Wahkiakum PUD managers and commissioners are exploring a possible billing and meter reading contract with the town.
Recently, Cathlamet Mayor George Wehrfritz sent a letter to each PUD commissioner expressing an interest in contracting water meter reading and water/sewer billing and account collections to the PUD, explained PUD Commission Chair Gene Healy.
Healy stated that his preliminary evaluation suggested that savings may be gained by ratepayers from both entities.
PUD Auditor Wilson said the town’s utility department reads approximately 600 meters, which could result in an increased volume of customer service calls handled by PUD office staff. However, she estimated that after initial setup, there would be a minimal burden of time generated by town water and sewer billing. She said she had consulted the PUD’s billing software vendor who assured her that integrating the town’s data into the billing system would not be an issue.
Jungers suggested approaching a potential proposal “metaphorically as cohabitation and not marriage,” recommending a short term agreement in order to leave open the possibility of renegotiating or restructuring as needed.
“We have put some thought behind this,” said PUD Manager Dave Tramblie, adding “there are going to be some initial costs over and above normal operations.” His initial thought had been to consider a five year time frame.
“The bottom line is, we can do this,” said Tramblie. He encouraged further input from the commissioners.
The board directed the manager to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the proposal and to report back at a future meeting.
In other business, Wilson responded to a query raised at a previous meeting by Commissioner Dennis Reid. A Western Wahkiakum Water System (WWWS) customer had approached Reid to request that he research a trencher purchased in 1996 via a gift from a Westend resident’s estate. The customer understood that as a condition of the donation, WWWS customers would not be charged for trenching, explained Reid.
The PUD received the donation from the estate in 1995 accompanied by a letter from the executor, said Wilson. The letter listed that the gift was intended to be used to pay off a loan from WWWS to the electric system, to make improvements to a well site, or “to buy a trencher to facilitate work on the WWWS” (direct quote from letter). There were no other stipulations in the documents the PUD received about how the trencher was to be used, said Wilson.
Reid thanked Wilson for her research.