My turn: Bayview homeowners, city worked sewer deal

Posted: Friday, August 26, 2005

Juneau Empire readers may be wondering why residents of Bayview subdivision are so strongly united against the creation of a local improvement district to solve a discharge problem. Quite simply, we have a negotiated agreement with the city whereby, in 1993, the city took over operation of the system and told Bayview homeowners that the homeowners' responsibility for the sewer system had ceased.

The negotiations leading to this agreement were carried out between the city's director of public works and the chairperson of the Bayview Homeowners' Association Board of Directors. In a May 5, 1993 letter from the director of public works to the chairperson of the Bayview board, it was stated:

"When (the city) takes over the maintenance and operation of the wastewater collection and discharge system, the responsibility of the Bayview Homeowners' Association over the system ceases. Any repair and maintenance, minor or major, will be undertaken by the sewer utility."

In a May 7 letter between the same two parties it was stated:

The Bayview system "ultimately discharges into Fritz Cove. This discharge is the subject of a permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. (Juneau) would be responsible for adhering to the terms and conditions of the permit. Any violations of permit conditions would be (the city's) responsibility to correct."

These terms were considered by the Bayview Homeowners' Association Board of Directors. I was a member of that board. After discussing the city's terms, our board convened a May 13, 1993, subdivision-wide meeting, so that all Bayview homeowners could consider the terms of the city's proposed takeover. There was a spirited discussion. Some residents were opposed because our system was working fine and the city's fees for maintaining the system would be higher than the association fees we had been paying. After much discussion, Bayview residents passed a motion to support the takeover.

As part of the agreement, the Bayview board had to expend all of the money in our subdivision's sewer and water account to bring our sewer system up to city standards. In a May 14 letter from the subdivision's chairperson to the city's director of public works, it was stated:

"This main sewage system was inspected by your employees and was deemed satisfactory. All costs associated with the repair/fixing of the existing system have been paid in full. There is no encumbrance on the entire system and clear title will pass to the city at takeover time."

As these and other letters clearly state, the Bayview part of the agreement was to bring the system up to city standards, and the city's part was to take full responsibility for the system after that. These terms were relied upon when Bayview homeowners agreed to the conditions of the takeover. We did our part, and the city did its part for 12 years, until the LID issue came up. By analogy, what the city is saying is that it bought a used car 12 years ago and now that the car has developed some mechanical problems it is up to the previous owner to fix them.

• Juneau resident Steve Zimmerman was a member of the Bayview Homeowners' Association Board of Directors for as long as it existed.

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