02/26/13 — Walnut Creek residents will meet to discuss village sewer proposal

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Walnut Creek residents will meet to discuss village sewer proposal

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 26, 2013 1:46 PM

Walnut Creek residents and village officials are preparing for what promises to be one of the highest-attended public hearings in recent memory Wednesday night when the Village Council hears from residents concerned about changes to the sewer system that would lead to nearly $10,000 in assessment and hookup fees for 55 percent.

The hearing begins at 7:30 p.m. at Walnut Creek Country Club.

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Ricker asked that the hearing be held at the country club due to an anticipation of a high turnout.

Following the hearing, the Village Council will reconvene at the Walnut Creek Municipal Building, although Mayor Darrell Horne said there would be no vote on the measure at that time.

"I think it would be unfair to council member and the residents to rush to a vote minutes after hearing public comments," he said. "I think we need to take those public comments and mull them over and make the best decision we can. I don't think you can do that 30 minutes after a public hearing."

Village Administrator Lou Cook said Horne had indicated to him that not only did he not want a vote at the Wednesday meeting, but he was against any special meeting being called concerning the sewer project before the Village Council's next meeting, which is scheduled for March 27.

A vote on the issue is expected at that meeting.

The measure, if approved, would be the culmination of the village's decade long sewer plan, which aims to have 100 percent of residents on a sewer system instead of septic tanks, which have the potential to negatively impact the environment, especially through runoff into the lake.

Residents erupted concerning the change when it was announced that the costs associated with assessment fees would amount to about $8,500 while hook-up fees were estimated to cost between $1,100 and $1,500.

The fact that the announcement came largely via email further incensed residents, who contended that senior citizens -- who stood to lose the most due to fixed incomes -- were the least likely to have email access.

More than 40 opponents to the sewer plans turned out at the council's Jan. 23 meeting, where more than a dozen spoke against it.

Some who spoke questioned funding the project from fees instead of property taxes although the 45 percent of residents already on the sewer line were asked to pay similar fees in the past.

Others asked about the specific environmental impact, noting that there hadn't been any proof that septic tanks were already causing environmental problems and contending that well-maintained septic tanks were just as safe as sewer systems.

Another controversy heaped onto the issue is the chance that the sewer expansion's required lift station would be built on land currently owned by a member of the council.

Councilman Tom Shaw has said that while there is no reason he should not vote on the approval of the project, he would recuse himself from voting on the location of the lift station if his property were an option.