Council unplugs its KPUD H2O deal

POULSBO — Jeff Lincoln’s conclusion that a water deal with the Kitsap County Public Utilities District for water was not prudent at this point found council support Wednesday night.

Instead, the consensus was to develop water rights in house while continuing to work with other jurisdictions.

At its Oct. 13 meeting, the Poulsbo City Council agreed to allow Mayor Donna Jean Bruce and Public Works Director Lincoln to turn down a potential partnership with the KPUD. That working relationship, which Poulsbo began exploring in May, would have garnered the city an additional 300 gallons per minute (GPM) capacity and cost between $3,369-$6,467 per month.

When Lincoln was hired in August, he began exploring the issue and discovered that he did not believe Poulsbo was suffering from a water shortage crisis as originally believed. In fact, by putting the already-built West Side Well to use, the city could add an additional 500 GPM and could possibly have enough water rights for the next 20 years. He recommended that the city not accept the KPUD deal at this time.

“I’m pretty confident with it. I think we’re OK,” Lincoln told the council Wednesday night.

But a visibly perturbed Councilman Ed Stern questioned Lincoln’s recommendation. He said he was concerned that Poulsbo had over-extended its water rights through the many development plans it had approved but that had not yet been built. He said the figures Lincoln used were the same used to justify Poulsbo possibly needing to buy water from the KPUD.

“I’m wondering how, with the same numbers we had last spring that, really, these same figures tell us our business enterprise fund is working well now,” Stern said.

Lincoln said the main difference was with the population numbers used to figure how much more water Poulsbo had. The Growth Management Act shows Poulsbo’s population doubling between now and 2025, or a 3.2 percent rise each year. In the last 15 years, Poulsbo’s population has risen only about 2 percent annually. Current planning documents also show Poulsbo residents numbering 9,743 in 2003 compared the actual 7,000 figure.

“The question is what has our growth actually been?” Lincoln explained. “It has not been that great and if you want to build out for all of that, that’s fine. But I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Lincoln’s recommendation was the result of the work of several Poulsbo staff members, including Project Engineer Andrzej Kasiniak and Planning Director Barry Berezowsky.

Councilman Dale Rudolph praised Lincoln’s ability to find a consensus among so many experts and agreed that there was new information leading to the new belief.

“It’s not happening. It’s just not happening,” Rudolph said of the earlier purported water crisis. “That’s the new reading and I believe we were getting misled because we were using the wrong numbers.”

Rather than accept the KPUD deal, Lincoln’s recommendation is to continue pursuing water rights and get the West Side Well on line. However, he said that Poulsbo should continue to work with the KPUD to explore future options for water.

“I think the PUD suggestion would have worked if we could have negotiated the cost down below what it is but I think what we have is going to work, too,” Lincoln told council.

In the end, council members consented to Lincoln’s recommendation. Even Stern said he would allow the department head to pursue his proposal.

“I have no doubt of the authenticity of the facts,” Stern conceded.

David Jones of the KPUD was on hand Wednesday night but said he was told not to comment on the issue.

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