By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Consulting firm Gray & Osborne told county commissioners Tuesday that a $14 million system to collect sewage in Carlsborg and pump it to Sequim’s existing water-treatment facility appeared to be much less costly than building a new treatment plant in Carlsborg.
“I started this project thinking the Sequim option would be less costly, and what we’ve seen today does nothing to change that,” Public Works Administrative Director Bob Martin told commissioners.
The county hired Gray & Osborne to study the Carlsborg sewer system under a $1.32 million-maximum contract in July.
If commissioners OK the plan, construction could begin in April 2015 and finish by April 2016.
Washington’s Growth Management Act requires Carlsborg, which is just west of Sequim, to have a sewer to continue its classification as an Urban Growth Area.
Most Carlsborg buildings use septic systems.
Without that classification, the unincorporated community, which currently has more than 1,000 jobs located in it, would not be able expand.
Sequim Public Works Director Paul Haines said after the commissioners’ meeting that the city would welcome Carlsborg’s wastewater.
“The more customers we can bring in to use the system, the less expensive it will be for everybody,” Haines said.
The county in March agreed to take on the Carlsborg sewer system from the Clallam County Public Utility District.
In doing so, the county took on a $10 million loan from the state’s Public Works Trust Fund. The county has another $4.3 million set aside in a special fund for the sewer.
“There’s pretty substantial costs to build a treatment plant and operate it there at Carlsborg,” said Jay Swift, an engineer with Gray & Osborne.
A collection and conveyance system to ship wastewater to Sequim would cost an estimated $14,029,000, Swift reported.
The full capital cost of a sewer plant at Carlsborg would be $20.99 million, with the first phase estimated at $10.65 million.
Operations also would provide savings, Swift said.
Exporting sewage to Sequim would cost about $218,000 a year. The Carlsborg treatment plant would require initial operation costs of about $303,000 that would escalate to $968,000 a year at full build-out.
Lower capital costs would lower the rates at which Carlsborg businesses and residents would pay for sewer service, said Gordon Wilson of FCS Financial, who worked with Gray & Osborne to consider cost implications from shipping sewage to Sequim.
“In general, people are going to have to accept that eventually, they’re going to have to connect,” Wilson said. “The question then is, ‘How do we get them to buy in?’”
Based on what the county would have to pay Sequim to take in the wastewater, Wilson figured the system would have a $7,640 connection charge and monthly rates would be about $68 per month.
“It’s in the ballpark [of other municipal rates],” Wilson said.
Wilson’s figures assumed 75 percent of those that could tap into the system would. If more hooked in, he said, costs would go down; fewer users would raise rates.
He suggested commissioners provide discounts for existing buildings that are connected in the first two years of the system and set up a special loan program to help property owners cover plumbing costs to hook in to the sewer system.
“This is, to my mind, a very healthy incentive for the folks in Carlsborg to get on board,” Commissioner Jim McEntire said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.