Will water cure the city’s financial conundrum? | In Our Opinion | March 5

It’s very hush-hush, of course, but Kitsap Public Utility District and representatives of the city are currently discussing the possibility of the Poulsbo-based municipal corporation buying the city’s water system. Water is the primary focus since that’s where KPUD’s expertise lies, but it’s possible that the sewer system could be included in the deal.

With that in mind, think utilities when you hear talk in City Hall about the city’s workforce and responsibilities being downsized to fit the future economic realities of a city with a tax revenue base that doesn’t have the luxury of being fueled by industry or big-box retail stores. You take away those two utilities, and funding for about one-sixth of the workforce goes with them.

It’s no secret that fees collected from water utility ratepayers have helped keep the city afloat during the last 18 months, when more than $3 million has been “borrowed” from the fund to keep the treatment plant project alive and the general fund from turning a dark red. One could argue that those 2,300 or so ratepayers who dutifully paid their bloated fees each month were instrumental in building a city that had burgeoned to more than 150 full-time employees before it all came tumbling down.

There’s a good chance that increased efficiency and much lower fees would be part of the deal if KPUD became the island’s water and sewer operator. The district already owns 56 water systems – including the one operating in north Bainbridge – in the county with more than 40 years of experience in the industry. This seems to be a no-brainer.

The following paragraph can be found on KPUD’s Web site.

“KPUD began providing utility service as a water system manager in the 1970s through the assumption of several small, privately owned water systems and municipal water districts. In many cases, these systems suffered from lack of money, substandard design and installation, and poor operation, prior to the District’s involvement.”

At least part of that last sentence sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

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