Op-Ed: Ronald Wastewater and the City’s Assumption

Friday, October 25, 2013

This is a personal statement from Robert L. (Bob) Ransom, MS, MPA, Retired Human Resource Director/Consultant (SPHR), former City Councilman and Mayor (2006-2008), and current Commissioner Ronald Wastewater District

By Robert L. Ransom

In 1999 to 2002 the City of Shoreline had the opportunity to take over Seattle Public Utility- Sewer as its utility. The City was created in 1995 and it still had a small staff and was building its organization. I was there as a city Councilman and participated in the negotiations and Inter-Local Agreement and contract.

The very small district that is now Ronald Wastewater was mostly Richmond Beach at that time. They argued to let them expand and do the connections and infrastructure and allow the City to assume them as a Utility in 15 years, when the City government was more developed. RCW 35.13A  allows for a City to assume a Utility District that is 60 % within its territory or 60% of its assessed valuation is within the City. It also allows for a City Council and a District Commission  to mutually agree to an assumption without a public vote. Both rules apply to Ronald which is almost entirely within the City’s territory and both groups had legal counsel to advise them. The City Council and Ronald’s General Manager Phil Montgomery, Commission President Arthur  Wadekamper, and Commission Secretary Arnie Lind signed it. Thus agreeing to the assumption in October 2002.

RCW 35.13A was passed in 1971 as the state law, and there have been many attempts to change the law since then, but none have passed the legislature. The efforts were principally to change the law to require a public vote, but that change has never been passed. Please note that nothing in the Inter-local Agreement Contract refers to or requires a public vote, but does have written binding requirements on the Ronald District about its assumption. Also, note the purchase of SPU – Water was approved by 70.5% vote of the public in 2012.

Now Arthur Wadekamper, a retired GS 14 IRS auditor and University graduate; and Arnie Lind, a claimed small manufacturing retired executive and university graduate, say they did not know what they were signing when they signed it. They want to nullify the contract agreement but keep all of the expanded sewer connections. They have by majority vote decided to sue the City of Shoreline to try to get out of the contract.

Ronald’s Financial Reserves – allegation’s are made that the City wants the District's $6 million in reserve for their use. Nothing in the RCW allows any City to move the Utility Reserves from the utility account to the general fund. The City is subject to annual audits by the State Auditor who will ensure the money will only go for Utility expenses. Yes, in some cases Cities have borrowed some of the money but it has to be strictly accounted for to the State auditor, and the time table to pay it back. The money will only go for Utility expenses.

Rationale for Assumption and Utility Taxes -  First the Growth Management Act and King County Policies actively encourage Cities to be full service Cities and include Water and Sewer services along with the normal Police, Fire, Parks, and Building Permits, along with storm water and garbage utilities. Of the 281 Washington Cities 141 (50+%) have water and/or sewer utilities and 90%  have both. The frequent claim is Cities want it for additional revenue is false. It is to provide a service to the community by having one policy and one stop shopping for business development. Little districts frequently inhibit & stop development with different policies and procedures on development. The Cities have the right for a Franchise fee for working in their right of way and usually charge a 6% fee, and over 50% of the Cities with Utilities only charge 6% or less when it is changed to a Utility Tax –the same amount as the Franchise fee.

Yes, a few small cities such as Granger, Wapato, and Zillah charge over 30% and when one asks why it is usually an agreement with the rate payers so they can pay for full time Police Officers. The City of Shoreline has been very fiscally responsible to the public. They have never charged more than the normal 6% for a franchise fee or a Utility tax when eligible. YOUR RATES WILL NOT GO UP IF THE City of SHORELINE ASSUMES THE DISTRICT, ONLY King County Sewage Treatment charges may go up. With Business Development your property taxes will be lowered. Remember, you rate payers are the people who elect the City Council Members.


Anonymous,  October 26, 2013 at 6:33 AM  

Wow, Bob Ransom doesn't mention he was part of the open public meeting lawsuit group 8 years ago anywhere and that is why he wasn't re-elected to the city council.

Isn't he part of Shoreline Caucus, that tea party group? I see his name on their lists all the time.

When he sent the above editorial (which is more than 300 words) and sent as an insert to Seattle Times subscribers with no return address or who paid for it, it arrived with the George Webster campaign mailer. Did they coordinate their campaigns so it arrived the same day? Probably, and that is a PDC violation. The flyers looked exactly the same and George Webster's flyer had no return address or who paid for it.

Bob Ransom erroneously states that the city has only spent 5% of its debt capacity, however, the October 12, 2013 staff report on page 19 shows that the city has only 73% of its councilmanic bond capacity left after issuing $3.7 million in debt for the Brugger's Bog storage yard and only 77% of its general debt capacity, meaning they have spent 23-27% of their debt capacity. That is a big difference compared to the 5% Mr. Ransom cited.

So Mr. Ransom says your rates will not go up and then says that utility taxes of 20-30% pay for police services -- well, we don't pay utility taxes under the Interlocal Agreement we have now with Ronald Wastewater. Evidently Mr. Ransom is implying that under City operation we should expect more taxes, lots more taxes.

Anonymous,  October 26, 2013 at 12:36 PM  

My mistake - it is the August 12, 2013 staff report 7e concerning Brugger's Bog debt.

Anonymous,  October 27, 2013 at 9:55 PM  

Bob Ransom is out there telling more lies - like the one he told when he ran for Ronald Wastewater, promising to Unify Point Wells with Ronald Wastewater. Guess what? They were already unified but makes it easier for a failed politician to deliver on a campaign promise, doesn't it?

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