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Three step up to manage city of Bainbridge Island's water utility

Three contenders are vying to take over management of the water utility for the city of Bainbridge Island, but it will be up to the council to decide if any are up to the challenge.

Interim City Manager Morgan Smith recently updated the council on proposals the city received to manage the its water utility.

While some on the council are eager to address the topic of managing the water utility, Smith reminded the council that city staff will need time to go over the proposals.

"This touches public works and the finance department the most, and we didn't plan on addressing this during the fourth quarter," Smith said.

Hiring an outside entity could also mean outsourcing union jobs now held by city employees, Smith said.

The city has received three proposals to manage the water utility; from the Kitsap Public Utility District, Washington Water Service Co., and Northwest Water Systems, Inc.

In the past, the Kitsap Public Utility District has been favored by islanders who have asked the city to get out of the water business. The utility district already manages the water systems for Port Gamble, Viewside Community Water System in Poulsbo, and the Port Madison Water Company on the north end of Bainbridge Island.

The cost for KPUD's management comes in at $48,876 per month, or $586,512 per year.

In its proposal to manage the city's water utility, KPUD will cover a range of 23 work items such as regular visits to source wells, monitoring fluoride and chlorine levels, billing emergency response and more. Six more services are available at additional costs.

The proposal covers the service areas of Winslow and Fletcher Bay (2,398 connections), Rockaway Beach (69 connections) and the public works operations and maintenance facility (four connections).

The Washington Water Service Company — the largest investor-owned company of its kind in the state — came in under KPUD with a price tag of $34,984 per month, or $417,840 annually. The water service estimated its cost based on 2,776 connections, and offered 32 items in its scope of work — nine more than KPUD.

The Washington Water Service Company currently operates 275 water systems.

The third contender, Northwest Water Systems, noted the city's "great strides in improving efficiency" for approximately 6,000 water customers in its proposal. It stated the company is willing to manage the system, however, it does not believe it is in the best interest of the city.

Northwest Water Systems proposes a hybrid approach that will provide the city its own professionals to work on the water utility, while it still maintains city staff.

A base fee of $3,000 per month would provide this hybrid management. On top of that price, hourly fees for professionals such as managers to engineers will be billed between $60 to $150 an hour. Other costs include various reports that range up to $500.

City officials will talk about the next steps that Bainbridge Island should take on the management of its water utility at the city council meeting this week.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at city hall.

 

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