Wahkiakum PUD pulls back on projects
April 9, 2020
The Wahkiakum PUD Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday to discuss business, with some taking advantage of Zoom to attend remotely.
General Manager Dave Tramblie reported that he had decided to delay bids for tree trimming, a pole testing project, and possibly the Skamokawa Water Expansion project because of the current health emergency.
The permits for the Skamokawa Water Expansion project are a few weeks out, he said. They will wait till that time to determine whether it would “be prudent to go out for bid or wait for this emergency to be over.”
Tramblie told the commissioners that staff have changed the language on disconnect notices. According to a press release in The Wahkiakum Eagle on March 26, the PUD “made the decision to suspend late fees and disconnects for non-payment until further notice. Payment will still be due at all times, therefore they strongly encourage customers who are or anticipate experiencing hardships to contact them as soon as possible in order to avoid accruing large debts. Payment assistance programs or payment arrangements may be available to you.”
Commissioner Bob Jungers asked if the PUD would still be doing service connects and Tramblie answered in the affirmative, but noted that new construction might be a little different.
Tramblie said he found an added benefit to their project to install an automatic meter reading system countywide: social distancing.
“Who could foresee, but you are absolutely correct,” Jungers said.
Tramblie reported that the PUD had gone six weeks without an electrical system outage, barring an issue in March that was likely a customer equipment issue.
“All of our efforts in tree trimming, etc., have paid off, and this is a perfect time not to have outages,” Tramblie said.
Commissioners authorized the general manager to move forward with a request for quotes for broadband consultation services.
“We’ve been talking about hiring someone who has experience in the broadband/fiber industry that might help us to expand broadband in this community,” Tramblie said. “I think it might be a good direction for us to go, to give us some feedback from industry experts.”
“It seems like a good idea, obviously we are newcomers and don’t have a lot of experience in this and if we can learn something and help our community I think it’s a good thing to do,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said.
Steve Carson, who provides internet service in Skamokawa responded, sharing that he had seen a 120 percent increase in internet use since Washington residents had been told to stay at home.
“It is now more critical than ever and highlights the need,” Carson said. “People are working at home. It is keeping some people alive and afloat. It is now more than ever evident that internet is a critical service that people need.”