EAST WENATCHEE — How should the sewer district and other jurisdictions work together?
That question has been raised in the race for Douglas County Sewer District 1 commissioner. East Wenatchee Mayor Steve Lacy is challenging incumbent Greg Peterson in the Nov. 5 election.
Lacy, who has been mayor since 1998, is moving on but said he still wants to serve the community.
It’s not that he has a problem with any particular action or commissioner.
“I just, over the years as mayor, have been a little dissatisfied with the idea that we don’t have adequate cooperation and coordination between the sewer district and the other jurisdictions in our area,” he said. “Which is not to say anybody’s doing anything wrong at the sewer district, in particular; it’s just that I always felt like to be engaged in appropriate joint planning requires that there be everybody at the same table and on the same page.”
Peterson, who was appointed to the commission in March 2018, is now running for election to a full six-year term. He said city representatives have not attended sewer district meetings in his time as a commissioner.
“Any type of projects going forward have to be coordinated with the county, the city, and the sewer and water districts,” he said. “We certainly work with the water district — we share the same building. We are totally transparent and will come up to any table to talk about anything to do with growth and what happens next. Never received a single request or a single thought from the city about much of anything last year.”
Lacy said the sewer district has thus far operated independently, with its own comprehensive plan and decisions that may not match those of the city and county. Interlocal or franchise agreements may be in order, he said.
“So where we put sewer, how much we charge developers when we extend sewer, what kind of financial decisions are made to expand sewer and where — that’s all done independently of the city and the county by an independent agency, meaning the sewer district,” he said.
Lacy has advocated for consolidating the city and sewer district during his long tenure as mayor, but said he’s come to realize it may take a grassroots movement — or at least having commissioners intent on cooperative planning.
Peterson touted as a success helping secure $4 million from the state this year to extend sewer past 29th Street Northwest as the first phase of developing Wenatchi Landing near the Odabashian Bridge. The sewer district worked with the Port of Douglas County on that.
Still, Peterson believes the sewer district operates well on its own. Consolidation might be considered someday, he said, but for now he’s not sure it’s the way to go.
“We operate about 105 miles of pipeline, a large treatment facility which is heavily regulated. We have to put clean water back into the river,” he said. “We bill thousands of people for services, and I don’t believe the city bills anybody for anything. They don’t maintain sewer or water, so to have them, for instance, oversee us wouldn’t be an obvious choice in my mind.”