PUD discusses how to finance upgrade of Westend water
The Western Wahkiakum Water System was the hot topic at Tuesday’s Wahkiakum PUD Board of Commissioners meeting.
According to a report prepared by Manager Dave Tramblie, the average monthly bill for ratepayers on the Westend is about $65.
“To increase that is definitely a hardship on some of those people,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said.
Commissioner Gene Healy agreed and pointed out that the rates have been the highest in the state for some time.
According to Tramblie the $6,000 inventory allotted to the system each year has done little to alleviate the problems with the aging infrastructure.
“We’ve got a system that was installed in 1977,” Tramblie said. “My engineering firm recommends you have a process where you replace the entire system over the next 30-35 years. Trying to determine where the next leaks are is going to be a crap shoot. I think we need a methodical plan to replace the entire system, logically.
“I’ve got to move forward somehow, or we can continue with the $6,000 a year to plug holes.”
Commissioner Robert Jungers urged the commissioners to consider the option of borrowing more money from state agencies.
“A $30,000 loan at 1.7 percent would cost about $522 a month for five years, so essentially what we are doing is letting the state eat the inflation,” Jungers said. “In a manner of speaking it would be free money and the least cost impact on our rate payers for the much needed capital improvements. These results could be extrapolated if we think we need $60,000 or $90,000 if money is available at 1.7 percent.”
“More information would help,” Reid said. “I’m not convinced that’s what we need to do at this point. State money is drying up and it’s going to be more of a cost, is what I’m hearing. If we are going to look at loans I would consider keeping it in house.”
“I like the idea of a low interest $90,000 loan if we can get it mostly done without raising the rates anymore,” Healy added. “Of course we’re always conservative with the rate increases, which do little more than allow us to just get by. This one would give us a shot in the arm.”
The discussion will continue.
Tramblie reported that the PUD’s work on backflow prevention was similar to the work of other utilities in the state. Backflow is a concern for schools and hospitals and on farms.
The PUDs use a reduced pressure assembly, which Tramblie described as a “conglomeration of valves that prevent back flow.”
“If you have a hospital or something where there is concern of chemicals getting back into the system, then this is 100 percent protection,” he said.
Auditor Erin Wilson reported that the Residential Energy Assistance Program had taken in $6,452 in donations since it’s inception in 2011 and pledged $6,441 since that time.
The next regular meeting is set for Tuesday, April 15 at 8:30 a.m. in the PUD meeting room.