East Jefferson-wide clean water district dies for now; 2008 tax bill deadline to pass

PORT TOWNSEND – The Jefferson County commissioners postponed a decision on a proposed clean water district on Wednesday night, and so will miss a deadline for putting a fee for the district on next year’s property tax bills.

“Obviously, we did make a decision tonight by not deciding,” said Commissioner David Sullivan, D-Cape George.

County Treasurer Judi Morris has said she would have to receive direction by Monday to have adequate time to put the fees on next year’s property tax bills.

The three county commissioners will not make a decision on the district before that time, Sullivan said.

The proposed district would be for all of East Jefferson County. It would be funded with an $18-per-parcel fee that would appear on property tax bills.

Commissioners decided at Wednesday’s public hearing to postpone the decision to another time and venue.

About 200 people attended the hearing at the Fort Worden State Park Commons in Port Townsend, with about 50 addressing the commissioners.

Comments continued for three hours.

Some people were in support of the proposed district and willing to pay the fee.

“Prevention is always less expensive than fixing the damage,” said Teri Namura of Port Townsend.

But the overwhelming message was that action would be hasty and overly broad in scope.

“My summary is, you’re going after a skeeter with a shotgun,” said Dick Bergeron of Brinnon.

“And when you go after a skeeter with a shotgun, you’ll probably miss.”

Others who spoke were primarily against the $18-per-parcel fee, calling it regressive.

Commissioners are obligated to create a shellfish protection district specifically in Discovery Bay.

It is mandated by state Department of Health because of fecal coliform pollution detected there.

The discovery resulted in shellfish harvesting in the southern portion of the bay being restricted.

The proposed district for all of East Jefferson County grew out of an attempt to take care of all potential problems in the area.

The commissioners approved a contract on Sept. 17 between the county and the state Department of Ecology for funding a Discovery Bay shellfish district plan.

The county would pay about $55,000 a year for three years, while Ecology would match that with about $162,212 a year for three years to clean up and monitor Discovery Bay.

Commissioner John Austin, D-Port Ludlow, made a motion at Monday’s commissioner meeting to fund the first year of that with county reserves.

The commissioners tabled the motion until Wednesday’s hearing because of lack of time.

But the motion received a similar fate on Wednesday, postponed again until a meeting can be scheduled in a venue that can hold a large number of people.

The meeting had not been scheduled as of Wednesday night.

The commissioners have until January 2008 to come up with a funding source.

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