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Water District policy about sewer connections remains unchanged

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

After discussion at two meetings, the Woodinville Water District Board of Commissioners opted not to repeal Resolution 3725, a resolution regarding sewer connections that has caused controversy during election season in 2011 and 2013. Ultimately, the commissioners couldn’t agree on small changes in the wording of the resolution.

The original resolution, 3725, says in its preamble that the Water District doesn’t intend to force property owners to connect to the District’s sewer system “unless there is an overriding issue of public interest such as public health and safety.” However, the body of the resolution says a property owner may be required to connect to the sewer system if “there is an overriding issue of public interest.” It doesn’t specify the examples of “public health” and “safety.”

Some citizens and candidates for elected office, including Commissioner Dale Knapinski, believe that wording would let the Water District force property owners who would prefer to keep septic tanks to connect to the sewer system instead.

“An overriding issue of public interest could be anything including hooking everybody up to spread the cost of Brightwater over a large base,” Knapinski wrote in an email.

The Water District has insisted that it doesn’t intend to force anyone to connect to the sewer system.

“You’ve never done it, don’t plan on doing it, and unless there’s some outstanding situation, you don’t plan on doing that,” Ken Howe, general manager for the Woodinville Water District, explained to the Board at the March 18 meeting.

“For 50 years we’ve never made anybody connect to either system, and we don’t intend to,” Commissioner Ed Cebron added.

At the March 18 meeting, the Board considered a new resolution, 3798, which would have repealed Resolution 3725. Both the preamble and body of Resolution 3798 stipulated that the District could only force a property owner to connect to the sewer system if “there is an overriding issue of public interest such as public health and safety.”

Cebron and Commissioner Karen Steeb said the Board needs to distinguish public interest from the private financial interests of developers.

“We don’t want a developer to be able to use it to their advantage,” Steeb said.

After discussion at the March 18 meeting, the Board considered a revised version of Resolution 3798 at the April 1 meeting. That version removed the words “of public interest,” saying that the Board could force a property owner to connect to the sewer system if “there is an overriding issue, such as public health and safety,” adding, “The District will not consider a private financial interest as an overriding issue.”

Only Commissioner Paj Hwang supported that wording, and so the Board didn’t vote on Resolution 3798. (Commissioner Sandra Smith was absent.)

Cebron said he was concerned that the new resolution would replace customers’ interests with individual interests.

“It was more ambiguous after the changes than before,” Cebron said. “It was actually weakening our commitment to our customers.”

Steeb objected to removing the words “of public interest.” She said the current resolution already protects ratepayers from forced sewer connections, even though it only mentions the reasons for sewer connections in the preamble.

Knapinski said the revised Resolution 3798 would have been better than Resolution 3725, but it still had ambiguity. He wanted to take out the words “such as,” making “public health and safety” the only two reasons for forced sewer connections.

“We still have Resolution 3725, and that’s unfortunate,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to be the bad guy and end up creating a bunch of troubles, but this is what the people want.”
“My constituents are most likely going to seek refuge by asking the City Council to consider taking over sewer and water services,” he wrote in an email.

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