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News Roundup -- City names new attorney/Hearing on sewer rates

City names new attorney

For the first time since all-island government began in 1991, the city’s legal counsel will have his own office, working on staff rather than under contract.

Paul McMurray has been named city attorney, pending approval by the City Council at its meeting Wednesday.

“He’s a solid attorney, and multi-faceted,” said Mary Jo Briggs, city administrator. “He’s strong on personnel, strong on land use, strong on contracts.”

McMurray comes to Bainbridge Island from Yakima, a city of 80,000 with 700 municipal employees, where he serves as senior assistant city attorney.

He brings more than 14 years’ experience in civil law, with 11 years of municipal experience in land use, employment and real estate law, according to a CV provided by the mayor’s office.

In his present post, he represents and advises the Yakima city administration and city council, and also coordinates and directs outside legal counsel.

The move will give the City of Bainbridge Island its first-ever “in-house attorney.”

Legal services have been provided for the past 14 years by Rod Kaseguma of the Bellevue firm of Inslee Best Doezie Ryder. While Kaseguma has held the title of city attorney, his services were provided under contract rather than as a city employee.

The shift toward in-house counsel began several years ago as a way to control costs, after the city was enveloped in litigation.

Mc­Murray was among candidates identified by an executive search firm, after advertising for the position failed to turn up qualified applicants.

The city administration and council members Bob Scales and Debbie Vann screened hopefuls.

McMurray holds a JD from the University of Oregon Law School, where he served as associate editor of the Oregon Law Review from 1988-90. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science at Oregon State University.

McMurray successfully represented Yakima before the Washington State Boundary Review Board in the third-largest annexation in that city’s history.

In private practice, he successfully defended Rockwell International Corporation in an employment discrimination lawsuit heard in Benton County Superior Court and the Court of Appeals.

Assuming his confirmation Wednesday, McMurray will join the city staff on Aug. 22. The full-time position carries a salary of $99,990 per year.

The city may continue to use outside law firms for specific purposes, Briggs said, including outstanding litigation against the city with which current counsel is already familiar.

Briggs said she believes McMurray can operate in “the space between complaint and litigation,” to keep the city out of court in the future.

“I would love that,” she said.

– Douglas Crist

Hearing on sewer rates

The City Council will take public comment on proposed sewer rate hike, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

The rate increase would affect residents currently using the city’s sewage system in the Winslow area and some customers of Kitsap Sewer District No. 7 at the south end of the island.

According to the city, the recent Sewer Rate Study was conducted “in anticipation of the costs associated with the Sewer Treatment Plant Improvements scheduled to begin this year and to also take a look into the future. The last time a comprehensive Sewer Rate Study was completed was 1997.”

The study looked at the current rate structure and the fiscal balance of sewer operations, maintenance and capital and recommended rate increases to keep the utility self-supporting and thus consistent with the stated budget policy.

Future costs include equipment maintenance needed to make sure the city’s wastewater discharge will be up to standards to allow it to renew its permit – when it needs to within two years – from the state Department of Ecology, to discharge treated wastewater into Puget Sound.

This past year the rate increased 5.5 percent, going up to 8.3 in 2006.

For comparison, consider the rate for a single-family residential home on city water and sewer: (date effective, cost per month/unit – plus per 100 cu. ft. of water): Now, $21.87, $3.73; Jan. 1, 2006, $23.68, $4.04; Jan. 1, 2007, $26.12, $4.46; Jan. 1, 2008, $28.81, $4.91; and Jan. 1, 2009, $31.77, $5.42.

The proposed ordinance, with proposed new rates listed, is available at www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us/Sewer_Rate_Study.asp. Send public comment to the city.

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