By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

As the old sewer plant nears its end and a new bigger plant is seven years away, city and county officials are trying to figure out just how many available sewer connections are left and what that means for new building starts.

Concern about a lack of sewer connections was expressed recently by Del Norte County Supervisor David Finigan. And this week, county staffers started counting them.

You better know what you have before you give them all away, Finigan said.

After checking old county records, Community Development Director Ernest Perry found at least 22 connections claimed almost 30 years ago, but never used.

These people were required to get a building permit within six months, but never followed through, Perry told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Most of those connections were claimed with an $800 deposit in the early 1970s and have been set aside since then.

Some people may not even realize they have one, Perry said, noting its been so many years, the buyer may have forgotten about it.

To get the rights to those hookups back, the board decided Tuesday to ask connection holders to use them or lose them.

If approved by county attorney Bob Black as legal, letters will be sent to all those with a claim to connections giving them 90 days to either get a building permit to use it or give it back to the county and get their deposit back.

One reason sewer connections are a hot commodity is that there are only about 225 connections left to last seven years. That means only 225 single-family homes or their equivalent can be built before the new plant opens.

With two new hotels being built, subdivisions being developed and the possibility of apartment complexes rising, Finigan said the city and county should come up with a policy for how those limited connections can be used.

We need to ask whats on the drawing board as far as projects versus how many hookups are left and ask which way we want development to go, said Finigan.

The current sewer plant which serves all those in the county without septic tanks, is owned by the City of Crescent City. Some rights to connect to the plant, however, were purchased by the county.

Currently, the citys policy is one of first-come, first-served, as long as a building permit has been granted.

Finigan said he thinks the policy should be more complex and that the two should come to some agreement about it soon.

First-come, first-served is a great policy for single-family residences, but what if someone comes in and wants to build all the connections out, like for an apartment complex is that how we want to use them all? he said.