Bremerton Begins Budgeting For Gloomy 2009


Waste Not, Want Not

If Puget Sound Energy is sold to an Australian investment bank bent on acquiring the utility that powers much of Western Washington, the city of Bremerton may consider getting its power elsewhere, Mayor Cary Bozeman said Wednesday.

The bank, Macquarie, has proposed various conditions that would prohibit rate increases, continue public reporting and move the utility to carbon neutrality by 2050, according to this Seattle Times story.

However, not everyone is thrilled with the idea of a long-time Northwest fixture like PSE being sold to a foreign company.

“We don’t know where it’s going, or what new ownership might do,” Bozeman said during a City Council study session Wednesday, pointing to the possibility of rate hikes, and also the long local history of PSE. Like many residents, the city is a PSE customer.

“There are other options,” Bozeman said, but first said he would not comment too much on the idea. “We don’t want to be held at the mercy if the option doesn’t look good.”

Read here a story by Sun environmental reporter Chris Dunagan about the residents of Jefferson County a poll of Kitsap residents on whether they would vote to create publicly-owned utility there. In the story, a survey by the Kitsap County Public Utility District found that residents weren’t as interested in getting into the energy business.

Exploring options if and when PSE is sold was incorporated into a proposed energy policy item for the city. Another element of the proposed policy item will be whether the city should continue allowing employees to drive city-owned cars home. Councilman Nick Wofford said changing the policy could save the city money.

Councilman Mike Shepherd, however, said foreign investment could possibly be a good thing. Not just for PSE, but for the U.S.’s aging power infrastructure. He said over the past 30 years, governments have neglected investing into newer, cleaner technology. And with the dollar shivering in the cold next to several foreign currencies, it might be mutually beneficial if foreign investors began buying U.S. power companies.

“Not all of it will be bad, I think,” Shepherd said.

The council and department heads met to discuss the city’s priorities and accomplishments as it began the long slog toward finalizing a spending plan for 2009. No revenue projections have been made, said Laura Lyon, director of financial services. The process will not finish until Dec. 3 when the council approves the 2009 budget.

Leaders, however, are not expecting a windfall of revenues.
“I have seen a lot of indicators that say it will be a rough year,” Lyon said.

“This might be the most difficult economic conditions I’ve encountered since I started doing this in 1976,” Bozeman said.

Bozeman laid out his expectations as the budget proposal takes shape, including maintaining services at current levels, holding off large city construction projects in 2009 – except for park projects, mainly paid for with grant money, new programs will require new money or cuts and, finally, the city will continue to push for economic development.

Despite the gloomy skies forecasted for 2009, Bozeman said the city is in good shape for the long haul.

“I think our future is pretty bright,” he said.

6 thoughts on “Bremerton Begins Budgeting For Gloomy 2009

  1. As long as they do not raise the water and sewer bill for all. I would to see that all council members, mandate a freeze on any future water and sewer bills in the immediate future.

  2. And don’t bank on revenue from the red light “safety” cameras. A citizens’ initiative is going to force that money to be spent on road maintenance.

  3. How about renting out the Sinclair Building instead of paying to demolish it? Doesn’t look like phase 2 of the condos will be coming any time soon.

  4. Sorry, seeing as it was used as office space for some City of Bremerton staff for years (even after the gov’t center was built) it appeared the city owned it. Perhaps instead of the taxpayer supported KCCHA could rent out instead of paying to demo it.

  5. jane has a good idea….rent it out until such time it needs to be taken down.

    Who makes that decision?
    Sharon O’Hara

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