PUD, county combine to support customers
January 21, 2021
The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners on Tuesday heard reports, talked about energy assistance and succession planning, and adopted a resolution to enter into an interlocal agreement with Wahkiakum County that would provide $10,000 to customers who are struggling to pay their bills because of the pandemic.
“We were able to work through the little storm last week pretty quickly,” General Manager Dave Tramblie said during his report. “In 12 hours we had everybody but two people back on. Our system held up quite well for the winds we had. I think that is a testimony to our tree trimming. I think the guys did a great job getting the power back on in conditions that were sketchy.”
Tramblie noted that the transformers that he had ordered in October would be delivered on Tuesday. They had been delayed because of hurricanes last summer. He also said that the fire hydrants for Skamokawa have arrived and should be installed this week.
Auditor Erin Wilson gave an update on the Residential Energy Assistance Program.
She said she had spoken with the person at Wahkiakum Health and Human Services who coordinates the program, who had told her that there had been increasing requests for REAP funds.
“They are just not available,” Wilson said. “This morning, we currently have $158 available. [The coordinator] is assisting customers to sign up for LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) funds. Hopefully a lot of the needs will be met with the LIHEAP funds, but it is a slow process, they have a lot of people to process.”
Last year, customers pledged $4,006 to REAP, which Wilson believed to be a 35-40 percent increase over the three years prior. Last month alone, the PUD had $1,754 in pledges,
“We went through a lot of REAP dollars last month,” Wilson added.
The commissioners adopted a resolution to approve an interlocal agreement with Wahkiakum County. The county will provide $10,000 to support and relieve distressed residents in the county who are unable to pay utility bills because of the covid-19 pandemic and the co-occurring economic recession. The PUD has been charged with distributing the dollars to qualified recipients through REAP or another assistance program created or designated by the PUD.
“This is county funds,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said, “not the CARES Act funds.”
The PUD will be establishing the criteria for the dispersion of the funds.
“Accepting these funds, with it comes the responsibility of making sure we disperse them in the best interests of our customer base,” Commissioner Gene Healy said.
The commissioners briefly discussed the process for succession planning, which was set in motion following Tramblie’s announcement two weeks ago that he would be retiring this year.