Letters to the Editor

Transfer to KPUD would benefit those now at risk | Letters | Feb. 10

I’d like to add my 2 cents to the dialogue about Mr. Fortner’s water resources column (“Do our water resources have strategic value?” Feb. 3). Consider two essential facts:

1. Aquifers are an island and regional resource that is impacted by new construction controlled by city, county and regional planning and zoning policies – not water districts or PUD’s.

2. The ratepayers (property owners and renters) are the only ones paying for the use, maintenance, upkeep and expansion of that system via initial hookup fees. No one else. The city should not be compensated for something it has not paid for.

The history is well known. The city too often has used ratepayer money to pay for island-wide projects. That’s not allowed under state law. Fees collected from utility ratepayers (just 20 percent of our island) can only be used to pay for services received. Furthermore, rather than act as a good steward of our aquifers, the city has encouraged development to spawn its major source of income – building permit fees and taxes.

COBI’s reliance on development left its with a shortfall when the economy turned sour. But ratepayer monies came to the rescue, including the extra $1 million in utility taxes that COBI water and sewer utility ratepayers, alone, pay annually.

Then there’s the Utility Advisory Committee, stacked with a majority of hand-picked non-ratepayers. In my view only ratepayers should be on the UAC. Only ratepayers should determine who manages their water and sewer utilities. They – not the city – have paid for it over many years. They should decide who should manage their utility.

Then there’s the misinformation about Kitsap Public Utility District. KPUD is a large professional organization that has been focused on managing water utilities throughout Kitsap County for decades. To disparage their independently elected utility board is uncalled for. Islanders could learn a lot about positive government from our Kitsap neighbors.

I fully support a transfer to KPUD, allowing ratepayers to benefit directly from economies of scale, not to mention experience, specialist skills and quality water utility management. They’re not encumbered by petty local politics with agendas that conflict with ratepayer service. They’re not cutting personnel to make a temporary false lowering of rates.

No, Mr. Fortner, stay out of the ratepayers’ business. We don’t need unsolicited advice and we don’t need fear mongering from someone who has a beautiful home totally off the grid on a multi-acre site with its own well and drainfield. Indifference to the ratepayers’ plight by those not connected to the Winslow utilities is one thing, but to willfully lobby against them is unacceptable.

Here is some unsolicited advice: If you are really concerned about the aquifers, as we all are, narrow your focus to the real issues that impact aquifers, growth and development.

In response to a community question about who makes up the BRG, Bob Fortner controls the agenda and the membership. When and who meets is at his pleasure at his Sweetlife Farms residence. The BRG charter states that it was to be a resource to the public regarding tax and other issues affecting the island as a whole. All sides of an issue were to be brought to the public’s attention to assure a better informed public.

Some excellent work has been done concerning schools, the Fire Department and changing the city government. As of late, however, Mr. Fortner has decided to abandon this neutrality and directly oppose the ratepayers, calling into question the credibility of BRG.

Norm Davis is a city ratepayer and former member of Bainbridge Resource Group.

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