Legal questions unanswered

One key area missing from the PUD’s preliminary study is the legal questions resulting from a strategy of servicing only selected geographical areas of Thurston County.

The TPPI initially claimed the Thurston PUD would acquire all of PSE assets and service the entire county. But they quickly backed off that promise when it became obvious that it was financially impractical.

They have since adopted an incremental strategy, providing electricity only to selected regions that would require less repairs and maintenance than the more rural and forested parts of the county.

But that has raised questions about whether a countywide PUD can provide service to some taxpayers and not others, especially if those not receiving service are supporting the PUD through property taxes. It opens a door for a serious legal challenge.

There is also a question whether the PUD would violate state law by duplicating infrastructure – poles and wires – as it proposes to do in some of the scenarios outlined in its preliminary study.

These are questions that a more comprehensive study would have settled, but under Proposition 1 could turn into expensive legal battles.

Those legal costs could not be financed by revenue bonds, and the PUD doesn’t have extensive cash reserves – only about $113,000 in 2012 and $99,000 projected in 2013.

That would likely mean the PUD would have to turn to property tax increases or some other revenue source to pay its legal bills.