By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT TOWNSEND — A challenge to the Jefferson County Public Utility District's right to levy taxes on Port Townsend residents for use in regional water planning won't be heard by the state Supreme Court.
That apparently ends the legal challenge.
“You win some, you lose some,” said Ted Shoulberg of Port Townsend, who filed the action.
“This shows that a citizen who believes in a cause must go all the way through the system to correct an injustice.”
Shoulberg claimed the PUD unlawfully levied a tax, making property owners within the city limit pay for water service they already get from city government.
In October 2010, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brooke Taylor ruled for the PUD, stating that while a utility district is prohibited from levying taxes to purchase private utilities that compete with municipal utilities offering the same service, it is authorized to make purchases that conserve water and resources.
The state Court of Appeals upheld Taylor's ruling in the PUD's favor in July.
Shoulberg took the case to the state Supreme Court, which Tuesday unanimously declined to hear the case.
“We're elated,” said PUD Commissioner Wayne King.
“This has been a long deal.”
King said the case cost the PUD $200,000 in legal fees that will be captured in utility rates.
“This will come from the taxpayers,” King said.
“It will affect everyone in Jefferson County.”
The PUD now is preparing to assume East Jefferson County electrical service from Puget Sound Energy, scheduled to occur April 1.
In preparation, the PUD has hired a superintendent, a finance director and two office positions, and is now filling lineman positions, according to PUD Manager Jim Parker.
The PUD is in discussions with PSE as to how to achieve the transfer of accounts, Parker said.
The PUD also is soliciting volunteers to serve on a citizens advisory board.
The proposed board will have nine members, three from each commissioner district.
It will meet periodically to recommend to PUD commissioners on pertinent matters related to the operations of the PUD's water, sewer, telecommunications and electrical utilities.
The board has no decision-making authority, but its recommendations will be valuable, King said.
King compared the responsibilities of the committee with the county Planning Commission, which makes recommendations on land use that are then addressed by the county commissioners.
“This is a way to get people involved with the issues,” King said.
King said many people have expressed interest in serving on such a committee.
The application deadline is Dec. 30 [corrected].
The commissioners will select finalists from the applicants, according to Parker.
Those interested in serving on the advisory committee should submit a letter of interest (include their address and telephone number) to the Jefferson County PUD Board of Commissioners, P.O. Box 929, Port Hadlock, WA 98339.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.