Council adds water utility to 2012 workplan

Three council members came out in support of revisiting the issues surrounding the water utility, and added the topic to their list of high priorities to tackle in 2012.

“From my perspective I would like to look at the decision to keep (the water utility) for 18 months,” Council Member Steve Bonkowski said. “To see if it is still appropriate with the new council members as well as the additional information we are getting from KPUD. We shouldn’t surprise anybody.”

Deputy City Manager Morgan Smith updated the council on the work, and progress, the city has made over the course of 2011, as well as gave an overview of the year ahead during council’s weekly meeting Wednesday. A list was organized from highest to lowest priorities of goals to work on in 2012. It was an opportunity for council and city staff to set their agendas and modify the direction of the city if needed.

Not on the 2012 work plan was the search for a new city manager, which has been a recent development. Considering the impact of the search on their priorities, Council Member Anne Blair pressed council for any other large items that they would like to add to the list, specifically addressing the issue of the divestiture of the water utility.

Bonkowski came out first saying that he would like to revisit the topic of the water utility. He said that considering everything the council is aiming to work on in 2012, he would like to address the water utility in the third quarter of the year. Council Members Sarah Blossom and David Ward echoed his statement.

“I definitely would like to see that discussion occur,” Ward said. “I would like to start on it tomorrow, but I think the third quarter would be a good time to start that discussion.”

Blossom followed Ward adding she would like to discuss it “the earlier the better.” She said that she would like the option to address the water utility in 2012 and therefore would prefer it on the list of high priorities, with the knowledge that if council doesn’t have time, they can take it off.

Council Member Kirsten Hytopoulos cautioned council that if they do want to address the water utility, then the city staff and the UAC will have to advise them on the impacts.

“When we looked at (divesting) before, we did identify that it does make your sewer rates go up substantially, it makes operation of the sewer utility much more expensive,” City manager Brenda Bauer said. “You may want to consider, if you are going to transfer the water utility, transferring the sewer utility (as well).”

Bauer said that staff would also be impacted since multiple operating departments share the cost of overhead, and that affects the utility.

Blossom, Bonkowski and Ward all campaigned on the issue of the water utility, publicly stating their preference toward handing it over to the Kitsap Public Utility District.

City staff has its plates full. The list of 2012 work items in progress is lengthy and includes resolving outstanding labor claims, grievances to supporting the shoreline master plan update, and even increasing support for roads preservation by 50 percent.

Other projects are also in the works, such as implementing the master lease on the city-owned farmlands and proceeding with placing solar panels on the roof of city hall.

The list of low priorities and items that may be deferred to next year, includes: consideration for commemorative opportunities on city-owned property; code changes to harbor management; and increased support for the city’s volunteer groups.

City staff also reported the progress made in 2011, according to the accountability agreement with council.

“The city has been very successful in addressing issues that the community cares about,” Bauer said. “The city is in the best financial shape it has been in years. Recurring costs are under recurring revenues. The workforce is organized in a way to best deliver core services in a time of limited resources. For the first time in several years, we are addressing the road maintenance backlog.”

Bauer also noted that the city has shaved 15 litigation cases off in 2011, with 10 remaining.

“It’s an impressive effort,” said Council Member Anne Blair. “I hope you feel the satisfaction for the amount of work (the staff) has put into this, and on top of the day-to-day work.”


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