They weren’t gone for long, but two former city councilmen have returned to the city with hopes to still make a difference.
Former councilmen Bill Knobloch and Barry Peters have applied to fill the vacant position on the city’s Utility Advisory Committee.
While on the council, the two acted as ex-officio officers to the Utility Advisory Committee and were vocal about hotly debated utility issues.
They stepped down from the city council at the end of last year, but said that their work with the city wasn’t done as they were headed out the door.
“After 10 years on the council I still feel that my institutional knowledge can make a valid contribution,” Knobloch said.
“I have a lot of experience with utilities and KPUD — it’s a combination with my experience on the county councils and working with KPUD on telecommunications and other utilities,” he said.
Both made utilities a core issue from their council seats on the dais. Yet the two held entirely different philosophies on how the city, and its utilities, should be run.
Often standing on opposing sides of the council’s voting lines, Peters leaned toward maintaining the water utility under the city’s purview, while Knobloch questioned whether or not the utility should remain with the city or be handed over to the Kitsap Public Utility District.
There remains lingering issues with city utilities that both committee candidates want to tackle.
Peters wants to address the stormwater rate structure currently in place.
“There is a big opportunity for the city to rationalize its stormwater rate structure,” Peters said.
He would also like to take part in the continuation of the committee’s previous recommendation: to lower utility rates and monitor the utilities for 18 months.
Peters also said that long-term planning is a big issue. He would like to seek opportunities to ensure future stability and health of the city’s utilities.
“We don’t use any of our sewer water for irrigation or for restoring the aquifers,” Peters said. “And we are an island that is water dependent.”
Knobloch would like to address the city’s management of utility funds. He said that the city’s management of the utilities remains an issue for him.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions on what kind of course correction the city will make as far as management of the utilities goes,” Knobloch said.
The open seat stems from when the committee’s Chairman Dan Mallove unexpectedly resigned from his post in March.
Mallove stepped down in dramatic fashion, during a contentious council meeting that included the removal of the city manager.
“After witnessing the conduct of this council — the majority of this council — not only tonight but over the last several months, I don’t feel I can work with a body with whom I have little respect or admiration for,” Mallove told the council in March, shortly after it voted to immediately fire former city manager Brenda Bauer.
The Utility Advisory Committee is currently manned by six islanders. It can have seven to nine members.
It’s not known if others have applied for the vacancy. The city has refused to provide applications from any volunteers seeking the seat, saying that applications for employment can be kept confidential under state law.
The council will select three members to sit on a hiring committee to interview and appoint a candidate to the Utility Advisory Committee.
Whether or not either man makes it onto the Utility Advisory Committee, both appear intent on contributing to their community.
“I live here, and I expect to live here for a long time,” Peters said. “I consider it normal for folks to take an interest in their community.”