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Tanner Opposes Ordinance 18403

Tanner Electric Cooperative                                                                           December 5, 2017

45710 SE North Bend Way

North Bend, WA 98045

 

 

Terri Hansen, Project Manager

Facilities Management Division

500 Fourth Avenue, Suite 800

Seattle, WA 98104

 

Dear Ms. Hansen,

 

I am writing on behalf of Tanner Electric Cooperative to officially comment on the proposed public rule to implement Ordinance 18403.  Tanner Electric Cooperative opposes this action for the reasons outlined below:

 

Reasons for Our Opposition

 

Tanner Electric Cooperative believes that Ordinance 18403 will entangle King County in expensive, time-consuming litigation with ourselves and other public utilities.

 

The King County rights-of-way are owned by the public, and intended for public use.  They are not “owned” by the jurisdictions through which they pass.  Cities/counties do not have the right to “rent” rights-of-way.  It is the function of government entities to manage the use of the public rights-of-way within their jurisdiction for public benefit and safety.  If the funding for management of public rights-of-way is lacking in King County, elected leadership should be proposing new taxes that can be voted upon by the public.   

 

As an aid to management of public rights-of-way, most cities/counties enter into franchise agreements with utilities using those rights-of-way.  Tanner Electric Cooperative currently has a franchise agreement with King County.  This agreement allows Tanner Electric Cooperative to provide power to our rural members.  Tanner Electric Cooperative is a not-for-profit organization so any additional cost associated with this ordinance must be passed on directly and wholly to our members.  Since most of Tanner’s membership is comprised of citizens living in rural areas, they will bear the brunt of this burden (the ordinance is less onerous on people that live in cites). 

 

Ordinance 18403 will result in an inefficient use of public funds causing significant additional cost to all citizens of King County.  The Facilities Management Division will be charged with establishing multiple new bureaucratic procedures.  These include procedures for identifying the locations of existing utilities within public rights-of-way, determining “rental” rates, billings for payments of those “rents”, collection of those funds, determining penalties and enforcement procedures for failure to pay, and finally then collection of those funds.  Performing these functions will cost money and add to the staffing requirements of King County.  This is all in the name of increased revenue that King County residents should have been asked for though the normal budgeting process.  Implementation of Ordinance 18403 will result in the citizens of King County that make the least amount of money and benefit the least from the services the county provides, shouldering the lion’s share of the burden caused by the county’s inability to live within its means.

 

Tanner Electric Cooperative (along with multiple other not-for-profit public utility companies) will be required to pay “rental fees” and will presumably have to provide King County with documentation of their facilities within public rights-of-way, as well as keep track of how those facilities change over time.  Tanner will be compelled to establish procedures for monitoring payment of these “rental fees”.  This will affect the rates that our members must pay from year to year.  Our rates will have to increase to cover not only the “rental fees” themselves, but also the administrative costs of meeting the new King County requirements.  Again, these costs will be borne by residents of King County that are rural and often have lower incomes than those that live in cities. 

 

The result of this ordinance is effectively increasing the amount of money paid by lower income, rural citizens of King County without their input or agreement. 

 

It is our position that Tanner Electric Cooperative currently has the statutory authority to use the county right-of-way for our facilities through our franchise agreement and the permitting fees we already pay.  In essence, King County will be double charging for use of the right-of-way that its citizens already enjoy. If King County Facilities Management Division requires more money to perform its functions, the proper method is to seek the additional funds in the county budget.  The new right-of-way rental fee is a money grab that hurts our members and Tanner Electric is categorically opposed to its implementation.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Steve Walter

General Manager

Tanner Electric Cooperative

 

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