LETTER: Southwest Suburban Sewer District responds to Brett Fish’s letter


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[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Southwest Suburban Sewer District’s Response to Brett Fish’s Claims

I am writing on behalf of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District to respond to the Letter to the Editor written by Brett Fish that was published in The B-Town Blog on Monday, April 22, 2013 (read it here). The District does not intend to engage in a continuous, detailed public discussion of the entire history of this matter. However, because Brett Fish’s letter does not accurately portray the events the District feels compelled to respond in a limited manner in order to avoid any false impressions people may get from reading Brett Fish’s letter. From the District’s perspective, the District believes it has been working in good faith to address Brett Fish’s claims.

While the District is disappointed that Brett Fish has elected to air his version of the story in this public forum, the District is not surprised because Brett Fish has repeatedly threatened to go to the media in an effort to coerce the District to meet his demands. Brett Fish has made it clear through his communications with the District that the real motivation behind his current objection to the District’s use of the access road is to force the District to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the house on the property which was damaged by a slide that first occurred in 2003 or, alternatively, to force the District to buy the property outright for as much as $1,800,000.00, which is apparently what Brett Fish believes his property is worth. In addition, it should be noted that Brett Fish continues to hold a belief that the District is responsible for the slides that have occurred on his property. The District has advised Brett Fish on multiple occasions over at least the last six years that if he believes he has a claim against the District relating to the slide that he should submit a formal notice of claim for damages and the District would turn the claim over to its insurer. Despite these repeated instructions, Brett Fish has never filed a notice of claim with the District or provided the District with any other information, technical data or engineering reports that demonstrate that the District is responsible for the slide on his property.

Brett Fish asserts in his letter that there has been a long history of violations relating to the use of the access road to the Miller Creek Treatment Plant dating back to 1986 or 1987 which he claims were brought to the District’s attention over the years. In reality, the District has been using the access road in a similar matter over the last 15-20 years without complaints or objections. In fact, the access road is actually being used less now than in prior years due to the reduction in the sale of compost. Furthermore, Brett Fish just recently brought the access road issue to the District’s attention on December 11, 2012. By his own words, Brett Fish described the District’s use of the access road as a “back burner” issue and he acknowledged that he has said little about this issue over the years. Instead, the two primary issues raised by Brett Fish on December 11, 2012 involved his request that the District eliminate or reduce his sewer charge given his minimal use of water and his concern that the District’s landscapers had not come for about three weeks at the peak of the leaf drop season and, as a result, he was forced to clean a portion of the access road leading down to the Miller Creek Treatment Plant.

On December 12, 2012, the District acknowledged Brett Fish’s concerns and began its efforts to negotiate a fair resolution of these claims. However, the initial negotiations stalled a bit when Brett Fish demanded that he be compensated for actions and activities that occurred over the last 20 to 26 years, even though he didn’t come into ownership of the property until 1998. In an effort to avoid an unnecessary escalation of this dispute, the District advised Brett Fish that it would temporarily cease using the access road for general district business until the District and Brett Fish could reach a written agreement to resolve this matter. In fact, Brett Fish has previously expressed his appreciation of the District’s efforts to work on resolving this matter.

On January 7, 2013, the District contacted Brett Fish to inquire whether he would like to attend the District Board of Commissioners meeting on January 8th to discuss his issues directly with the Board. Brett Fish attended the Board of Commissioners meeting on January 8th and he spoke to the Board about multiple issues, including the access road easement, landscape and maintenance issues, the slide damage and other issues relating to the failed purchase and sale transaction between Brett and Corey Fish, Cascade Land Conservancy and the City of Normandy Park back in 2009. During his statements, Brett Fish restated his belief that the District was responsible for the slide on his property and that the District needed to compensate him for his losses. During this meeting, Brett Fish and the District also discussed the access issues that had just recently been brought to the District’s attention and the District assured Brett Fish that it had a desire to work with him to address his concerns. During this meeting, Brett Fish specifically stated that he was reluctant to grant the District any additional access rights until the property damage issue was resolved because he viewed the access issues as giving him some bargaining power over the District. The District advised Brett Fish that if he would submit a formal claim for damages relating to the slide condition the District would commit to working with its insurer to investigate his claim. Brett Fish concluded his comments by indicating that he would need to consider the access issue further before he could respond to the District’s request for full accessibility through the access road. A copy of the Minutes from the January 8, 2013 Board meeting are available for review on the District’s website: http://www.swssd.com/uploads/1/1/2/5/11251631/2013_01-08_board_meeting_minutes.pdf

