City Council Seeking Septic Solution

News Times, Newport OR
Friday, Feb 12th, 2010
BY: Terry Dillman

Lincoln City Council members worked toward resolving differences of opinion that arose over recommendations by City Manager David Hawker for establishing an inspection program designed to reduce pollution stemming from failed or failing septic systems around Devils Lake.

Monday night’s session continued a discussion begun during the Jan. 11 council meeting, where Hawker asked the council to consider an ordinance requiring all lakefront property owners to have their septic systems inspected or face having the city shut off their water. The request hit a snag with the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID) Board of Directors, who passed a resolution in January backing the ordinance idea, but only if city officials dropped the water shut-off provision.

Hawker told council members he couldn’t recommend proceeding with a program without DLWID backing.

Council members opted to delay a decision on the matter to give the DLWID board additional time to consider their recommendation. In a Feb. 4 memo to the council, Hawker said the DLWID recommendation should be effective in identifying faulty systems adequately for the county to take action; easily identifiable and enforceable; efficient for city staff to enforce; and provide a reasonable burden for property owners with functional systems to take on.

In a Jan. 12 letter to the DLWID board, Hawker sought to clear up some issues with them.

“I think it is important to stress that the only requirement that I have proposed is one inspection in a five-year period,” he wrote. “Any other action is a matter for the county.”

Hawker also said the city had “no effective enforcement method” for properties outside the city limits other than water shut-off. “I ask you to keep in mind that under current law, property owners must maintain a functional system,” he noted. “If they are complying with that, the only implication for them would be the cost of an inspection.”

The DLWID board met Feb. 4 and forged a revised recommendation that complicated the matter.

“While the program I recommended to council was simple and effective, they believed we were causing an undue hardship on those with functional systems, and wished to reduce the number of required inspections by targeting those more likely to not function properly,” Hawker stated in a Feb. 5 memo to council. “There are parts that I do not believe are acceptable.”

Hawker reiterated his objections to several pieces of the revised DLWID recommendation, including the fact that “it’s a lot more complicated, with a lot more opportunities to challenge.” But his biggest hang-up centered on the suggestion to allow property owners to use any contractor certified by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

“I absolutely simply can’t live with this,” he stated in his Feb. 5 memo, and said it again Monday night.

DLWID Chairman Brian Green said the board had proposed an ordinance stronger than the city’s, one that encompassed the entire watershed, not just the lakefront. “We’ve had a lot of work done on both sides,” he said. “We need to go forward. Let’s get together and work it out.”

Mayor Lori Hollingsworth agreed. “I’m interested in going the last little bit and make this work,” she said. “Let’s refine this, and find out where the differences are.”

She, Hawker, Green, and Devils Lake Manager Paul Robertson agreed to meet for further discussion and try to resolve the differences before the Feb. 22 council session.

Terry Dillman is the assistant editor of the News-Times. Contact him at (541) 265-8571, ext 225, or terrydillman@newportnewstimes.com

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