Opinion

It’s doubtful the city will rid itself of its cash cow

Perhaps the most divisive of the many issues facing the seven (three At-Large and four Central Ward) primary election candidates for City Council involves the future of the city’s water utility. Four (Dave Ward, John Green, Steve Bonkowski and Kim Hendrickson) favor transferring it to Kitsap Public Utility District, while three (Barry Peters, Joe Levan and Chris Van Dyk) say it should stay with the city.

It may be a moot point since the current council likely will make that decision even before campaigning begins for the November election. It has been couched by some as a choice between downsizing the city by outsourcing some services or ensuring that islanders continue home rule.

In fact, that’s just another example of muddied water. What we know for sure is that the city’s 2,200 water ratepayers are being overcharged, a fact that the city now admits since staff has told consultants studying the utility that it could cut the fee in half if only it would remain with the city. Since the municipality’s transparency only surfaced at a time of self-preservation, it makes you wonder about the trustworthiness of city government going forward. Does it really care about its citizens, or is that just a ruse to keep the status quo alive on Bainbridge?

Hard to say, but it could be argued that the city’s track record for running utilities is shaky at best and, if it indeed remains in the utility business (water, sewer and storm water), a reorganization of staff and policy is needed to regain lost trust by its constituents.

Some say it’s too late, that KPUD already has the resources and expertise required to run a first-rate utility for a fair fee, plus a track record earned by already operating (North Bainbridge) on the island. Should the city have another chance? Again, don’t muddy the water, but it appears that at this point the city isn’t willing to change unless forced to.

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