BRINNON — Jefferson County commissioners heard about septic projects, internet and food availability for those on benefit programs when they met with about 20 residents of Brinnon.
The elected officials, with the assistance of other county staff, responded to questions Thursday evening at the Brinnon Community Center during their fifth community outreach meeting.
Some residents asked the county officials how to deal with failing septic systems.
Brinnon was not built with a sewer system in place, which makes building a modern sewer system now more expensive, County Administrator Philip Morley said.
County Environment Public Health Director Stuart Whitford said septic is expensive. It costs at least $26,000 to replace a failing septic system, he said.
Resident Joe Baisch told officials about difficulties in adding a parking lot to the Brinnon School. No engineer has been able to conduct a stormwater survey to clear the way to start construction, he said.
“We need this parking lot and we need your help,” Baisch said. “They were going to start this in June and we can’t do it until the we get this study and now it won’t be able to start until spring.”
Morely said he would look into it and try to help the community find an engineer.
Residents asked if they would ever get better internet service. High-speed internet is an issue in a lot of rural places, and Brinnon is no different.
District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton said that high-speed internet is not likely to happen anytime soon.
“We keep trying to look for real opportunities to get copper or fiber out here,” Brotherton said. “It’s not in our capacity to fund that without state or federal funding.”
Brinnon gets its internet access through the Mason County Public Utility District, not the Jefferson county PUD, which makes it difficult for Jefferson County commissioners to help, said Dan Toepper, Jefferson County District 3 PUD commissioner.
The use of SNAP and WIC benefits is difficult for residents of South County, commission Chair Kate Dean said, opening that part of the discussion.
There are no grocery stores there that accept them, forcing users to have to drive to Port Townsend, which is difficult for some.
Brinnon Superintendent Patricia Beathard explained that the Brinnon School District has the largest percentage of students in Jefferson County who are on free and reduced lunches and whose families are on support funding.
Getting the food they need can be a challenge, she said. They have to set aside times to travel to the large grocery stores in Port Townsend.
“You’re a food desert out here,” Dean said. “Maybe there’s a need for more brains to think about this.”
Brotherton suggested that small grocery stores work with the commission on getting WIC and SNAP certified, so they can accept them.
“It’s a bureaucratic mountain for small stores to go through,” Brotherton said.
One resident offered the solution of developing a community shuttle that could take users of WIC and SNAP who can’t drive to Port Townsend.
“I think the commissioners do really care about citizens in Brinnon,” Brinnon Fire Chief Tim Manly said.
“We will continue to keep on them so they don’t forget us.”
Brotherton and Dean said they were glad to hear from the residents of Brinnon.
“They bring solutions as well as issues, which is inspiring,” Brotherton said.
“The county is not giving up on the community in Brinnon.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].