Op-Ed: Pending Assumption of Ronald Wastewater District by City of Shoreline

Thursday, July 25, 2013

By Steve Paulis, Retired Maintenance Operations Manager, Ronald Wastewater District

As a result of an Interlocal Agreement adopted jointly by the City of Shoreline and Ronald Wastewater District in October 2002, the City of Shoreline will be assuming all assets and functions of the District in 2017, which is one step closer to all utilities being operated by one entity. The District now questions the validity of this document. Because of this and the recent legal action initiated by the District towards the City of Shoreline, citizens should be asking themselves if Ronald Wastewater is really serving the best interests of its constituents.

1.  With a current agreement, which has been in place for 11 years, outlining the assumption of the District by the City, why is the Ronald Wastewater Board of Commissioners questioning its validity, as the assumption date approaches? This litigation comes at a very high cost to the ratepayers, which are City of Shoreline Taxpayers also. This agreement was executed by two of the current sitting Commissioners. Commissioners Wadekamper and Lind were on the Board and participated in the preparation of the agreement.

The Board of Commissioners says the agreement is invalid because it illegally bounds future Boards from modifying it. Can you imagine the chaos which would be going on if this were actually the case? If this were the case, as the Board of Commissioners think, all interlocal agreements adopted through the years would be totally meaningless. This mentality of reasoning is incorrect.

2.  Why is the Board of Commissioners of Ronald undertaking a feasibility study to create a mega utility District, at a cost of nearly $80,000, when this study and guidelines have been outlined in the Growth Management Act. How is this being funded? Is it coming from the operating budget, or is it being taken from the Repair and Replacement Infrastructure fund, which is a “Restricted” fund by Board Resolution ? What other public entities are contributing to the study, or is Shoreline Water District the only one participating?

3.  Why has Ronald Wastewater budgeted over $100,000 in its 2013 operating budget for the purpose of public relations? Why does a wastewater district need a public relations firm and why is it suddenly sending out “glossy” flyers. Realistically, what percentage of the ratepayers is actually going to read these? The District has always had the capability of delivering messages on its statements. Is this strictly being used as a step to avoid assumption ?

4.  Since 1951, for 60 years, Ronald Wastewater, operated with a three member Board of Commissioners. During 2012, the sitting Board made the decision to increase the size of the Board to five members. With the added number of Board members, operating costs have increased significantly. Unnecessarily, this increased the Board budget by $60,000 annually. There is NO benefit to this other than to serve special interests of the Board and staff.

5.  During a recent election, the voters of Shoreline chose to oust sitting Commissioner Arne Lind from office and elected Bob Ransom. Why did the Board of Commissioners choose to ignore the fact that Lind was voted out of office, only to re-appoint him to the Board? Was it done to serve the special interests of the Board? Arne Lind has publicly said he opposes assumption of the District by the City. This was nothing but a “slap in the face” to the voters.

6.  The District and the current Board continues to “tout” about the reserve fund, better known as the Infrastructure Repair and Replacement Fund. This fund was established by previous Boards of Commissioners and retired District General Manager, Sydell Polin. The purpose of the fund was to fund depreciation by 100%, infrastructure replacement as it aged, and major emergencies. When the fund was adopted, the Board of Commissioners established restrictions on its use. Is it currently being utilized properly or is it being used to fund projects like feasibility studies for “Mega Utility Districts” and unnecessary “legal” expenses?

7.  Are the ratepayers and citizens aware that the Board of Commissioners donated $2000 to a legal battle in Eastern Washington to another agency?

I have highlighted a few items that Shoreline residents should really question. Are these studies and expenses such as public relations, increased board and added legal expenses really needed or are they simply another attempt to fight off and resist the assumption process as outlined in the existing agreement?


Anonymous,  July 26, 2013 at 7:23 AM  

How much does the City of Shoreline spend on public relations? Has the author added up how much Currents (with printing and postage), surveys, consultants, and the like for the City? All local governments should let the public know what services they are providing, and they do.

Two of the sitting commissioners did execute the Interlocal, but facts and circumstances change. That was ten years ago, a lot has happened -- there is a new city council and a new city manager. There is a new district manager at Ronald Wastewater. Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act and now the very members still in Congress disavow their vote. So you point is?

Is the letter writer aware that the City of Shoreline participated in the some of the legal battles around the state involving water and wastewater lawsuits as well, Ronald is not the only one participating in state-wide lawsuits.

Reserve funds, ah, is the letter writer aware that the City of Shoreline just borrowed from the surface water utility fund to pay for the $3 million storage facility at Bruggers Bog? They promised during the SPU Acquisition vote that they would never do such a thing and in less than a year borrowed from a utility. And the City reserve fund at the end of 2009 was $12 million, now it is $5 million, the GFOA states it should be $12 million -- WHERE DID ALL OF THAT MONEY GO? The city received it property tax levy lift and still $7 million has disappeared.

Only in Shoreline do you find letters from former employees attacking their employers in public.

Sheila Long,  July 26, 2013 at 10:40 AM  

Ahh, once again Anonymous strikes out. Is it because if you put down your name everyone would ignore what you had to say?

I think the letter by Mr. Paulis in very enlightening.

One person on the current RWB was voted OUT, one was not elected. All of the City of Shoreline council members were voted in. Comparing one's actions to the other has no merit.

Anonymous,  July 26, 2013 at 1:34 PM  

Very enlightening article. The citizens really to be more aware of what's going on. This really kinds of changes my views of the sewer district. had no idea this was happening.

Tom Jamieson,  August 14, 2013 at 1:52 PM  

Of the 13,657 votes cast for Ronald Wastewater District Commissioner Position No. 1 in the November 2011 election, 48.48% voted for the incumbent, Arne Lind. The duly elected board subsequently voted 2 to 1 to increase the number of commissioners from 3 to 5. With nearly half of the voters having just expressed their continued support for the 13 year veteran, and given the increase in the number of positions, there was a clear mandate to return Mr. Lind to the board, just as there would have been a clear mandate to appoint Mr. Ransom to the vacant position, had the election result been the reverse. In filling the 4th position, the board made the wise and obvious choice.

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