PUD chafes over broadband awards

 

March 18, 2021



The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday to listen to reports and continue their discussion about the general manager search.

Commissioner Dennis Reid expressed concern about federal money that had been given to outside companies to provide broadband to areas in Skamokawa and on Puget Island.

“That is going to take away our ability to do anything down there,” he said. “If they’ve got funds on a 10 year project, we won’t be able to get funds for that same area.”

Commissioner Gene Healy suggested that the PUD could still seek funding elsewhere, and General Manager Dave Tramblie said he believed it was still in their best interest to pursue grants from the state’s public works board.

“Hopefully they won’t have us tied up for 10 years and then not do anything,” Reid said. “I want to get internet before 10 years.”

Tramblie showed the commissioners a map of Covered Bridge Road that specified where the PUD proposed to replace the water main and electrical conductor during his report and briefed the commissioners on the details of a recent power outage.

“There was a minor incident on Puget Island on Monday when a vehicle took out a three phase switch cabinet,” Tramblie said. “Customers lost power on the Island for about an hour.”

“I heard [the driver] swerved to miss a goose or duck,” Reid said.

Tramblie presented a report that compared information from 2010 and 2020. It showed that there had been an increase of 183 customers in the last 10 years. It also showed that water losses in the Western Wahkiakum Water System had decreased by 14 percent, from 34 percent down to 20 percent in the last 10 years.


“That’s pretty significant,” Tramblie said. “I believe our efforts to replace the PVC pipe with HDPE in our systems will drop that number even further in the next 10 years.”

Commissioner Bob Jungers said that he and some other local businessmen had been considering a project to provide affordable housing in the community, potentially building up to 30 single family residences. He said that he had visited the Town of Cathlamet and learned that it would cost about $13,000 to hook up each unit for sewer and water, which could end up costing them $400,000 just for that portion of the project.


“That’s a deal killer,” Jungers said. "If we can’t get some kind of mitigation on those fees from the town, it’s not going to happen.”

“That’s too bad, that would be a very much needed project in the county,” Commissioner Reid said.

Town Councilman David Olson, who was in attendance by Zoom, offered to discuss the matter further with Jungers.

Commissioners approved an ad requesting resumes for the position being vacated by Tramblie later this year. It will be sent to The Wahkiakum County Eagle, the Washington Public Utility Districts Association, and the Northwest Public Power Association, as they begin their search for a new general manager.

“We are no way discounting any in-house applicants,” Jungers said. “We just feel it is our due diligence and responsibility to explore all avenues for the benefit of the district and its rate payers.”

The commissioners awarded a bid at a baseline price of $149,230 plus sales tax and options, with the total price not to exceed $167,000 to Terex for a service bucket truck.

 

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