You will read this in early 2019, but as I sit down to write this in the middle of December (with Christmas only days away), the end of 2018 is in sight. Where does the time go? I’d like to touch briefly on several things you may find of interest.
In the November/December Commissioners’ Corner, Commissioner Miller talked about the hiring of new employees at Lakehaven. In 2017, we hired seventeen new people. In 2018, the number of new employees hired was nine (9). Twenty-six (26) new employees out of roughly 110 is quite a few new faces. Please note that most of these people replace others who have retired or moved on to other jobs, with a few filling previously vacate positions or new positions that the District needs to continue to serve you, the ratepayers.
During 2018, King County passed an ordinance to charge sewer and water districts “rent” for the water and sewer pipes that are located in the County right-of-way. A coalition of water and sewer districts, including Lakehaven, defended a suit filed by King County in Superior Court to establish the validity of the ordinance. The judge in the case ruled against the County, finding that the rent was unlawful. While the coalition won the first round, the County has appealed the ruling; so it’s not over yet. We are confident that this ruling will be upheld on appeal and will keep you posted.
Next, I’d like to mention the excise tax that the City of Federal Way has imposed on Lakehaven, which impacts you, the ratepayers of Lakehaven. Lakehaven offered to negotiate alternatives to the tax, but the City refused and imposed the tax, leaving the District no option but to challenge the tax in court. The City claims the right to impose the tax based on a court case in Chelan County between the City of Wenatchee and the Chelan County Public Utility District (“PUD”). In that case, Wenatchee imposed an excise tax on the PUD and the PUD filed suit against the City. While the PUD won at the trial court level, the City appealed the decision to Division III of the Court of Appeals and prevailed. Unfortunately, the matter did not get to the Washington Supreme Court for final disposition. The District steadfastly believes that the City tax is unconstitutional and otherwise unlawful and, because it is of statewide importance, we believe it should ultimately be decided in the Washington Supreme Court.
As a side note, because they have ratepayers within the City of Federal Way, Midway Sewer District and Highline Water District have joined with Lakehaven in this lawsuit and are paying nearly half of the legal fees. Again, we will keep you posted. In my last Commissioners’ Corner, I talked about the need for new office and maintenance buildings for the District. After a careful review of architectural firms, Helix Design Group of Fife was hired for this project. It is very early in the process, with nothing fully decided yet, but we are working on it.
We will keep you posted.
I hope that you and your loved ones had a wonderful holiday season and the year ahead is fantastic.