More than 12,000 residents will have the opportunity to vote for their Ronald Wastewater District commissioners if a majority of those who already are eligible to vote this August fill out a ballot.
On Aug. 19, an initiative that would give all Ronald Wastewater ratepayers the right to choose their three commissioners and run for a commissioner position will go to a vote. Currently, about 40 percent of Ronald Wastewater District ratepayers cannot vote in commissioner elections or have a say in budget or capital projects because they live in an area that is not located within the district’s corporate boundaries.
“The annexation doesn’t change the rates in anyway, there aren’t additional costs and it doesn’t affect any other Shoreline services,” Art Wadekamper, chairman of the Ronald Wastewater District Board of Commissioners, said. “These ratepayers can come in and talk to us now but they just can’t vote.”
Currently the Ronald Wastewater District services a population of approximately 53,000, is governed by a board of three commissioners and has no taxing authority. The proposed annexation area is representative of 19,000 people, over 300 businesses, ten schools and six neighborhoods. The area encompasses approximately 4.2 square miles and is bordered by Northeast 195th Street, Aurora Avenue North, Northeast 145th Street and 30th Avenue Northeast. If approved, the annexation will bring the special purpose district’s corporate map in line with its service map by including an area once served by Seattle Public Utilities in its boundaries.
If the initiative does not pass, Ronald Wastewater District general manager, Michael Derrick, said ratepayers within the annexation area will not experience any changes in the services that are currently provided by Ronald Wastewater.
“If they decide not to annex into the area things stay exactly as they are now,” Derrick said. “Rates won’t go up and we won’t stop their service. But if they vote to be annexed into the district they will be empowered.”
The district has been working toward an annexation vote for several years now, according to Wadekamper. Part of the process consisted of pulling together two special focus groups to learn what ratepayers did and did not know about special purpose service districts including Ronald Wasterwater District.
“People don’t know as much as you think they would because as long as the wastewater and water services work they don’t have a problem,” Wadekamper said.
He added that two years ago, a vacancy for a commissioner could have been filled a lot sooner if someone who was interested in the position lived within the corporate boundaries. If given the right to vote, ratepayers in the annexation area will also be allowed to run for commissioner positions.
“We realize that we need to educate our ratepayers about our role here,” Derrick said. “We’ll celebrate the end of our 57th year in July and our objective is to let people know who we are and what we do.”
So far, opposition to the annexation hasn’t been identified, according to Derrick.
“We think most people are going to want that vote,” he said. “This is really for those ratepayers, there’s no hidden agenda here. In fact, we would hope we would see more people and that our workload would increase because these ratepayers can run for a commissioner position and because they would now, in a sense, be a true constituent of an elected official and their say would carry weight.”
A state public works trust fund for $955,400 was recently acquired by Ronald Wastewater District to rehabilitate two lift stations in the heart of the annexation area, Derrick said. The pump stations serve as a link to the King County transmission and treatment system. Improvements to the stations consist of replacing piping, installing emergency underground power and modernizing electricity equipment.
“They’re not the neglected side of town, they are very much part of the district,” Derrick said.
More information about the proposed annexation can be found online at www.ronaldwastewater.org or at www.metrokc.gov/elections.