Whidbey PUD backers say they are close to reaching petition goal

FREELAND — A crowd of more than 50 showed up at a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the future of energy on Whidbey Island Wednesday in Freeland.

“People For Yes on Whidbey PUD” want to form a public utility district on the island. In order to get the issue on the ballot this fall they have to collect 2,392 signatures from registered voters living on the island — or 10 percent of all registered voters — by July 4.

Island voters would decide if they want to locally control their energy supply and maintenance, or if they want to continue to be served by Puget Sound Energy, the state’s largest electric and natural gas utility. PSE currently serves Whidbey and more than 1 million electric customers in 11 counties.

Organizers said their signature campaign was going well and they were close to reaching their goal.

They would not say how many signatures they had collected, however.

Organizers also remained tightlipped about the cost of the venture.

A panel of experts answered question from residents that included islanders from Clinton to north of Oak Harbor. However, they did not reveal an estimate on what the local PUD would cost islanders.

To cover start-up costs, potential lawsuits and to get the PUD off the ground, "People For Yes on Whidbey PUD" organizers said they would consider a property tax levy that could be as high as 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

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