PUD wrestles with rates for 2018 budget, substation repairs
October 5, 2017
After a report from General Manager Dave Tramblie, the preliminary budget for 2018 became the primary focus at the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday. Two rate hikes were proposed with the new budget, but only one was met with enthusiasm.
Auditor Erin Wilson said that she and Tramblie were proposing a $5 raise to the base fee for electric customers.
“I really rationalize that on the perspective that even if you don’t use any water, or you don’t use any electricity,” Tramblie said, “to have it available at your house it still costs X amount of dollars every month.”
“I think that’s a good way to deal with it,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said, “to raise that base because of things that are happening in the industry. We need to protect that base.”
However, when Wilson suggested an increase in consumption rates from .0254/unit to .029/unit for customers on the Western Wahkiakum Water System, Commissioners Gene Healy and Reid expressed concerns.
Wilson said that she and Tramblie wanted to raise the rate in order to try to pay off a loan on the system in 10 years instead of 15. But even without the raise in rates, the system, according to the preliminary budget, would add to reserves that year.
“Without a rate increase, we would still be projecting to be putting something into reserves?” Reid asked. “I don’t think we should have the rate increase.”
“I don’t either,” Healy said.
Tramblie reported that the last week had been a bit of a rollercoaster.
“We had all the emotions here from ecstatic to ‘I can’t believe that happened,’’’ Tramblie said. “The week started off great. We connected the intertie, it went off without a hitch. Everything worked perfect.”
The contractor showed up and repairs were made at the Grays River substation, but when the crew returned the next day, they discovered that they had lost a lot of nitrogen, which meant the repairs had not worked.
“We went to Plan B,” Tramblie said. “During that time, a foreign object was dropped into the transformer itself.”
Tramblie explained that there were thousands of gallons of oil in the transformer and the foreign object, which had to be removed, could not be seen. The contractor removed approximately 1,000 gallons and the object was found on top of the core.
This meant that the project took a little longer than expected, and the contractor they had hired had to work late on Wednesday and Thursday night.
“The contractor is going to cost a bit more,” Tramblie said.
Because of the delay, they were not able to reenergize the substation on Friday as they had hoped.
“When you take oil out and put it back in,” Tramblie explained, “it must sit for 72 hours to dissipate potential bubbles.”
Still, he had some good news.
“That transformer is in pretty good working order,” Tramblie said. “Pacific PUD has been great to work with.”
They were planning to reenergize on Tuesday, but they were still losing nitrogen on Monday. Tramblie said they would go ahead as planned and keep an eye on it.
In other news, Tramblie reported that Puget Island water consumption had dropped this last weekend to 8,650 cubic feet a day.
“The early morning readings were the lowest I’ve ever seen,” Tramblie said. “Those numbers indicated that we don’t have any large leaks.”
He also said that they were making upgrades to the reservoir per the Department of Health’s recommendations. Upgrades included screens for the top.
Wilson reported that there was currently $414 in the Residential Energy Assistance Program fund.
“Hopefully that will get built back up before winter comes,” she said.
An audit was expected to begin on Wednesday.
The next PUD meeting is scheduled for October 17, at 8:30 a.m. in the PUD meeting room.