Wahkiakum PUD commissioners met September 5 to approve preliminary budgets for next year and to talk with Cathlamet council members about exploring a proposal to contract water meter reading, billing, and collections to the PUD.
The board approved the preliminary 2013 budgets for the electric system and the two water systems operated by the PUD. Both the Puget Island and the Western Wahkiakum Water System’s proposed budgets show a net decrease in cash.
“The bottom line isn’t pretty, “ cautioned PUD Manager Dave Tramblie.
The commissioners scheduled a budget workshop during their October 2 meeting.
Cathlamet Mayor George Wehrfritz and town council members Bob Rendler and Wally Wright attended the meeting.
In July, Wehrfritz sent a letter to the PUD board suggesting the possibility of contracting meter reading and billing services to the PUD. The council held a special meeting August 30 to vote on exploring the proposal; the measure passed 4-1. The PUD commissioners invited the council for a conversation to assess the town’s level of interest.
Cathlamet residents receive electric service from the PUD and water/sewer service from the town. It makes sense not to produce two bills or have two meter readers visit the same address, said Wehrfritz. He noted the proposal has unanimous support from the town council’s finance and utility committees.
“Some years ago I kicked around the idea of contracting meter reading with a former PUD manager,” recalled Render. The idea was discussed and later abandoned, remembered PUD commissioner Bob Jungers.
Wright stated he had reservations about the idea, although he had originally voted in support of the proposal. PUD labor costs are higher than the town’s, he said, suggesting that using town utility staff to read PUD meters might be more cost-effective.
By consensus, the PUD board decided to move forward with gathering further information about the feasibility of a contract between the two entities.