Paradise man conducts survey on sewer project
Terry Campbell gives a simple ballot about the proposed sewage project to protest organizer Lee Ann Overman, a Paradise resident. (Chuck Bandel/Valley Press)
Valley press | January 20, 2021 12:00 AM
Terry Campbell has spent a lot of time and energy digging into things.
For many years he has been behind the controls of backhoes and excavating equipment digging into the Earth throughout this region.
Now he is doing digging of a different kind, with the same goal of getting to the bottom of things.
A month ago, Campbell filed to fill a vacancy on the Paradise Sewer Board and do what he can to help excavate transparency and uncover the level of support or opposition for the controversial and often tumultuous issue involving a proposed sewage system for the unincorporated community of Paradise.
“As a board member, I find it is most important to have transparency in this process,” he said during a pause in an ambitious effort to gauge the level of support for what would be a $4.5 million project to install a sewer system in the town. “I’m trying to bring peace to the community.”
That being said, Campbell offered during a recent virtual public meeting to develop an unofficial ballot and personally take it to every property owner and resident within the town’s traditional boundaries. He hopes to get an accurate count of who’s for or who’s against the project to give board members information they need before proceeding with a vote on the system.
Opposition to the proposed project, which would install a sewer line along the northern edge of the town and require property owners to hook up, has created a vocal and protracted protest from what appears to be a majority of those who would be affected.
“I appreciate people caring about Paradise,” he said during his door-to-door effort. “These folks are my friends and neighbors. I want to get an accurate reading and count of where they stand. I want everyone’s input.”
Beginning last Monday, Campbell began the arduous task of knocking on every door in the town, which has approximately 90 residential properties. The board voted to allow the vote count as part of a two-week pause to allow members time to gather more information on the matter before they proceed with decisions that could allow construction to begin this spring.
Campbell, who has lived in the Paradise area since 1978 and owns two properties within the town limits, took it upon himself to produce a simple ballot that asks them to check a box indicating they are “For” or “Against” the plan.
Sanders County officials provided him with a list of all property owners and registered voters in the town. He has been taking the lists door-to-door, checking the voters’ names off the list once they check the ballot slip, then putting the small, folded ballot into a sealed plastic container which has been signed by witnesses to keep things on the up and up.
“I don’t look at how they voted and I don’t want to know,” he said. “I’m hoping to open and count these ballots in the presence of the other four board members and witnesses. If the majority of those vote in favor, we would use that information to proceed. If the majority says they are against, the project could be shut off or tabled until we could negotiate a way to improve the process.”
Ironically enough, Campbell’s excavation business has involved installation of many septic systems throughout the area.
Campbell said he has been walking the streets of the town since last Monday knocking on doors. During an interview last week, several residents spotted his pickup truck and came up to the window to make sure they got in on the vote.
He has also been calling property owners who don’t live in the town to get their input and provide them with a ballot.
“This is all I’ve been during this week,” he said. “I’ve been trying to retire, but when people ask me to help, either this way or by running a backhoe, I do what I can to help.”