Even though the District believed that it had already acquired expanded rights of use of the access road through a prescriptive easement through its historic use of the access road over the past 15-20 years, in an effort to be fair to Brett Fish, the Board authorized negotiations with Brett Fish to reach a resolution of his claims and the District has expressed its willingness to pay a fair amount for its prior use of the access road, as well as for its future use of the access road. As a result of these negotiations, on January 14, 2013, the District and Brett Fish entered into a two year temporary license agreement which immediately addressed the access issue and also allowed the parties a two year window to complete their negotiations for a permanent easement that would address an expanded right of access consistent with the District’s use over the past 15-20 years. The temporary license agreement specifically authorized the District to use the access road “for all purposes associated with District business and operations” during daytime hours and not on weekends or holidays, except in cases of emergencies or sludge hauling scheduling issues. Despite Brett Fish’s claim that he signed the agreement under “extreme pressure, legal intimidation and threats to condemn his property,” it should be noted that the terms of the temporary license agreement were actually the terms that Brett Fish proposed to the District on January 10th. Further, in his communications with the District, Brett Fish acknowledged that for a monthly payment of $200 during the term of the temporary license agreement he was willing to sacrifice his privacy and peace and would allow the mostly unrestricted use of the access road. Therefore, the District denies the claim that Brett Fish was forced or coerced into signing the agreement.

Once the continued use of the access road was resolved, the District turned its attention to resolving Brett Fish’s claims that the District had previously used the access road in a manner beyond what was authorized in the original access easement and that he had performed certain landscaping and maintenance tasks over a number of years without compensation. The District made two offers to resolve these issues with Brett Fish which it believes were extremely fair under the circumstances. Unfortunately, Brett Fish was demanding significantly more than the District believed was fair and could be justified to its ratepayers under the facts and applicable law. On March 5, 2013, the District advised Brett Fish that his final demand had been rejected by the Board. The very next day, March 6, 2013, Brett Fish sent an email to the District indicating that since the District had rejected his “most modest offer” that he was unilaterally rescinding the temporary license agreement previously agreed to in January of 2013. The District has advised Brett Fish that it believes it has the legal right to continue using the access road consistent with the terms of the temporary licensing agreement. On March 7, 2013, Brett Fish sent another email to the District stating: “I’ve been in contact with several media agencies who are taking great interest in this story. . .. My counter-offer stands or get good at script writing and media interviews.”

Brett Fish has repeatedly made reference to an easement document dated January 14, 1987 which he claims supersedes the access easement dated January 9, 1986. Brett Fish claims that this later easement specifically provides that the access road may only be used during the time period between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The District does not have any record of such an easement ever being signed. The District has repeatedly asked Brett Fish to provide the District with a copy of this easement. Brett Fish has indicated that he can’t locate this easement either, but he remembers seeing it before. The District does not believe that this easement exists. Moreover, the District has been using the access road on a consistent basis for more than 15 years during regular District business hours that are outside the 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. time period.

There are a number of legal issues relating to the claims between Brett Fish and the District that I don’t intend to go into. However, from the District’s perspective, I can honestly say that the District has been working with Brett Fish in good faith trying to resolve this matter. In contrast, the District believes that Brett Fish is attempting to use the access issue as a bargaining chip in an attempt to force the District to pay large sums of money to settle questionable claims and to otherwise coerce the District to repair his house or purchase his property for $1,800,000.00. While the District desires to resolve the current dispute with Brett Fish, the Board of Commissioners has a duty to do what it believes is in the best interest of all its ratepayers. The District has determined that it is unwilling to give in to Brett Fish’s current demands because doing so would unfairly increase the financial burden shared by the rest of the District’s ratepayers.

Sincerely,
Ron Hall
General Manager
Southwest Suburban Sewer District

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Comments

17 Responses to “LETTER: Southwest Suburban Sewer District responds to Brett Fish’s letter”
  1. May says:

    QUESTION…..Are both plants of Southwest Suburban Sewer District’s owned by the State of Wash? How did it come about that (king county dept of assessments at Shorewood DR Burke sold to Mario Segale for $100.00
    Then the King County sold to the state of wash. Did Mario Segale donate this property to the State? There is no sales price.

    And then I read that one of Senator Murrey and a former chief of staff is Lobbying for Sgale because he makes alot of Donations to politicians.And because of this alot of the agencies that he applies for permits are easily approved.

    You have all politices involved while you run over peoples properties and damage them and you beleive that Mr.Fish deserves nothing? Can you Mr. Hall tell uswhere you live so we can more wake you up with our dump trucks and run in and out millions times a day. I think if Mr.Fish ask for money then he should get more then he deserves from
    this nightmare. Something need to be done. And someone should pay. Of course things are damaged now from years of the vibrations of these trucks.

