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UAC recommends utility remain with the city
Winslow's residents saw a 34 percent drop in their water rates, and now they may be looking toward yet another reduction.
The Utility Advisory Committee voted 5-3 Tuesday in favor of recommending to the City Council that the city keep the water utility under its purview.
The city has been considering handing the utility off to another party such as the Kitsap Public Utility District (KPUD) — an option that has stirred a heated local debate over the future of Winslow's water utility.
During Wednesday's council meeting, UAC Chair Dan Mallove presented the results of the UAC's vote and its recommendation.
"We tried to get the rates to a point where we could compare apples-to-apples in terms of the city's proposed rates at 4.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) versus the rates that were quoted by the KPUD," said Mallove.
The UAC recommendation will come with five specific conditions attached:
• That the water utility is retained by the city for two operational years;
• The UAC would provide oversight to staff and to the council regarding operational expenses of the utility;
• The UAC and the council would work over the coming year to construct the rate structure so that it is competitive with KPUD;
• The advisory group would be authorized by council to work with city staff to update the city's water utility plan; and
• Water utility rates for all classes of rate payers would be decreased by 45 percent by Jan. 16.
The 45 percent reduction in rates would include the already implemented 34 percent reduction the council approved in September.
The UAC plans on merging both the minority and majority opinions over the next week to be included with its formal recommendation to be voted on at the UAC's next meeting on Oct. 25.
The debate over the recommendation continued during time for public comments. Bainbridge Island resident Virginia Paul voiced concern over a lack of communication with ratepayers.
"There are approximately 2,200 rate payers in the city." Paul said. "But nobody has asked the ratepayers what they want and what they think would be best for their service."
UAC member Arlene Buetow also spoke to the council during time for public comment noting the minority opinion of the committee with concerns over the possible loss of preventative maintenance for the utility.
"None of the ratepayers on this committee voted for the recommendation," said Buetow. "We don't support it."