Community responds for broadband survey
PUD addressing Skamokawa water
May 9, 2019
The Wahkiakum PUD Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday. They discussed a possible expansion of the water system in Skamokawa, the broadband survey, and how to handle potential revenue loss due to net generation. They also listened to reports and approved a resolution recognizing May 5-11 as Drinking Water Week.
Commissioners expressed surprise and pleasure at the positive response they had received from the residents who had attended a special meeting on April 25 to discuss a project using grant money to expand the water system in Skamokawa, but Commissioner Dennis Reid suggested that the PUD move forward cautiously.
“I want to make sure that when we start spending that money that the state is still going to pay for it,” Reid said, “but I also don’t want to do something opposite of what we told the people we were going to do.”
Commissioner Bob Jungers sought clarification on a condition of the grant.
“In order to perfect that grant we have to eliminate one Class B water system and in order to do that we have to have at least all but one of participants in one of those systems sign up?” he asked.
“That is exactly what I’m going to put in a letter that I intend to send to the residents in the affected area,” General Manager Dave Tramblie said. “That letter is going to be sent to the Department of Health prior to being sent to the residents to make sure they are in agreement with that and that we have all our ducks in a row, because I totally agree with what you are saying, Dennis. We have to make sure that everybody is on board and that we are upfront about this project before we jump in.”
Reid had some concerns about the broadband survey, noting that in his opinion, the survey asked for too much personal information, causing people to be leery. He said that it had asked for his Social Security number. At a later point in the meeting, he went online and checked again, and shared that it did not ask for the number.
The survey does not ask for a Social Security number. It asks for a name, phone number, email address, and physical address. It also asks for a birth date, but that is optional.
The survey was created by Noanet. It asks for a physical address in order for Noanet and the Wahkiakum PUD to create a map that will allow them to see what areas are unserved and underserved by internet service in the county. Noanet has said that they will not share email addresses with a third party nor will they ever use the address to contact anyone who has completed a survey.
As of Tuesday, 300 people had filled out the survey, according to Commissioner Gene Healy. A link to the survey can be found on the Wahkiakum PUD website.
Counsel Tim Hanigan reported that the governor had signed a bill that increases the penalty of persons convicted of assaulting utility employees while they are working.
Tramblie reported that the Grays River substation rebuild project had gone out to bid.
“I’m aware of a handful of contractors that might be interested,” Tramblie said.
The line crew started a small project in Grays River to replace some old underground wire, which Tramblie described as continued maintenance.
“Everything is going pretty smoothly,” he said. “We’re pretty busy with new connect requests.”
Auditor Erin Wilson brought up net generation, which includes customer with power generating solar panels, and the effect it has on revenue at utilities, which led to a discussion about how Wahkiakum PUD might address the issue in the future.
“Right now we have about a dozen net generation customers but there is loss of revenue there. We still have to read those meters and maintain everything,” Wilson said.
“A good percentage of the PUDs and probably other utilities have chosen to increase their basic monthly fee as a way to offset that,” Tramblie said. “When I do the rough numbers you are looking at $50-55 per connection to maintain the service and we charge $20.”
“Some PUDs have raised the base rate and lowered the usage rate,” Reid said
Healy asked Wilson to do an analysis of the numbers that would raise the base fee and lower the power rate in such a way that would not raise bills.
“This all needs to be revenue neutral,” he said.
Jungers was concerned that people with the lower bills, determined by lower rates of consumption, might end up paying more while customers with higher consumption rates would be paying less.
“That might appear disparate to the public because it is usually the people who have to watch their nickels that keep their power bill as low as possible with the lowest consumption. It is going to remove from them a certain discretionary power to control their own power bill,” Jungers said.
“A lot of utilities have a separate flat rate for businesses as opposed to residential, so those higher consumers are captured that way,” Tramblie replied.
The discussion will continue.