PUD addresses Westend water comments; progress on broadband
July 9, 2020
The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday to talk about broadband infrastructure, financial consolidation, recent letters in the local newspaper, and to pass a resolution that provides information on assistance to ratepayers.
Commissioner Dennis Reid responded to recent letters to the editor in The Wahkiakum County Eagle regarding the Skamokawa Water Consolidation project.
“These two letters, they were both upset that we were doing Skamokawa and not Deep River,” Reid said. “We’ve been trying hard to find funding for [Deep River]. When we got the notice that Ecology wanted us to do the Skamokawa project, we weren’t going to turn the money down. Personally, I was upset about it in the beginning, because we had been trying so hard to get these people in Deep River hooked up and then all the sudden we get all the money in the world to do Skamokawa. We’re not going to turn it down, because those people need help as well to have potable water.”
Reid took issue with another comment in one of the letters, which said the project was adding more debt to the Western Wahkiakum Water System.
“We are not adding more debt to the Western Wahkiakum Water System because the Skamokawa expansion and upgrade is all being funded by a grant from the State of Washington,” Reid said.
“One of the planning commission members stated that the planning commission is an advisory board that looks at all aspects of proposed plans in the county and makes a recommendation to the county commissioners,” Reid continued. “I think that from my understanding that is way overstepping what they were to do on this project. It was just a matter of them making an advisory comment to the commissioners on any effect this project would have on the shoreline. And the only thing affecting the shoreline was our waterline that would be going over the bridge on Brooks Slough, where there are already two waterlines.”
Reid also noted that the press had been reporting that this project was going to happen for a year, and that there had been plenty of time for people to come to the meetings and ask questions, but no one had done so.
General Manager Dave Tramblie reported that the PUD had completed a project on Tuesday to replace a section of four inch concrete asbestos pipe with six inch HDPE on East Birnie Slough Road.
“We’ve been upgrading all the pipe on the island,” Tramblie said. “I think we only have 1,300 feet of that concrete asbestos pipe left in the system. Twenty years ago, I think we had close to 20,000 feet.”
In the next couple weeks, the PUD will be working in the Westend, to replace 3,500 feet of PVC with HDPE between Fossil Creek Road and Satterlund Road. Tree trimming is planned to begin next Tuesday on SR 4 between Cathlamet and Nassa Point, and the bid opens for the Skamokawa water system project this Thursday.
Steve Carson, who is consulting on the broadband project for the PUD, gave an update on the project’s status. Recently, Noanet, who conducted a broadband feasibility study for the PUD, paid for by a grant from the Community Economic Revitalization Board, shared their findings with PUD commissioners and members of the local broadband committee.
Noanet determined that it would cost $10,372,089.35 for the PUD to build a broadband infrastructure that would bring high speed internet capability to every home on the east side of Wahkiakum County.
“We’ve got a plan,” Carson said. “It’s a big plan, and it’s a great starting place. We may need to pare that down depending on how much financing we are able to find, how many grants we are able to acquire in the next few months. Honestly, we’ve got about six months before we are going to see some of that money, potentially, come our way. The deadlines to get started on these grants is fast approaching.”
Carson said that they were looking at three grants, which could potentially add up to as much as $13 million, and he suggested that the PUD continue their partnership with Noanet, who had a lot of experience in writing grant applications.
“It might be more efficient to use their resources, as opposed to trying to do it in house,” he said.
With the deadline for the first phase of one grant application coming in a week, Commissioner Bob Jungers asked what was needed to move forward.
“I think we are going to need the acknowledgement that there are going to be some additional resources required, dollars,” Tramblie said, adding that he would know more by the next meeting.
Talk turned to the consolidation of the PUD’s financial systems.
“When [the auditor] reports the funds for the end of the year, it will all be one entity, one group. It allows us the flexibility to support all of our functions as one,” Tramblie said.
Commissioner Gene Healy suggested that they have some processes in place that encourage the PUD to know where their dollars were going, for transparency on how funds were being used between operating units.
“Internally, nothing will change,” Auditor Erin Wilson said. “The water systems will still be tracked separately for revenue and expenses, any costs that need to be allocated across the systems will be allocated, the broadband will be a part of the electric system.”
A resolution to consolidate the financial systems will be drafted for approval at the next meeting.
The commissioners adopted a resolution approving the district’s covid-19 customer support program list and authorizing public display on the district’s website pursuant to Washington Gubernatorial Proclamation 20 -23.5
“This basically tells rate payers where assistance can be found,” Reid said.