|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
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