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City files for summary judgment on ratepayers' suit
Feeling the pressure to obtain bonds for the Winslow Wastewater Treatment Plant as soon as possible, the City of Bainbridge Island filed a motion Friday for summary judgment on several claims of the lawsuit filed by the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance.
The motion came only days before the city was set to meet with the ratepayers to discuss the suit, said Ratepayers Alliance president Richard Allen. Allen said the city will meet with the ratepayers Tuesday afternoon.
The city seeks to defeat the suit's claim that a bond issue is void and invalid because the city failed to hold adequate public meetings or consult a Utility Advisory Committee.
The city's motion seeks a ruling on two fundamental questions: "Is the city's proposed bond issue void or invalid under Washington law?" "Should the city's proposed bond issue be enjoined under Washington law?"
The motion's legal reasoning to justify the summary judgment comes in the form of three questions. Did the Washington State Legislature delegate authority to the city to issue those bonds? Was that state statute constitutionally enacted? Are the bonds issued for a public purpose, as distinguished from a private purpose?
The motion argues that the bonds were meant for a public purpose, and the other two conditions have been met, so the ratepayers' claims should not void the bond issue.
Furthermore, the absence of a Utility Advisory Committee and the "alleged lack of an informational meeting" are irrelevant because the ratepayers cannot prove that the city didn't satisfy all of the three questions above, according to the motion.
Allen said the city is in a difficult position. "They're trying to figure their way out of a mess," he said.
Allen said the purpose of such a summary judgment is to demonstrate to a judge that one side has merit and the other doesn't. The motion should favor the ratepayers, Allen said, because the burden of proof is on the city in this case.
The city's motion asserts that the suit has adversely affected the city's ability to close a deal with a bank to buy the city's bond anticipation note for the treatment plant project. "Those two claims continue to prevent the completion of the city's financing for the treatment plant upgrades currently under construction," the motion says.
City Finance Director Elray Konkel declined to discuss specific details of the case but said any resolution would help the city obtain bonds.
Judge for yourself: Read the city's motion for summary judgment and the ratepayers amended complaint below.