N. Douglas sewer plan to go ahead

Some residents say Juneau Assembly pushed them aside

Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2007

After years of waiting to connect to the Juneau sewer system, some residents of North Douglas believe they are being pushed aside for the sake of future residents.

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They want the system to connect to their part of the island, with its 83 households.

But the Juneau Assembly's Committee of the Whole decided Monday night to connect the sewer system to an area that has 22 households and the potential for 300 more.

The committee's meeting was dominated by the North Douglas Neighborhood Association, which wanted the city to connect to a section with 83 households. Little attention was paid to four other sections that the city could start with as it proceeds with connecting to nearly 200 area households.

Craig Mapes of the neighborhood association said the residents living on Douglas now should take priority over those who may live there in the future. He said households without sewer lines will continue to dump sewage into Gastineau Channel.

"Public health is the neighborhood association's first priority," Mapes said.

Ron Clarke, a member of the neighborhood association, said there is a public health problem on North Douglas that is similar to the open sewers of a Third World country.

"Walk down the beach in North Douglas and there isn't much difference," he said. "There is some pretty foul stuff out there."

Murray Walsh, on hand to represent a property owner, said there needs to be more infrastructure in place to help tackle the affordable housing crisis in the community.

"This is a chance, at a stroke, that will enable a great many of residences to be built," he said.

Honey Bee Anderson, a realtor on-hand to represent land developers, said providing infrastructure to the area would help the younger people in the community eventually afford housing.

"One of the resources we forget about is our kids," she said, saying many don't return to Juneau after going off to college. "We've sent them off, and we need to get them back and housing is a key factor in that."

Anderson said the development of North Douglas would also add more to city coffers by having more citizens paying property tax.

Assembly member Jeff Bush said he sees the debate about the sections as a relatively small issue because he believes all sections of the sewer expansion on North Douglas will eventually get completed.

"I don't foresee a problem, other than from the perspective of who gets to go first," he said.

Rorie Watt of the city engineering department said sewer upgrades approved by voters in 2005 will cost about $15 million. About $3 million is expected to come from state grants, and $3 million provided by property owners. He said the last of the money is expected to be appropriated from sales tax in July, and the project is expected to move forward in the fall of this year.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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