PUD interested in high speed fiber optic service
Ashley Turner, the new Director of the Chamber of Commerce attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners for the Wahkiakum PUD.
Turner is proactively seeking to create better partnerships with local entities and has committed herself to attending PUD meetings on a regular basis. She and the commissioners discussed how they might rewrite their current contract so that the Chamber might provide more specific services for the PUD.
“Our goal is to deliver the highest quality, dependable service at the lowest possible cost,” Commissioner Robert Jungers said. “And in order to achieve this we should be getting regular feedback from the people we serve. For us to solicit this information ourselves might appear to be self serving and might not encourage people to respond, or respond honestly, or respond negatively. If a third party were to handle it, it might give it more validity.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Turner replied. “I think it’s something we could do, definitely.”
A high speed fiber optic internet service could be in the works if Jungers has anything to say about it.
At a recent conference, he spoke with a PUD commissioner from another county that had developed a high speed fiber optic internet service to 90 percent of their rate payers. The PUD had trained the linemen in the new technology and had contracts with four service providers.
“We can provide infrastructure but we cannot sell internet service,” Jungers said. “We have to lease it to an intermediate provider. They are breaking even and eventually should provide a cash flow for them.”
“I’m motivated to look into something like this,” Jungers continued. “ To develop a fourth service we can’t tap funds from either of the three service or sub entities we have right now. We would probably have to engender debt for this system.”
“Actually you can, but other counties that have done that have lost. The only ones that were successful had grants,” said Commissioner Dennis Reid.
“I think it ought to be evaluated,” Commissioner Gene Healy said.
The board will consider gauging the community’s interest with the survey that the Chamber will be creating for them.
Reid is concerned about the debt that hangs over the western Wahkiakum water system and shared one of his ideas for solving the problem with the other board members.
“I was thinking about a fixed charge on the customers, strictly for debt reduction,” Reid said. “With a one percent interest rate, we have a debt of $326,677. To retire the debt in three years, there would be a $29 monthly fee on the people. That is not affordable. Though it would be nice to have that debt gone in three years. To do it in five years we are looking at $18 a month. 10 years would be about $9 a month. The 10 year plan is probably doable, though there would be a lot of unhappy people. If we had another $30,000 in the cash flow to do the repairs and upgrades, it would help the system tremendously. I’m afraid that in 10 years, because we can’t do the repairs we need, the system won’t be functioning. "
The board will continue to discuss how to contend with the debt and western Wahkiakum’s water system.
Manager Dave Tramblie reported that he and PUD counsel Tim Hanigan had met with the Town of Cathlamet regarding the interlocal agreement. They are now awaiting a response to their most recent proposal.
He also informed the board that crews were continuing to work along Altoona Road to locate a leak and in the Elochoman Valley to locate an electrical issue.
The board approved travel for Auditor Erin Wilson, who will be attending a conference in Lacey in March on Demystifying Public Works Bidding and Contracting.
They also approved the purchase of a new meter reading vehicle and established a process to pay the Chamber of Commerce the current rate while awaiting a new contract.
The next meeting will be February 18 at 8:30 a.m.