City may require Bayview to chip in for pump station

Residents say city should cover the entire $1.9 million sewer project

Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The city of Juneau may force residents of the Bayview subdivision to help pay for a sewer pumping station, though only three of the north Douglas property owners have said they agree with the cost sharing.

The city staff has recommended that the Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee proceed with the project despite residents' objections. It might be the first time the city staff has asked the Assembly to make a neighborhood contribute to a local improvement project against its will, city engineers said.

"Proposing to directly tax individual property owners is one of the most serious tasks asked of the Engineering Department," said Rorie Watt, chief engineer for the city's capital improvement projects. "It is a stance that I have taken only after deep consideration."

The city engineer considers the project urgent because the sewage now flowing into Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge fails to comply with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation standards. The city can be fined for failing to meet the standards.

The city proposes solving the problem by pumping sewage across Gastineau Channel and the Mendenhall Wetlands to the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The project would cost $1.9 million. Owners of each lot would pay $4,500 while the city would contribute $22,000 for each lot.

But an informal poll by the city shows only three of the 68 property owners want to make the neighborhood a local improvement district. When a neighborhood agrees to become such a district, residents and the city share the cost of a local improvement project.

Forty-three of the owners voted against it while 21 didn't vote on the issue. One returned the ballot without clarifying support for it.

"This is probably the lowest possible vote we have ever had on a LID," Watt said.

Residents oppose Watt's proposal because they believe when the city took over the neighborhood's sewer system in 1993 it took the responsibility to repair and improve it.

"We had an agreement with the city," said Bayview resident Walt Harvey. "Letters from (city) officials and other file documents, read as a whole, would lead a reasonable person to believe the city is responsible for all costs associated with this improvement."

Watt disagrees.

"Correspondence with Bayview owners does not imply a legal or moral obligation for the Assembly to provide an even greater subsidy to these residents," Watt said.

Watt will ask the Public Works and Facilities Committee to forward the issue to the Assembly Committee of the Whole.

Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce, who met a few Bayview representatives Tuesday, said the whole Assembly will consider the issue because it is complicated and controversial.

The Assembly will have to vote 6-1 or 9-0 to force the neighborhood to contribute to the project.

" 'Do nothing' is not an option," Watt said.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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