Eastside Sewer struggling to cover PWTF loans

OROVILLE – Due to slower than predicted build-out, the county’s Oroville Eastside Sewer Project is struggling to pay back the low-interest loan it took to construct the project which serves people living on the east side of Lake Osoyoos.

Perry Huston, Director of Okanogan County Planning, spoke with the Oroville City Council at their Tuesday, June 7 meeting on ways to try and more quickly pay back the loan, without the county having to use other revenue sources.

“Once again the Eastlake project failed to make the payment out of hook-up fees and other revenues paid for last year,” Huston said. “We can’t go on forever… the commissioners are thinking of doing a special assessment area, if that’s done then the hook-up fees go away.”

Huston explained that those that have already paid the hook-up fees, like Veranda Beach Resort and other developers and residents in the area, would not then be required to pay the assessment. He also said the permitting process needs to encourage hook-ups to the sewer for new building done near the sewer line.

“State law is relatively clear, anything within 200 feet needs to be hooked up. Also, if they can gain access through a public road they should hook up,” Huston said. “We need to create language under the Comprehensive Plan that outlines the requirements.”

Mayor Chuck Spieth asked what kind of burden a special assessment would put on the City of Oroville.

“None, all the assessment would be on people living in the unincorporated areas,” he said. “It would be on everyone in that area that’s not hooked up at this point.”

The Eastlake Sewer Project connects with Oroville’s wastewater treatment plant and Oroville is responsible for maintaining and operating the system and bill’s monthly for its use. The county currently gets hook-up fees to pay off the PWTF loan it took to construct the project. Pay back for the loan was based on increased development of the area over the next 20 years. However, development in the area slowed dramatically along with the national housing crisis. The city currently has a water line that serves the area and as part of its policy, anyone that gets city water is required to also hook up to the sewer.

“When working out the special assessment, also keep in mind how much the sewer plant can handle as in our original agreement,” said Rod Noel, Superintendent of Public Works.

Chris Branch, director of Community Development, said the projected number of hook ups was 1035 over 20 years and that the commissioners had adopted a policy that subdivisions be required to hook up.

“My directions from the commissioners are ‘thou shall hook up.’ Any changes then that’s up to them… it’s above my pay grade,” Huston said.

Katriona Lidstrand, who will be a senior at Oroville High School next year, appeared before the council to request permission to plant flowers along 500 feet of the new pedestrian walkway on the south end of town. She said she would like to plant the flowers on the highway side of the ditch and added that she had spoken to members of Streetscape about what type of flowers to plant.

“I researched perennials like daffodils, tulips and narcissus and would add more flowers in the summer to make it beautiful for a longer period of the year,” said Lidstrand, who added that she would go around town seeking donations.

“I was planning to do all 900 feet to the city limits, but think that from 8th Street to Thompson Bees will be enough for this year and maybe another senior could do the rest as a project,” she said.

Her plan includes planting bushes at the end of each section to make it look more organized. The estimated cost will be between $1100 and $1500.

Kathy Jones, Oroville’s clerk-treasurer, suggested Lidstrand add black-eyed Susans to her list as they are hardy during drought and spread. Noel suggested poppies like the state planted at Oroville’s Lake Osoyoos Veterans Memorial Park.

“I, as a business owner, welcome this,” said Mayor Spieth.

Noel said his only concern was over weed control.

“Don’t get me wrong I am excited to see your project, but I’ve seen Senior Projects where the kids move on to college, etc.,” Noel said. “If we can get the weed part accomplished it will be a good project.”

Lidstrand was given permission to plant the flowers as her senior project.

In new business, Councilman Tony Koepke made a motion to adopt the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Plan and Councilman Ed Naillon seconded it and the motion passed.

Jones presented the council with an interlocal agreement with Omak to connect onto their bid for mosquito control services.

“I spoke with both our attorney and Omak about piggy-backing on Omak’s bid call. However, considering we are in high water, the money to spray would have to be spent after the water goes down,” she said. Councilman Jon Neal made a motion to direct the mayor to sign the agreement and it was seconded by Councilman Walt Hart and passed.