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Mixed messages issued in effort to save historic market

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By Jessica Keller, The Courier-Herald

The Ravensdale Market, which has been open since the early 1900s, is in danger of closing, but owners Shelley Opel and Robin Santos will not let that happen without a fight.

The business is on shaky ground because its well, which is hooked up to a house attached to the market, is not a certified well. The King County Health Department has informed Opel and Santos they have to be connected to an approved water source or close their doors.

But Matias Valenzuela, the King County spokesman for the health department, said the department has no intention of closing the historic market.

"We've been working with them, and the previous owners, for quite awhile," he said. "We don't want to close them down."

He said Santos and Opel have a few options as to what they can do to get hooked up to an approved water source.

First, Santos and Opel can acquire provisional status from a water review board, which means, a well designer or engineer can best advise how to operate the well to avoid negative impacts on public health. Another option would be to connect to a municipal water source, which would be the Covington municipal water source, with the health department providing information on how to cover the cost associated with coming into compliance.

But Santos said they were already told by somebody at the health department their well wouldn't be approved even with a well designer providing information, which leaves she and Santos with the second option of connecting to the Covington municipal water source.

To do that, if water is available, Santos and Opel would have to pay for 440 feet of 12-inch water main at $100 per foot, plus hook-up costs and permit fees.

"That's a big bite for a working family business like ours," Santos said. "We don't have that money in the bank," she added. "We don't have that money anywhere."

Santos and Opel both poured their life savings into their business, which they bought in 2001, and both said coming up with the money would be a stretch.

Santos and Opel think they should qualify for a "grandfather clause" exemption to the rules, because the business has been open for so long, and they should be exempt from having to hook up to Covington municipal water, especially because - except for a coffee machine - the business does not use water from the well. But Santos said they have received mixed messages from the health department as to whether they fall under the grandfather clause.

Thus far, Santos and Opel have tried to work with the health department and Covington Municipal Water to figure something out, but both fear that won't be enough to save their business. They have also enlisted the help of King County Councilman David Irons.

While they both say they don't know if it will help, they have been seeking the help of customers by asking them to sign a petition, and by Friday, they had collected nearly 600 names. They also had a rally Sunday, to support the market.

"(The business) is this town's history," Opel said, adding it's the only business still remaining from the town's mining days.

Santos and Opel received a reprieve until Nov. 7 from the Health Department, when officials will review the case again and see what steps have been made to resolve the issue.

In the mean time, Santos and Opel can only wait, and hope.

"We're just waiting to hear what we should do, what we shouldn't do, what we can do, what we can't do," Santos said.

Jessica Keller can be reached at jkeller@courierherald.com

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