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Q&A with City's Leadership Team: What the Passage of Shoreline Prop. 1 Means

Next steps in the Seattle Public Utilities water system acquisition

Editor's note: The following questions were posed to Shoreline City Manager Julie Underwood, Assistant City Manager Debbie Tarry and Public Works Director Mark Relph about Proposition 1 which is passing with a 70 percent approval in results counted so far. 

In a nutshell what does the vote authorize?

Shoreline voters have authorized the City to create a water utility, and thereby acquire and operate the Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) water system in Shoreline by moving forward with negotiating a final agreement. 

What's the timetable for negotiations going forward?

Over the next year, the City will be working closely with the City of Seattle to finalize a purchase agreement. We anticipate continuing those discussions in December with the hope of having an agreement ready for review by Shoreline and Seattle city councils by the spring. Both councils will need to approve the agreement before it is finalized. The goal is to complete that process by the fall.

Once the purchase agreement has been signed, Shoreline will begin developing operations plans and preliminary work on the initial capital improvements that need to be completed before the transfer of the system in 2020. Planning work will take place over several years. Beginning in 2016, the City will also begin preparing a Comprehensive Water Plan, as required by the State. The plan will be adopted in 2017. Construction of initial capital improvements and separation of the water system from Seattle will begin in 2018.

In the meantime, beginning in 2015, the City will work closely with Ronald Wastewater District (RWD) to prepare for merging the wastewater utility into the City in 2017. Planning for and integrating RWD into City operations at the same time we are planning for acquiring the water utility will allow the City to look for mutual operational efficiencies that benefit both utilities. These efficiencies or savings to the utilities could come from sharing the cost of billing services, equipment, facilities and personnel.

Is the price set?

The City of Shoreline, SPU and the Seattle Mayor’s Office came to an agreement on the purchase price of $26.6 million using an agreed upon valuation method for utilities.

Does the vote give the Seattle City Council the green light to sell knowing that most Shoreline residents really want this?

Seattle City Council did not require a “green light” from Shoreline citizens to sell. The decision to sell or not is theirs to make. What the vote did do is give the Shoreline City Council the approval to move forward with acquiring the water system. With a 70 percent approval, it demonstrates to the Seattle City Council the support of our residents to control their own water utility.

Anything else residents need to know about what will happen in the near future and what needs to be done by the city and Council?

The City will continue to keep residents informed throughout the acquisition process. There will be a number of opportunities along the way for residents to provide input. While moving into the water utility businesses is a big step for the City, we are confident that it will be successful and a substantial benefit to the community.

 

 

Tom Jamieson November 10, 2012 at 12:23 AM
That's the trouble with government. They make us guess. I am not saying Ronald has not agreed to be assumed by the City. I am asking Tony, you, anyone to provide evidence it has. RCW 35.13A.080 indicates that RCWs 35.13A.020, 35.13A.030, 35.13A.050, and 35.13A.110 provide for cases in which dissolution might apply. Under one of those cases a Ronald assumption by the City might be supported. I would guess that determination would be up to the courts. But none of these RCW sections are referenced by the Interlocal Agreement between Ronald and the City. To the contrary, the City clearly sought to preserve its authority "as currently in effect or amended in the future," so it would hardly want to box itself in (See Sect. 3.2). So, in the event some law does give the City authority to assume Ronald, it looks to me Ronald has only agreed to cooperate. On the other hand, if no law gives the City that authority, there is no basis for assumption, and therefore no assumption for Ronald to agree to or cooperate with the City on.
Tom Jamieson November 10, 2012 at 12:32 AM
That is begging the question. Which term(s) can be interpreted as agreeing to be assumed? If a man signs a lease agreeing to vacate the premises in the event his landlord invokes authority under some current of future law to evict him, hardly constitutes an agreement to eviction. The landlord does not get that authority by agreement; he gets it by law.
Wendy DiPeso November 10, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Tony, you need a copy editor, or more sleep. Your first sentence should read "Your questions would have to really be answered and interpreted by,..." In your second sentence "don't believe the contract signed in 2002 IS necessarily binding." Thanks for commenting!
Tony Dondero November 10, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Thanks for the catches Wendy. Changes made. I really do need more sleep and a copy editor, neither of which is likely to happen. Tom, Your questions would have to really be answered and interpreted by attorneys and eventually in court by a judge, and it's very possible the dispute between the City and Ronald will end up there. Ronald's current Board and manager, except for Bob Ransom, don't believe the contract signed in 2002 is necessarily binding. The City believes it is. Laws, contracts, agreements, whatever are only as good as they bought into by both parties and/or enforced. If there's a will to change something if someone or some entity is willing to fight it or maintain it or whatever it can happen. There's a lot of grey area in the law or "guess" as you say.
Tom Jamieson November 11, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Tony, the courts will do their thing, to be sure. I am not asking you to speak for them. This is a layman's forum. You claimed "The City and Ronald have an agreement from 2002 that the City will assume Ronald into its operations by 2017," I merely asked you to support your claim. You haven't. We can agree there is a 2002 Interlocal Agreement between the two parties, but not much else. I am with you, its actual meaning or force is up to the legal beagles to work out.

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