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Island County officials set date for hearing on new PUD

Island County commissioners decided this morning to hold a hearing to set the proposed boundaries of a new public utilities district for Whidbey Island.

But the move doesn't mean commissioners support or oppose the idea to create a new utility district that would take over the territory now served by Puget Sound Energy, said Island County Commissioner Phil Bakke.

"We don't get to say no to the boundary," Bakke said. "Under the statute, the board is simply looking to see if there are competing public interests, and there aren't any."

PSE, the state’s largest electric and natural gas utility, serves roughly 34,000 customers on Whidbey Island.

"People For Yes on Whidbey PUD," the group that launched the effort to start a public utilities district on Whidbey, submitted enough signed petitions in late June to put the question of forming a new utility district on the November ballot.

Organizers of the effort have raised concerns about a potential sale of PSE to an Australian-based investor group, but critics of the new PUD have said the burden of the takeover effort will fall on the shoulders of property owners. Supporters of the Whidbey PUD have said property taxes may be raised as much as 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to get the new utility district off the ground.

Bakke said state law prevents the county from pulling the plug on the ballot measure.

"We don't have the authority to prevent it from being put on the ballot, nor do I think we should," Bakke added. "Let the voters exercise their judgement."

The hearing will be held at 10:15 a.m. Monday, Aug. 4 in the commissioners hearing room, Room 102B, in the Island County Annex Building, 1 NE Sixth Street, Coupeville.

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