Proponents of sewers in Powhatan Beach will get a second chance, twoweeks after a mail-in vote fell 17 signatures short of the number needed to bring sewer lines into their community.
Community leaders were able to pack the Old Powhatan Beach Fire Hall with sewer supporters Tuesday night, generating enough interest to persuade the Department of Utilities to extend to May 24 the deadline for a petition to bring sewer mains into the community.
Daniel "Captain" Goodman, William Seebach Jr. and James Youngbar all made passioned appeals in support of the multimillion-dollar project that some residents have resisted because it would add an estimated $8 per linear foot of frontage to their annual tax bills.
Goodman said the neighborhood needs sewer lines because its "soils are solid clay" and are letting septic systems drain into Stoney Creek. But Youngbar hit the chord that seemed to resonate longest Tuesday night:money.
"Right now's the cheapest time you'll ever have for sewage," Youngbar said. "It's just a matter of time. They're gonna make us put it in anyway."
The Department of Utilities had targeted the 50-year-old, 120-lot community for a sewer project next year. But, of the petitions mailed out to the community, barely half were returned. The number of affirmative responses were 17 short of the majority necessary to go ahead.
"When we don't hear from someone, we have to assume they don't want the project," said utilities spokeswoman Faye Scheibe,"so we had to take it out of the fiscal 1992 budget earlier this month. It's not a done deal though. We understand it's sometimes difficult to get everybody in a community to return forms, so we have decided to extend the deadline for their petition."
Scheibe said the project, if approved, is likely to go out for bid in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1992.
Fifty signatures were collected Tuesday night, but most were the same as those collected by the county. Supporters vowed to go door-to-door and lobby those who haven't returned their forms.
That doesn't please everyone in the community. Even with low-interest loans from the state, the project will cost more than some residents are willing to pay in neighborhoods where lot sizes range from one to five acres.
"I shouldn't have even bothered showing up. These people are trying to shove sewers down our throats and we don't need 'em," one man, who asked not to be identified, said before walking out in the middle of the meeting.
Carol Morlock, a government worker who lives on a five-acre plot with her retired parents, isone of the few who publicly opposed the petition at Tuesday's meeting.
She estimates that the project will cost her family an additional $4,800 per year in benefit assessments, depending on which way the sewer line crosses her property.
"It isn't so much that we opposesewage coming through here," she said. "It's just we're going to be hit harder than anybody. With Mom and Dad retired on fixed incomes and me with a government salary, it might force us to sell off parts of our lot."
The county Health Department has received "sporadic" complaints about failing septic systems in Powhatan Beach over the years. Without public sewers, the main health concern is failures that would have to be fixed at the expense of individual property owners, department spokeswoman Evelyn Stein said.
Stein said her agency has recommended that the Utilities Department place Powhatan Beach on the county water and sewer plan "because of the lack of suitable soilsto contain potential septic system failure."