|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
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
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
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.