previously ousted Chief Johnson has still not been settled and who knows what this may cost the taxpayer. I also suspect that some sort of severance package will be paid to Chief Daniels as the result of his recent unexpected departure.

13) Lastly I would urge the “ENTIRE” board to interview all final chief candidates and hire a chief who will take ownership with the department and not one who is away on speaking engagements earning additional money at our expense. It is my understanding that only two commissioners interviewed Chief Daniels when he was hired.

If as a citizen you are happy with the way your fire department is being run, then you have the right board of fire commissioners.

f you are not happy, then your vote can change this in November.

Chuck Royal,citizen and retired volunteer of Woodinville Fire

Letters to the Editor - September 26, 2011

  • Written by Readers

Homeowners initiate; governments authorize

Much is being said about the authority of the Woodinville Water District during my re-election campaign. There is passionate public debate about forced connections to the sewer system.

If your home is serviced by a healthy and working septic system, no one will bother you about your septic system.

In practice, the water district is a business of pumps and pipes that operates and maintains the water and sewer systems.

In application, the district is just one step in a permit process that is administered by one of the local governing bodies, i.e., the cities of Bothell,  Kirkland, Redmond  and Woodinville, or King County (for the unincorporated areas), that are within the  district’s boundaries.

The permit process is kicked off by the homeowner who wants to remodel or construct a building.

The first step is to apply for a permit with the governing body that has jurisdiction.  If the governing body, which has the permitting authority over the homeowner’s property, deems a project needs to connect to the sewer system, then the homeowner contacts the water district to determine if sewer service is available for that property.

Next, the homeowner returns to the governing body to complete the course of action resulting in a building permit being issued.

Clearly, this is a homeowner-initiated process from start to finish.

Governmental agencies deal directly with the homeowner. Woodinville Water District is not directed by these governmental agencies to connect people to the sewer system.

The entire course of action of connecting to sewers is a homeowner-initiated process between the homeowner and their city or the county.

Karen Steeb, Woodinville Water District commissioner

 

Explanation requested

As a member of the  Woodinville Board of Fire Commissioners for Woodinville Fire   & Rescue, Clint Olson is tasked with ensuring that taxpayer resources are used appropriately and to safeguard them against waste and fraud.

Given that, why would Commissioner Olson give approximately $500,000 to the Summit Law Group over the past two years — yes, half a million dollars of a relatively small fire district budget in a poor economy —and tell them that they do not WANT an itemized receipt?  How are the citizens better protected by giving lawyers free access to the checkbook?

When Commissioner Olson and the Board of Commissioners signed the contract with Summit Law Group, a section was purposely inserted into the contract that stated they would only be provided with “summary” billing.

This means that the bills contain an amount, say $18,000, but no record of how that figure was obtained.

Most attorneys don’t bill this way — their clients expect itemized billing.

The commissioners then approve the bill without any question of what they are being billed FOR.

How can they assure the citizens that the bill is correct? Furthermore, how can they possibly justify this massive expense in legal fees?

The Woodinville fire fighters and others have requested itemized legal bills.  To this date, none have been provided.

We have found it highly unusual for a fire district to retain an attorney for a long term without any specific reason; to spend such exorbitant amounts on legal fees; and to continually pay huge legal fees without any knowledge or explanation of what the district is being charged for.

That is why I offer Commissioner Olson an opportunity to explain how spending large, blanket amounts of taxpayer dollars to an attorney provides better protection to the community.  Since Clint Olson is asking for the taxpayers to vote for him, I think they deserve an explanation.

Greg Garat

Executive Board Member

IAFF Local 2950


What constitutes a fitness walk and a P.E. class?

As a resident of the Northshore School District and someone who works in downtown Woodinville, I would pose this question to the district, administration and the physical education instructors.

On days that Woodinville has “block days” (two hour classes alternating on Wednesday and Thursday) PE students have been given the option to partake in a “fitness walk” through downtown Woodinville.

Students “en- mass” walk from the high school through the downtown corridor and back to the high school.

The permission slips state that they can bring money for snacks.

From the perspective of a taxpayer, I wonder if the teachers pay is reflective of this non-teaching time.  From the perspective of a business person, I wonder if the students are supervised. From the perspective of a parent, I wonder what they are buying.

The reality is that the students are in groups of 1-5 walking with no real purpose through downtown. They are stopping at Top Foods where they are loading up on donuts and Monsters.

My favorite this week was the basket with three packages of cookies and two Rockstars. They are going to Jamba Juice and Starbucks buying giant-sized beverages.

It is not an aerobic walk.There are no teachers or supervision that I could see on the two days I witnessed it, and it poses the questions of what is the curriculum?

I guess the most disturbing part is I was told that the students were told if they didn’t bring in the permission slip and therefore couldn’t go on the walks, they would spend their time in the library.

