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UPDATE | Committee says KPUD is best suited up to manage Bainbridge water utility

The city of Bainbridge Island should hire the Kitsap Public Utility District to manage the city’s water utility, the Utility Advisory Committee told the council at its meeting Wednesday.

The committee was charged in November with reviewing three management proposals the city had received for taking over the water utility.

At this week’s council meeting, the committee gave its top pick and said the Kitsap Public Utility District (KPUD) was its preferred manager.

“The KPUD already has an established presence on Bainbridge Island with a history of long-term financial performance, proven staff capabilities and customer satisfaction,” said Arlene Buetow, chairwoman of the Utility Advisory Committee.

“We believe that the KPUD proposal offers the most competitive price option with minimal oversight required by the city,” she said.

“We believe that through this contract the city opens the door to considerable opportunities for further collaboration and cooperation which we believe will in the long run strengthen and enhance the goals and the effectiveness of the entire city,” Buetow said.

Buetow noted that the advisory committee did not look at any cost estimates for responsibilities retained by the city should it outsource its water utility.

City council members asked the Utility Advisory Committee late last year to review the three takeover proposals that had been submitted to the city.

The committee compared KPUD to the Washington Water Service Co., one of three entities that expressed interest in managing the water utility, and forwarded a 45-page recommendation on the proposed outsourcing to city officials earlier this week.

A third party, Northwest Water Systems, Inc., also submitted a management proposal. It was not considered by the committee, it said, because it was a “cost-plus contract” where Northwest Water Systems would not take over operations and management responsibilities of the utility.

KPUD, committee members said in their report, would provide the best deal for city ratepayers.

“We believe that the utility customers/ratepayers will be best served by the KPUD management option,” the report said. “The KPUD proposal provides the most comprehensive, price competitive option, with minimal oversight required of the city. The KPUD proposal also invites considerable opportunities for collaboration and cooperation with the city, and will in the end provide the best-possible service at the lowest possible cost to the ratepayers.”

The council is revisiting the issue of the water utility after years of debate over its divesture. Handing over the city’s water utility to the district was previously preferred by some members of the community, including David Ward, Steve Bonkowski and Sarah Blossom, who came onto the council in early 2012.

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