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    • Chris says:

      Why are you asking about who owns the SWSSD property, when it’s obvious? The citizens of SWSSD own the property, and SWSSD–who is a special purpose taxing district–operates and manages two sewer treatment facilities. The state of Washington has no interest in the propoerty.

      Your continued inclusion of all things relating to Mario Segale have no bearing on this issue whatsoever, and merely throws a red herring into this discussion.

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      • May says:

        Chris–

        ——-Ron Hall is a good writer and convincing, but I AM NOT BUYING IT.

        Ron Hall does not have to explain himself or make excuses. I would like to know his address and for the next 20 years run dump trucks through his property and see how he feels. No matter what he says and trying to defend this, there is no excuse for their actions. Anyone would loose their mind in this situation.. Of course they have to defend themselves.

        If you go there http://info.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/eRealProperty/Detail.aspx?ParcelNbr=2535800006
        you will see that the State of Wash. owns the property. I assume they own both properties, If this is true, I would like to know the names of the people and who is behind this. This would explain a lot.

        This is just like the Burien Council doing whatever they want and have no consideration for others.

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    • Jullie D says:

      May, why on earth does it matter where the professional who wrote this letter recounting actions that have happened lives? Personal destruction of public officals(“where do you LIVE???”) has no place in a constructive conversation. It degrades good people who might want to serve. It doesn’t matter in the argument about what best to do in MIller Creek.

      Mr. Fish inherited some great property . He might not “deserve nothing” but he does need to choose to be productive in negotiations in the mutal public interest than he is no better than the profiteers you say can” buy permits”. Sewage treatment benefits everyone, including the fish. 1.8 might be a little steep for property than can not be developed in consideration for the environment…. does he care about the fish or his bank account? Where HE lives, it is worth more or less to keep sewage out of The Sound?

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  2. Fred Starks says:

    Definately puts a different spin on Mr. Fish’s letter. If he feels he has been damaged, why hasn’t he filed a claim? If it’s valid I woulld rather see it handled by the Districts insurer rathan than us, the rate payer. Something smells “Fish-y”!!! :-(

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  3. Brett says:

    Ron,

    “Breaking Bad”

    You and the District are sooooo use to abusing us, it has become a habit to take short cuts through our property when your own original entrance is ONLY 3 1/2 blocks away.

    Short termer, we’ve been here for 75 years, supported the District from its infancy, helped get it in where it is today and given the District everything it has asked for except our privacy, peace and security. You’ve taken it all with your incessant abuse, breaches and trespass of/on our property, permanently diminishing the value of it. Your version is because we didn’t sue and tried to be good and decent neighbors that we have never said anything. Stunning, simply stunning.

    Guess we have to sue for every infringement with your logic. As a former rate payer and supporter of the District’s sewage treatment, I object. You own the problem, make it right, get some back bone, show some integrity, show the rate payers you just made a mistake and will make things right! You can’t afford to pay for the huge loss of value to my property from the slide or shortcut trespass.

    The District’s (meaning you Ron) consistent “corporate amnesia” is astounding. Combine it with the usual 5 D’s of government, Deny, Deter, Delay, Deflect and Defend, you’ve done them all. Straight A’s for all the D’s, amazing how that works.

    We have objected to the abuse of the road since shortly after it was built. Each Manager should know it well whether they admit it or not. You are simply one of many, short termer!

    Your distortion of the facts is designed specifically to turn the good rate payers and supporters against us, you and your army eh?

    You and the District can’t keep a promise, legal agreement or your word for more than a few days. The outrageous pre-dawn entry again this morning (4/24 at 5:38 am) is simply more proof of the District’s lack of integrity.

    I haven’t sued your socks off because you’ve taken everything I have, destroyed my place, privacy and value of my property. This is my boyhood home your road has destroyed. There is now a permanent slide stigma attached to it in the County records.

    The only way I can fight back is in the press since you refuse to pay for your past illegal use and take of my property value. You justify the taking because you’ve always done so and you are use to it. Is this like beating a child but they don’t complain any more?

    You’ve also tried to put all the costs on me of proving the sliding clay you put on my property is the cause of the slide that is destroying my house. I have no money left. I’m retired. Your employees have also stated “and besides which, we have more money than you do”, a fact, in case I was thinking of suing.

    When one of my neighbors suggested suing me to enforce the age old easement conditions, one of your Commissioners demanded to know just who was “obstructing the business of the district.” Where can I find that in your minutes…????

    Have at it Ron, teach the rate payers how the District’s teachings of the 5 D’s work for you. Keep up the distortions, keep abusing your access to my family’s property. Turn your “60,000” customers against my family.

