By Lake Stevens Sewer District | Press Release
LAKE STEVENS, WA – The Lake Stevens Sewer District (District) has filed a lawsuit in Snohomish County Superior Court, asking the Court to halt recent City of Lake Stevens (City) actions that breach an existing legal agreement, asserting a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act by the Lake Stevens City Council (Council), and a failure to follow proper procedures.
District press release in its entirety
The City has a binding legal agreement with the District that describes how and when the two agencies would merge in the future.
In December, the Council ignored that agreement and voted to take over District operations in 90 days. The City did not notify the Boundary Review Board of their actions in a timely way as they are required to do by state law. That notification is not only required legally; it also gives everyone involved – ratepayers, the District, and the City –a process to share concerns and learn about the potential impacts of their action. The City has offered no valid reason for breaching the agreement that has been in place for 15 years, or for acting in a way that robs ratepayers of their voice in how the system they pay for is provided.
“We are disappointed that the City’s actions left us with no choice but to turn to the courts,” said Dan Lorentzen, Commission President. “For 64 years, the District has had one priority: serving our customers. By taking this step, we are protecting the ratepayers we are elected to serve.”
This City Council decision was made without notice, without legal authority and in spite of an existing agreement that spells out how sewer system will be transferred from the District to the City years in the future. The existing agreement explicitly states that the transfer will happen in 2033, unless there is mutual agreement between the District and City to do so sooner. There is no mutual agreement.
The 2005 agreement was written and the date for the eventual merger was chosen with ratepayer interests and system financial health and reliability in mind. Violating it without notice or consideration puts those protections at risk.
The ordinance adopted by the City is based on a number of incorrect assumptions regarding cost and service area. Most glaring is the lack of acknowledgement that the District serves customers within the City of Marysville as well. District leadership is left wondering why the City rushed such a far-reaching action through, so quickly.
“Without a staff briefing or any public comment, the City Council voted on an ordinance that includes incomplete and erroneous information,” Commissioner Kevin Kosche said. “Their haste means the long-term impacts of their decision could not be considered by those affected, and points to a real lack of transparency at the City.”
The District has a long history of putting ratepayer needs and service first. Since 2005, District commissioners and staff have worked closely with the City staff and elected representatives, taking over responsibility for rehabilitating the City sewer system, assuming the City’s sewer related debt, and investing more than $110 million in both a new wastewater treatment plant and several upgrades to the system ratepayers depend on.
“Defending the best interests of our customers is our job as District commissioners,” noted Commissioner Jennifer Stevenson. “Holding the City to their agreement is the right thing to do and we believe it will save money for our customers.”