City wins summary judgment in ratepayer suit

The City of Bainbridge Island Friday won a key battle in its quest to secure bond funding for the remaining cost of upgrades to the Winslow Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge M. Karlynn Haberly ruled in favor of the city's motion for summary judgment on several accusations in a lawsuit brought by the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance in April.

Judge Haberly's decision was only a partial summary judgment. She ruled solely on the validity of the bond issue the city seeks. Several claims made by the ratepayers were severed from the issue of bond validity.

Judge Haberly didn't comment on the verdict and calls to the Kitsap County Clerk's Office were not returned.

Among other claims: the alliance asserted the city's attempts to secure bonds for the treatment plant upgrades constituted an illegal tax because money was being drawn from the water fund as well as the sewer fund; that the city should only seek bonding for the estimated $4.5 million left on the project; and that failing to seek advice from the Utility Advisory Committee goes against city code.

In court files the city has stated that the bond would be issued for no more than $6 million.

The ratepayers, represented at the hearing by Sally Adams, Richard Allen, and attorney Richard Stephens, indicated the decision would be appealed.

The group also plans to refile on the other claims.

The city's motion, filed in July, employed the 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 argued 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.

The city had previously been unable to obtain bonds for the treatment plant project because of the ongoing litigation.

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