The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

PUD commission debates salary


January 19, 2017

Commissioners discussed the manager’s salary, an electric industry registry, and the costs of an old project at the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

Commissioner Bob Jungers made the case for granting the 5 percent increase in salary that General Manager Dave Tramblie recently requested. Tramblie was not in attendance.

“When Dave was operations supervisor 13-14 years ago, he had an annual salary of $72,692 with a benefit package of $26,169,” Jungers said. “When he was promoted to manager, he essentially took over the manager’s job at the manager’s salary, which at the time was about $90,000. It eliminated the cost of the operations supervisor. For the last 13 years he has been doing both jobs at the manager’s salary.”

Jungers also pointed out that the PUD had not replaced the lineman that they had lost 28 months ago. He estimated that between the two salaries, the lineman and the operations supervisor, the PUD has saved approximately $1,615,664 over the years.

“That is a conservative estimate,” Jungers said, “because it lowballs a lot of benefits.”

Jungers went on.

“Twelve years ago, our energy rates were about three times as high as Cowlitz County. In the 12 years that have passed, our rates are just slightly lower than theirs for energy. Fifteen years ago, our distribution reliability was abysmal. We were losing power on the island about once a week. The efficiency of the line crew was markedly less than it is today. Mr. Tramblie has done an outstanding job for this utility in reliability, reputation, performance. I strongly feel that that kind of performance should be rewarded with the five percent salary increase that he is asking for. From a business point of view, I have found that rewarding behavior positively returns positive results.”

Commissioner Gene Healy was more circumspect.

“We have to decide sometime or another when is this person or this position at the top pay,” Healy said. “Then it get’s adjusted by such things as: the job content gets increase, or the cost of living goes up. I have a hard time adjusting salaries without some intellectual guide into it.”

“We need to treat people fairly,” Healy added.

“I get the distinct impression that if we don’t, it’s going to be, not exactly a disincentive, but it’s going to be a disappointment to our manager and I don’t think he deserves that disappointment,” Jungers countered. “I think he’s earned it.”

The commissioners will continue to consider the matter.

The PUD has been advised to join an electric industry registry, and despite efforts to find out why, the reasons remain elusive.

“It will keep you out of regulatory trouble,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said he had been told. “I think the real issue is that if the utilities don’t pay for it, Bonneville Power Administration has to. It is just something that we have been requested to do and it’s not a large charge, $400-$700. I don’t think there is any monumental advantage to us for doing it other than keeping Bonneville Power happy.”

“It makes me fearful that it is somehow an incremental erosion of our sovereignty,” Jungers said, “though I can’t prove that.”

“If we don’t register, BPA will register for us and charge us,” Counsel Tim Hanigan said. “It will be less expensive if we register.”

“That sounds like extortion to me,” Jungers said.

Auditor Erin Wilson reported what she had learned about the Westend pump house that had been built approximately 15 years ago.

“The overall project was a little over a million dollars,” Wilson said. “We had to build new wells, a new pump house and new telemetry and things like that. The biggest chunk of it was engineering.”

The building alone, including the foundation and the bathroom—not the equipment inside, cost $76,341. The equipment involved in water treatment cost $190,952. Engineering and consulting cost the PUD $344,315. Telemetry cost $57,194. There were other costs for legal services, well drilling, PUD labor, site prep, and more.

The project was mostly funded through a $382,300 USDA loan, a $300,000 USDA grant, and a $250,000 county grant.

“The cost of the building was a very small part of the whole project, that’s for sure,” Reid said.

In other news, Wilson shared that the water losses on Puget Island ended the year under 10 percent, while water losses for the western Wahkiakum water system remained at 24 percent.

The next PUD meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 7, at 8:30 a.m. in the PUD meeting room.


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