Misinformation contained in a special newsletter from the Northeast Sammamish Sewer and Water District has alarmed some of the district’s customers, City Manager Ben Yazici said. Among other things, the newsletter suggested that a potential merger of the district into the city would lead to chlorinated water, higher rates and a utility tax.
“All of this appears to be the result of a cordial meeting we had with the district in which we suggested a joint feasibility study,” Yazici said. “The study we had in mind would simply look at the pluses and minuses of a merger. As they well know, the state’s Growth Management Act encourages cities to handle urban services when it makes sense. Unfortunately, they responded to a standard sort of inquiry with some misinformation that really scared their customers.”
That misinformation triggered a wave of concerned emails to the city. Communications Manager Tim Larson responded with an email that contained the following bullet points:
- The city has asked the Northeast Water District to collaborate on a feasibility study. The city wants to know if a merger, or assumption, would enhance efficiency and improve the stewardship of the ratepayer’s assets and services.
- Although the state’s Growth Management Act encourages cities to consolidate urban services when practical, the result of this study would not be preordained. Any merger decision would be guided by facts and objective analysis.
- The district has declined the city’s offer to participate in a joint feasibility study.
- The city has no interest in a merger that would reduce the quality of service or negatively impact the taste of the district’s water.
- A merger would not increase the chance that chlorinated water would find its way into the district’s system.
- Water treatment doesn’t lead directly to lower quality water. The Northeast Water District, for example, treats its water for arsenic and hydrogen sulfide odor, but retains excellent water quality.
- The consolidation of services that flows from a merger doesn’t create another layer of government. It typically eliminates administrative and operational redundancies.
- Currently, Northeast Water District customers who live in Sammamish pay for both district and city administrative costs. Following a merger, customers would pay for city administrative costs only.
- Since incorporation in 1999, the city has never imposed a utility tax. It has no current plans to impose such a tax.
- The city would ask for public input before making any decision on a merger. Per state law, however, Sammamish is not required to hold a public vote on the matter (RCW 35.13a.030 and .050).
The Northeast Sammamish Sewer and Water District provides water service to 3,250 customers in the northern part of the city. Yazici hopes the district will correct the misinformation contained in their special December newsletter.
“It was disappointing to see,” Yazici said. “We’re all supposed to work together for the good of the community and find efficiencies where we can. As we continue our discussions, I’m going to make sure the city makes a good-faith effort to do just that.”