K. Brady, Woodinville

Homeowners initiate; governments authorize
Much is being said about the authority of the Woodinville Water District during my re-election campaign. There is passionate public debate about forced connections to the sewer system.
If your home is serviced by a healthy and working septic system, no one will bother you about your septic system.  
In practice, the water district is a business of pumps and pipes that operates and maintains the water and sewer systems.
In application, the district is just one step in a permit process that is administered by one of the local governing bodies, i.e., the cities of Bothell,  Kirkland, Redmond  and Woodinville, or King County (for the unincorporated areas), that are within the  district’s boundaries.
The permit process is kicked off by the homeowner who wants to remodel or construct a building.  
The first step is to apply for a permit with the governing body that has jurisdiction.  If the governing body, which has the permitting authority over the homeowner’s property, deems a project needs to connect to the sewer system, then the homeowner contacts the water district to determine if sewer service is available for that property.  
Next, the homeowner returns to the governing body to complete the course of action resulting in a building permit being issued.  
Clearly, this is a homeowner-initiated process from start to finish.
Governmental agencies deal directly with the homeowner. Woodinville Water District is not directed by these governmental agencies to connect people to the sewer system.
The entire course of action of connecting to sewers is a homeowner-initiated process between the homeowner and their city or the county.
Karen Steeb, Woodinville Water District commissioner


Explanation requested
As a member of the  Woodinville Board of Fire Commissioners for Woodinville Fire   & Rescue, Clint Olson is tasked with ensuring that taxpayer resources are used appropriately and to safeguard them against waste and fraud. 
Given that, why would Commissioner Olson give approximately $500,000 to the Summit Law Group over the past two years — yes, half a million dollars of a relatively small fire district budget in a poor economy —and tell them that they do not WANT an itemized receipt?  How are the citizens better protected by giving lawyers free access to the checkbook?
When Commissioner Olson and the Board of Commissioners signed the contract with Summit Law Group, a section was purposely inserted into the contract that stated they would only be provided with “summary” billing.
This means that the bills contain an amount, say $18,000, but no record of how that figure was obtained.
Most attorneys don’t bill this way — their clients expect itemized billing.
The commissioners then approve the bill without any question of what they are being billed FOR.
How can they assure the citizens that the bill is correct? Furthermore, how can they possibly justify this massive expense in legal fees?
The Woodinville fire fighters and others have requested itemized legal bills.  To this date, none have been provided.
We have found it highly unusual for a fire district to retain an attorney for a long term without any specific reason; to spend such exorbitant amounts on legal fees; and to continually pay huge legal fees without any knowledge or explanation of what the district is being charged for.
That is why I offer Commissioner Olson an opportunity to explain how spending large, blanket amounts of taxpayer dollars to an attorney provides better protection to the community.  Since Clint Olson is asking for the taxpayers to vote for him, I think they deserve an explanation.
Greg Garat
Executive Board Member
IAFF Local 2950



What constitutes a fitness walk and a P.E. class?
As a resident of the Northshore School District and someone who works in downtown Woodinville, I would pose this question to the district, administration and the physical education instructors.
On days that Woodinville has “block days” (two hour classes alternating on Wednesday and Thursday) PE students have been given the option to partake in a “fitness walk” through downtown Woodinville.
Students “en- mass” walk from the high school through the downtown corridor and back to the high school.  
The permission slips state that they can bring money for snacks.
From the perspective of a taxpayer, I wonder if the teachers pay is reflective of this non-teaching time.  From the perspective of a business person, I wonder if the students are supervised. From the perspective of a parent, I wonder what they are buying.
The reality is that the students are in groups of 1-5 walking with no real purpose through downtown. They are stopping at Top Foods where they are loading up on donuts and Monsters.
My favorite this week was the basket with three packages of cookies and two Rockstars. They are going to Jamba Juice and Starbucks buying giant-sized beverages.  
It is not an aerobic walk.There are no teachers or supervision that I could see on the two days I witnessed it, and it poses the questions of what is the curriculum?
I guess the most disturbing part is I was told that the students were told if they didn’t bring in the permission slip and therefore couldn’t go on the walks, they would spend their time in the library.
K. Brady, Woodinville

Letters to the Editor - September 19, 2011

  • Written by Readers

FIRE COMMISSIONER

A review of the articles and comments over the last year regarding the Woodinville fire district reveals the fact that the issues of great concern to the Woodinville firefighters also resonate with the public at large.

The firefighters of Woodinville began a campaign to educate the public about the direction of the fire district as soon as they saw that the decisions and policies being put in place by the Board of Fire Commissioners and the former fire chief were having a negative impact on the services they were able to provide to the community.

The fire district closed a fire station and laid off firefighters while it added to the size of the administrative executive staff, including a personal assistant to the fire chief. Other new staff positions added were the deputy chief of safety and risk management, finance manager and the emergency manager.

The Woodinville fire district may be the only fire department in the country that hires a personal secretary for its fire chief while at the same time laying-off firefighters.

The Woodinville fire district eliminated the public educator position, as well as most positions in the office of Fire Prevention and Community Risk Reduction.

It compromised its responsibility to provide adequate fire and emergency medical services to the Hollywood Hill area after the closure of the Kingsgate fire station.

And finally, it raised the tax rate for the entire district. What a bitter pill for the citizens of Hollywood Hill – a higher tax rate and less coverage!

At the center of all these decisions is the staunch supporter of the former fire chief and these dubious policies — Woodinville Fire Commissioner Clint Olson. Mr. Olson’s term is up this year and he is running as the incumbent for another six-year term.

Mr. Olson does not say much in the public forum during BOFC meetings, but when the firefighters began making public their concerns about a year ago, he made a special statement where he declared his support for Chief Daniels and the much derided policies of the Woodinville fire district.

He stated, “As the immediate past chair of this board, I thought it essential to share with you my unequivocal support of Chief Daniels and his administration. Government boards cannot be effective unless their management team works to advance the board’s policy decisions.”

Clearly a new direction is needed at the board level. The Woodinville fire district cannot afford another six years of this kind of leadership.

Please vote for Mark Emery for Woodinville Fire Commissioner.

He has the experience, knowledge, and the right oversight philosophy to return the Woodinville fire district to its core mission – the provision of public education, fire-prevention, fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services to the community of Woodinville.

Ted Klinkenberg

Executive Board

Local 2950, Woodinville Firefighters