Ratepayer Alliance refiles suit against city

The Bainbridge Ratepayer Alliance has refiled its lawsuit against the city.

The terms of the suit, which are essentially the same as those filed last year, with three new causes of action, accuse the city of misusing ratepayer money from the three utilities.

Reached Thursday afternoon, interim City Manager Lee Walton, wasn’t aware of the refiling, but said both groups (the city and the alliance) have the same goal of serving the community, so the lack of solution is a disappointment.

“Both groups want to achieve what’s best, and I think it’s a shame we can’t come to some agreement,” he said.

In September, the issue of bond validity, which impacted the city’s pursuit of a $6 million bond for a number of capital projects, was severed from the rest of the suit. The alliance had the right to refile the remaining charges at any time.

The city was granted a summary judgment on the bond issue, but the alliance appealed it. That appeal is still being processed.

“The appeal by us is still under way,” said alliance President Richard Allen. “Both sides have made (written) arguments, and the next thing will be either a request for oral arguments or a decision.”

In January, the alliance and the city reached a partial settlement, which allowed the city to complete a $1 million loan agreement with Cashmere Valley Bank to fund the final upgrades to the Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrades.

Since that time, there have been some meetings but little progress has been made on settling the remaining terms of the suit.

“I’ve met with Lee and the council since then, but no progress has been made on the settlement, so we felt we had no alternative but to refile the suit,” Allen said.

The refiling of the suit will add to the legal burden the city already bears. To this point, the lawsuit has resulted in more than $200,000 in legal fees. Walton said the lawsuit will have no effect on the money obtained to finish the treatment plant.

The three new causes of action accuse the city of illegally using sewer funds to pay for clean up of petroleum contamination, allocating general government costs to utility ratepayers and improper allocation of litigation costs.

The refiling seeks a judgment declaring a number of payments and costs charged to utility funds an illegal tax.

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