Commissioners agree to pay PUD's costs for new ferry utilities
Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday talked themselves into accepting proposed costs from Wahkiakum PUD for installing water and three-phase power lines at the Puget Island ferry landing.
The county needs the water line to supply a potable water tank, and the three-phase power is needed to supply the ferry's power needs which are upgraded from those of the present ferry.
Wahkiakum PUD has said the cost of upgrading the electrical service will total $14,557.62 and the cost of adding the water line will be $10,597.22.
Commissioners learned of the cost last week just before their Tuesday meeting, and at that time expressed dismay at the high cost of the work. They said they wanted to ask the PUD to lower the cost, and they wondered if Clatsop County, which is upgrading the ferry's landing in Westport, Ore., might not be able to furnish the water.
This Tuesday, Public Works Director Pete Ringen reported that Clatsop County had declined to undertake the water supplying, saying they were too far into the planning and design process to incorporate water lines.
That meant that the county would have to cover that cost.
However, Gene Healy, one of three members of the Wahkiakum PUD board of commissioners, attended the meeting of the county commissioners, and Commissioner Blair Brady immediately pressed Healy on the likelihood that the PUD commission might negotiate costs.
"I'm just here to learn," Healy said. "I can't speak for our board.
"But our rates are set in a public setting. They aren't arbitrary."
Commissioner Dan Cothren said he understood the PUD's position.
"Electricity is expensive," he said. "I don't feel we as a county should get any better deal than the public would have."
Commissioner Mike Backman asked if there was a precedent for the PUD cutting costs for the county;
Brady countered that PUD Manager Dave Tramblie recently asked the county to participate in a project to extend Western Wahkiakum Water System lines to the Salme Hill and Oneida Road areas with a $50,000 contribution.
"A little quid pro quo might be appropriate," Brady said.
Brady moved that the board authorize Ringen to discussion with the PUD about possible price reductions, and Backman seconded the motion.
Ringen commented that the motion would put him in an awkward position, for he had already gone over the costs with the PUD, who had found some savings.
Healy commented that the work will cost what it costs, and somebody will have to pay, either PUD ratepayers or ferry patrons.
"I would agree with Gene," Cothren said. Somebody will pay. Electricity is very expensive. We're all in it together."
After more discussion, Backman moved to amend the original motion to say that the county would pay the costs. Cothren seconded the motion, and the amendment passed. The board then unanimously passed the motion as amended, authorizing payment out of the Cumulative Reserve for Public Works.