    Sincerely,
    Brett Fish

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  4. Corey Fish says:

    Hello, I’m Brett’s brother and I grew up on the property in topic. I am also a co-owner.

    I recall my father’s (Byron Fish) 1986 easement agreement, and I also recall visiting once during that year and Dad had become quite disturbed and physically ill from the noise of the trucks. It was not that it was unexpected; I’m sure he was willing to honor his agreement — what was making him ill was the somewhat unreasonable manner in which the easement was interpreted (“daytime hours”) which turned out to mean 5:30 a.m., huge trucks rumbling down the driveway, within 30 yards of his bedroom. I remember him saying “it’s killing me, they’re killing me.”

    I’m here to say I believe there WAS a revised easement drawn up the following year due to what Byron experienced the first year. It was at that time the the stipulation of 8am – 4pm was set. Unfortunately it was never recorded, and nobody can find a copy of it.

    The other thing I’d like to address is that the property was obtained by Byron Fish around 1937, and only after very VERY thorough surveys and knowledgeable research did he build the house where he built it *because* he knew it to be a stable platform. It remained stable between 1937 until the sewer project road was built in the mid-1980’s (I don’t recall exactly what year).

    During the building of the road, as I recall it, enormous amounts of clay/shale dirt was cut through to create the road, and rather than cart the dirt away, it was deposited and “landscaped” onto the back and sideyards of the house. In other words a 5 to 20-foot-thick artificial layer of clay-like earth was planed out over the side-yard of the house, extending downward toward Miller Creek — a recipe for sloughing.

    Over the years, due to improper maintenance of drains associated with the easement drive, water began to make its way under the the house (it never did before) and under this artificial shelf. It has for a few years now been sliding and is taking the house with it. I believe it is a fact that if the sewer road was never built, the house would still be standing unaffected by weather or sliding.

    That’s my two-cents. Hope it helps.

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  5. May says:

    Can you tell me—-what is the name of the company that they hired to build this road?

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    • Brett says:

      I have know idea but they fought among themselves a lot. Roughly 6 months after they completed the project half of the huge rock retaining wall fell down and had to be put back up after draining the uphill side of it. Not long after than several “ecology blocks had to be installed to prevent more of hillside from sliding.

      BTW, the Sewer District owns its own land, not the State. They apparently purchased some piece from the State. Our land is next door. They apparently feel entitled to use it as a shortcut, too big to fight with or fail.

      And to answer why we haven’t turned in a claim, the Sewer District has denied anything to do with the damages which forces us to get an attorney yet tells us to turn in a claim. Most attorneys want $25,000-35,000 down, Geo-Techs want a minimum of $5,000 down—- I don’t have it.

      What “smells” is the unprocessed sewage treatment of us.

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      • Mike says:

        Why don’t you put up a gate and lock it or dig a ditch across the road. Make the road unuseable. Keep them from accessing your property.

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        • Brett says:

          You can’t begin to imagine my fantasies or the creative ideas friends and visitors have suggested for the demise of that super highway through my yard. Entertaining to say the least!

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          • Mike says:

            If you have documentation and video of them violating the terms of the agreement, then shut ‘er down. It was the first thing I did when my neighbors started trespassing on two of my properties. Make them do something about it. It’s your property.

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  6. May says:

    Brett—–BTW, the Sewer District owns its own land, not the State. They apparently purchased some piece from the State.

    If they did indeed purchased some piece why is it not recorded at King County Dept of Assessment?

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  7. Brett Fish says:

    Southwest Suburban Sewer District (Miller Creek Plant) refuses to CEASE & DESIST using my yard and property as their personal shortcut. It’s deliberate, grossly abusive and a severe breach of the easement terms.

    Tuesday, April 30, 2013, a total of 57 vehicles came through my property. Under the original easements signed in back in 1986/87 TWO of 57 are permitted, 55 one way vehicle trips continued to abuse the compost only access easement.

    The 3 month old temporary “license Agreement” was terminated April 5th, 2013.

    The break down: Mini dump truck-20, flatbed truck-2, Boom truck-3, Cintas-2, Taurus-6, X-cab pickup trucks-13, lost-2, back hoe-2, gray SUV-3, Penske stakebed truck-2.

    Another way to consider this:
    Personal vehicles: Taurus, x-cab pickup trucks combined 24 trips 42%
    Mini-dump trucks: flatbed truck, boom truck combined-25 trips 44%
    Miscellaneous: 6 trips 10.6%
    Or 55 NON-permitted trips 96%
    Permitted: 2 compost trucks 03.5%

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