Report from group opposed to purchase of SPU water system in Shoreline

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shoreline Citizens for Good Government is a citizens' group opposed to the purchase of the Seattle Public Utilities water system in Shoreline. One of their members provided a report of the public meeting at Ronald Wastewater, which had asked for citizen input on the purchase.

By Wendy DiPeso
Shoreline Citizens for Good Government

Every chair was filled and every wall lined several rows deep with local residents at Ronald Wastewater District’s Shoreline office Monday for a Public Hearing on Proposition 1 “Acquisition and Local Control of Seattle Water Services in Shoreline.”

Citizens raised concerns about fuzzy cost estimates and impacts to local water service.

Shoreline resident Steve Cook said he had initially supported Proposition 1 but changed his mind when he found that the cost estimates kept changing. He also pointed out that two engineers on a steering committee that studied the proposal, people who have the expertise to know whether this proposal will work or not, both voted against it.

Ronald Wastewater District commissioners are considering three options:

  1. Remain neutral on Proposition 1
  2. Take a position in favor of Proposition 1
  3. Take a position against Proposition 1

Under state law, locally controlled, publicly owned utilities have the right to take a position on ballot measures. Previously Shoreline Fire Department and Shoreline Water District also held public meetings for the same purpose. Shoreline Water District adopted a position against Proposition 1. The Shoreline Fire Department has yet to make a decision.

The Commissioners wanted to hear from the ratepayers they represent for information on their deliberations on Wednesday, October 3, on what position to take on Proposition 1.

Sis Polin, another resident of Shoreline who worked for Ronald Wastewater many years ago questioned why commissioners would want to spend ratepayer money and time “on issues that do not impact your operation.” She said the utility “should be focusing on the increased costs and what can be done to lower the district charge to help all ratepayers in Shoreline.”

However, Ronald Wastewater just completed a major project on time and under budget. Rising rates stem from King County raising sewage treatment rates. Ronald Wastewater District collects the money and passes it on to King County but does not add a markup.

The district is making efforts to cut costs. One of the speakers at the meeting pointed out that Ronald Wastewater District and Shoreline Water District gave a cost reduction proposal to the City of Shoreline some months ago. The utilities requested permission to merge so they could cut costs and increase efficiencies. The City of Shoreline denied their request.

Judging from the number of people who showed up to the meeting, the statements they made, and questions they asked, Ronald Wastewater ratepayers are looking to the utility for answers. The investment in the Public Hearing was an investment in the ratepayers.

The overwhelming majority of people had either made up their minds against Proposition 1 or had serious concerns with the proposal. City Council member Doris McConnell spoke in favor of Proposition 1. 

Her statement that the purchase price has been determined is contradicted by the Seattle City Council debate that took place July 30. In that debate, Seattle City Council members said that if the terms of sale are not to their liking, they are not legally bound to approve the sale.

Following district procedures, Ronald Wastewater commissioners declined to express their views on Proposition 1, but invited the public to return on Wednesday, October 3, at 5:30pm to listen to them state their positions.

Proposition 1, on the November 6 ballot, asks voters to authorize the City of Shoreline to purchase the water system on the west side of the city from Seattle Public Utilities. The City Council’s stated goal is to keep rates the same as forecast by Seattle Public Utilities without raising taxes while providing local control. Critics argue the City of Shoreline’s own documentation does not support that conclusion, and that the City refuses to consider other alternatives that would provide local control and better service at lower costs.

For additional information readers can go to Shoreline Citizens for Good Government website.


Anonymous,  September 28, 2012 at 12:05 AM  

Why was Doris McConnell at this meeting instead of the City Council meeting? As an elected city councilmember her duty is to attend the regularly city council meeting instead of the Ronald Wastewater meeting.

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