PUD: Keeping up with inflation
November 14, 2019
The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners held rate and budget hearings and listened to reports on Tuesday.
A $7 increase in the electric base rate for every customer and a two percent rate increase on the Western Wahkiakum Water System has been proposed. There will be no change for the Skamokawa Water System or the Puget Island Water System.
“I think the increase being on the base fee for the electric is a good way to go, because we need to get more on to the base fee and off of the usage,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said during the rate hearing. “I think people are going to see less of an impact on their pocket book especially during the winter months when there is a lot of power being used for heat. I hate to see increases on the Western Wahkiakum Water System, but it’s necessary. It has to be done. You hear rate increase, but it’s really not much.”
“We’re just keeping up with inflation,” General Manager Dave Tramblie said.
“Increasing the base rate is a way of distributing the costs of actually maintaining and operating the system more evenly throughout for the people who are benefiting from the system,” Commissioner Bob Jungers added.
During the budget hearing, Commissioner Gene Healy asked about tree trimming. $120,000 had been set aside under capital investment in the Electric System budget for the work to be contracted out. Healy wondered if more could be done by the PUD crew.
Some discussion followed.
“I think the short answer to your question is yes,” Tramblie said. “My thought on tree trimming was to go out to bid on a cost plus basis, where they give me a rate for various pieces of equipment and number of men and it would be on a daily basis or weekly basis and that would give us the flexibility to extend or shorten the amount of time.”
Cathlamet Town Councilman David Olson was in attendance and spoke to the board speculatively about a possible partnership with the town to install an electric vehicle charging station and public wi-fi node at the Butler Street property.
The board expressed a willingness to participate.
“It would be my recommendation that if you get positive feedback from your cohorts down there,” Healy said, “then let’s get serious about discussing what’s involved.”
Tramblie gave an update on the broadband project, noting that he had concerns that some of the areas that they were looking at were being built by another service provider right now.
“The reality is that the competitors to this system take all the low hanging fruit,” Healy said. “The original objective was to get broadband for everybody, right? And how that happens makes no difference to me.”
“The system [the competitor] is building out might not be nearly as robust as what we were planning,” Jungers said.
“It’s not,” Healy said.
“I think if we get this done and we build this better system, these guys that are picking the low hanging fruit are going to lose their customers because they are going to want to hook up to the better system,” Reid said.
Tramblie said he believed it was time to bring in a grant writer for the broadband project, which the commissioners supported.