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Bosserman resigns from Bainbridge's Utility Advisory Committee, says recent appointments will make committee too political

Bob Bosserman has resigned in protest from the Bainbridge Island Utility Advisory Committee member following the city council's appointment of two controversial members to the committee last week.

Arlene Buetow and Eric Turloff were appointed to their positions on the advisory committee on a 5-2 vote on June 6, after council members who voted in the minority raised worries that the pair had been too political in the past.

In his June 11 resignation letter, Bosserman said the new appointments would put the advisory committee under the control of the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance, which is suing the city and has asked for the transfer of the city's water utility to an outside entity.

"It is apparent to me that, with the recent appointment of the new Utility Advisory Committee member and its reappointment of the current UAC Vice-chair, this council has, de facto, morphed the UAC into a Committee for the Benefit of the Ratepayers Alliance," Bosserman wrote.

The city created the UAC after a group of water customers, led by developer Richard Allen, formed the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance in early 2009 and filed a lawsuit against the city over excessive utility rates and asked that the utility be transferred to a non-city entity.

Bainbridge Island began exploring the idea of a transfer of the city's water utility to the Kitsap Public Utility District in early 2010, but last November, in its recommendation to the city council on the divestiture proposal, the Utility Advisory Committee said the city should keep its water utility through 2013 while the water rate structure underwent a comprehensive review and a water system plan was developed.

That recommendation came following a 5-3 vote from the UAC, and the three-member minority — made up of Buetow, Doug Dow and David Ward — wrote a countering viewpoint against local control of the water utility that favored a transfer to the Kitsap Public Utility District.

Ward, who ran for the city council last year and was supported in his campaign by the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance, left the UAC after he was elected to his council seat.

In his resignation letter, Bosserman acknowledged that the council has the authority to appoint anyone it wants to the city's advisory boards.

But Bosserman also said appointees should come ready to serve, without an agenda in hand.

"I believe the citizenry expects UAC members to provide council with well-reasoned and objective advice; certainly it is what I was told when I first volunteered and was appointed," Bosserman told the council in his resignation letter.

"However, whether as a concession to the RPA plaintiffs for their support during the recent election or out of simple political arrogance, I feel, by its recent appointments, the current council majority has crossed the line from expecting an objective approach to evaluating the city’s utilities to one intent on carrying out a specific political agenda," he added.

Bosserman, a committee member since 2011, said he joined the UAC with an open mind and had not "pandered" to city officials, the Ratepayers Alliance or the Kitsap Public Utility District.

"Nor have I brought any specific political agenda to my deliberations," he concluded. "However, I will no longer continue to serve on this politically-charged committee; to do so would be perpetuating the myth that the UAC is an unbiased, objective advisory body to the council."

Bosserman said he planned on attending the city council meeting Wednesday — where a council discussion on the role of the UAC is planned — but wasn't expecting to address the council.

Still, in an interview Wednesday, he said the council needs to be clear on how the committee should operate in the future.

"The council should specifically define the role of the UAC in its oversight capacity of the utility," he said.

Bosserman said the council also shouldn't work to pull the plug on the committee in favor of a speedy turnover of the utility to the Kitsap Public Utility District.

"They ought to continue the 18-month oversight or evaluation period established by the previous council," he said. "There has not been adequate debate at the council level, at the policy level, whether divestiture is good for the ratepayers or the city."

 

 

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