Thurston County residents talk about proposed septic fees
About 100 people attended a public hearing late Tuesday on a proposed set of annual fees for property owners with septic systems in Thurston County.
An overwhelming majority of the 40 or so speakers shared the same opinion: The county’s proposal stinks.
“This is outrageous,” said Bob McNally, who lives south of Lacey.
The Board of Thurston County Commissioners heard about two hours of testimony on the proposed fees that are associated with updates to the county’s on-site sewage system management plan.
Last month, the commissioners, in their role as the Board of Health, voted 2-1 to adopt the changes to the plan, including the fees. The plan would affect about 53,000 homes in the county.
Commissioner Bud Blake voted against the proposal, saying he supports improving septic and water quality, but doesn’t think the plan is necessary. Meanwhile, Commissioners Sandra Romero and Cathy Wolfe, who are retiring this month, said they believe the new fees will help ensure drinking water is safe.
The proposed fees would be $19, $38 and $57 for 2018, the first year they would go into effect, said Art Starry, director of the county’s Environmental Health Division.
During the hearing, several residents said the fees are too costly, especially for older residents and families who live in poverty. Some contended the plan isn’t based on science. Others said it was an unconstitutional tax, and criticized the county’s plan to hire more staff to help implement the changes.
“The present system works fine,” said Daniel Johansen of Rainier. “We don’t need and we can’t afford any more government.”
Only a handful of people spoke in support of the fees. Among them was Bev Bassett of Olympia.
“We have people putting their lives on the line out in North Dakota to try and protect water because ultimately it is life and it is basic to life,” she said. “And $66 is cheap for that.”
The earliest the board could take action on the proposed fees is at its Dec. 16 meeting, officials say.