The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) is a collection of laws currently enforced in the state and Title 54 governs the public utility districts of Washington. RCW 54.04.035, the Annexation of Territory section, outlines how an area can be annexed by a nearby public utility district:
“The boundaries of a public utility district may be enlarged and new contiguous territory added pursuant to the procedures for annexation by cities and towns provided in RCW 35.13.015 through 35.13.110. . .
If an area proposed to be annexed is located within the boundaries of another public utility district, annexation may be initiated only upon petition of registered voters residing in the area in accordance with RCW 35.13.020 and adoption by the boards of commissioners of both districts of identical resolutions stating (a) the boundaries of the area to be annexed, (b) a determination that annexation is in the public interest of the residents of the area to be annexed as well as the public interest of their respective districts, (c) approval of annexation by the board, (d)the boundaries of the districts after annexation, (e) the disposition of any assets of the districts in the area to be annexed, (f) the obligations to be assumed by the annexing district, (g) apportionment of election costs, and (h) that voters in the area to be annexed will be advised of lawsuits that may impose liability on the annexed territory and the possible impact of annexation on taxes and utility rates.
If annexation is approved, the area annexed shall cease to be a part of the one public utility district at the same time that it becomes a part of the other district.”
RCW 35.13.020.110 outlines how to initiate annexation of territory from one district to another:
“A petition for an election to vote upon the annexation of a portion of a county to a contiguous city or town signed by qualified voters resident in the area equal in number to twenty percent of the votes cast at the last election may be filed in the office of the board of county commissioners. . . Only after the legislative body has completed preparation and filing of a comprehensive plan for the area to be annexed as provided for in RCW 35.13.177 and 35.13.178, the legislative body in approving the proposed action, may require that the comprehensive plan be simultaneously adopted upon approval of annexation by the electorate of the area to be annexed.”
In summary, these laws require that the residents of Tokeland, Grayland, and the surrounding area currently being serviced by Grays Harbor PUD follow certain steps to switch to services by Pacific County. First they must initiate the extension by filing a petition with signatures from 20% of the town’s registered voters. After the petition has been filed, the town/area’s legislative body and the prosecuting attorney must approve the petition, the electorate vote must on the petition, and the Grays Harbor and Pacific County PUDs must create joint resolutions with a detailed plan for the project. After the proper steps have been taken, the annexation project can take place.
In light of these laws, this reporter contacted Commissioner Mike Swanson with the question: Have the people of Tokeland put out an official petition with 20% of the registered voters’ signatures in request of a Pacific County PUD annexation?
Swanson responded: “I’m not aware of any petition that was put out by the folks of Tokeland.”
Grays Harbor PUD General Manager Dave Ward also had not been informed of such a petition.
Ward: “Nobody’s aware of any petition that was signed by the residents of the Grayland/Tokeland area.”
In regards to working with the Pacific County PUD, Mr. Ward claimed: “Nobody has officially contacted us. There have been some inquiries going back as far as 2003 or 2004 timeframe . . . It’s just been kind of informal discussion with staff. So we have not been approached formally.”
When asked what the proposed price of the Grays Harbor substation and other infrastructure in the area would be, Ward stated: “No work has been done. There are a lot of methodologies for how you value a system, and that would all be worked out in some type of negotiations.”
As the excerpts in this article do not comprehensively represent the Washington law, please visit http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw for more information on the laws that govern the PUD annexation.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 7/19/12. If you would like to respond to this story, go to hometowndebate.com