02/28/13 — Sewer battle rages at Walnut Creek

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Sewer battle rages at Walnut Creek

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 28, 2013 1:46 PM

There was one thing the multitude of Walnut Creek residents and Village Council members could agree on Wednesday night at the public hearing concerning the village's sewer expansion: The council should do "the right thing."

What's emerged as the dividing issue is determining what the "right thing" is.

Nearly 140 residents turned out for the municipality's public hearing, which was held at the Walnut Creek Country Club to accommodate the crowd, two dozen of whom addressed the Village Council, which is set to vote on the issue March 27.

Fliers declaring "No Village-wide sewer" were passed out among the crowd, which applauded loudly any speakers who questioned the expansion, beginning with lawyer Glenn Barfield, who argued that the authority of the municipality to extend its sewer system might go against the state's constitution.

Barfield said that the $8,500 in assessment fees should be considered taxes, making them subject to the Local Government Bond Act.

Michelle Blackwell then took the podium and presented the results of a petition, saying that 90 percent of those who responded to the village-wide survey were opposed to the expansion.

"It is your job to listen to your constituents," she told the council.

Mayor Darrell Horne permitted those speaking for a handful of people up to 10 minutes to address the council, although some who spoke stood at the podium only long enough to make the council members aware of their opposition.

Many decried the current sewer system while arguing that septic tanks weren't inferior and that there had been no proof that well-maintained septic tanks posed any environmental risk.

Village staff said the threat of sewage runoff into the village's lake was greater with septic tanks.

Some blamed the council for the uproar.

"You've pitted neighbor against neighbor," Frances Whitfield said. "We don't need sewer. We don't want sewer."

Others who spoke noted the difficulty of selling their homes with the spectre of sewer costs, which would include a hook-up fee of between $1,100 and $1,500 and quarterly charge of $150 plus usage.

Of the 24 speakers, just two spoke in favor of the expansion.

Danny Brown and his wife, Michelle Ricker, both cited the need for investment into the future of the village.

"A lot of people in the future are going to thank you for this," Brown said.

Brown noted that the original plans for the village in the 1970s called for village-wide sewer to be installed.

"Other cities are increasing their infrastructure," he said.

When he was told his three minutes were up, residents in the audience murmured, drowning out a light applause.

Larry Kammler had already indicated that investment into infrastructure wasn't what the village's residents wanted from its government.

"We don't want you to try to make Walnut Creek a city," he said. "We want our neighborhood back."