PUD board discusses Skamokawa water rates
June 20, 2019
The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners met Tuesday morning to listen to reports and award a bid for the Grays River substation project.
Commissioner Dennis Reid had a question about the rates for the Skamokawa water system after being approached by customers.
“One of the concerns is why their rate is set the same as Western Wahkiakum System, whose rate is high because of a heavy debt, and this is a system with no debt whatsoever,” Reid said, “That is hard to understand and to explain.”
“My rationale is that there are about 36 customers down there and in order for it to pay for itself, we need that rate about where it’s at,” Manager Dave Tramblie said. “When we ran the numbers prior to taking over ownership, those numbers, I think they looked like they would match the expense to operate the system.”
“They are paying for the actual time that it takes to maintain that system,” Tramblie added.
Reid said that one customer told him that his rate had risen by $18.
“You have to realize that they’d had free labor,” Tramblie said. “And with the expansion coming, we are going to have the additional expense of chlorination. I don’t anticipate any savings by having an additional handful of customers on that system because our expenses are going to be a little bit higher.”
After an outage earlier this year, questions had arisen about customer notification. In response, Tramblie shared his preliminary findings with the commissioners, which included an outage map that could be accessed through the PUD website, and text or email notification.
The conversation turned to the Grays River substation project.
“I’m fairly confident that we can fund the project from existing reserves,” Tramblie said. “This will put our reserves at what I would consider a minimum. We have been very judicious about our expenditures over the last couple of years, such as postponing scheduled vehicle replacements, and not filling vacated positions. The vacated position will be filled later this year and at some point the vehicles will need to be replaced.”
Tramblie emphasized the need to hire a tree trimming crew for 12 weeks, noting that the PUD has done a great job, but they need to do everything they can to “avoid any incidents.”
“With the fires that happened on the east side, there is a lot of concern about the liability of PUDs , electric companies, privates,” Counsel Tim Hanigan explained.
“With the kind of summers we’re having, you want to reduce fire danger as much as you can,” Reid said.
Tramblie plans to to do pole testing next year. There are about 3,700 in the county. The PUD’s Spill Prevention plan will expire soon, and a new one needs to be drafted. A catch basin needs to be installed around the Cathlamet substation transformer.
“All of these projects, additional labor, BPAs proposed rate increase, and the fact that we have not included any inflationary dollars in our recent budgets will put a strain on our upcoming budget. The good news is that if we can avoid borrowing money for the Grays River project, we won’t have any loan payments,” Tramblie said.
Tramblie has received notice that BPA is proposing a 3.6 percent increase on their transmission rate.
Wanting to do a little more research on the bids that had been received for the Grays River substation project, Tramblie asked for a little more time. The board agreed and decided to recess the meeting. They will reconvene today (Thursday) at 1 p.m. to award the bid for the Grays River substation project.