Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

PUD board considers Island water source, 2023 budget figures

The Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners heard from Mike Johnson, an engineer from Gray and Osborne, who gave an update on efforts to locate a secondary water source on Puget Island.

Samples were taken from a well on Little Island, and according to the results, Johnson said, treatment would be necessary at that location, including chlorination and filtration using a manganese oxide filter media.

The PUD could choose to move forward and try to find property for a well in that area or they could look elsewhere in hopes of finding a source of water on the island that didn’t need treatment.

According to Johnson’s report, estimated costs include $25,000 for water rights, $150,000 for property acquisition, $300,000 to drill and test, and another $1.1 million for equipment or $2 million if they need equipment and treatment.

General Manager Dan Kay sought direction from the commissioners, and said that he and Auditor Erin Wilson had been trying to find funding, as they considered how to move forward.

“This has been in our water system plan for many iterations,” he said.

Commissioner Dennis Reid encouraged them to seek funding, and Commissioner Bob Jungers wondered if the Town of Cathlamet would have any interest in the project. Commissioner Gene Healy preferred not to speculate, suggesting that staff continue to investigate the matter on all fronts while they try to sort out how to advance.

Auditor Erin Wilson went over the preliminary budget for 2023, which totals $6,170,150.

“There are no rate increases proposed,” she said.

The revenue for the proposed budget includes $330,000 for advanced construction, $31,850 in interest income, and $261,000 for a hoped-for grant to complete a project on Puget Island.

According to a narrative accompanying the proposed budget, “in the past year and one-half the district has realized over $880,000 in advance for construction dollars which is something the district has not seen before. The average for the prior three years was $227,400 per year. Construction requests are still steady but slower than in the past year.”

Capital investments include $250,000 for tree trimming, $177,000 to replace a small bucket truck, $40,000 for Cathlamet substation spill containment, $25,000 for security and cameras, $31,510 for a mapping system, and $39,650 for meeting room updates.

The preliminary budget and the narrative can be viewed on the Wahkiakum PUD website.

Commissioners tried to make sense of a cash reserve policy proposed by staff that suggested a new method for determining how much reserve the PUD should have and what they should do if they go below that amount.

The current policy states that the cash reserve should not go below $750,000. Presently, the PUD's cash balance is more than $2.9 million, according to the preliminary budget narrative.

An example of the proposed method suggested a 60 day buffer for various categories, including operations and management in the amount of $395,147 or power and water costs at $561,006. All told, the example suggested a total minimum cash reserve of $2,318,257.

"We could make it 30 days, we could make it 45 days,” Kay explained.

“You could make it zero,” Healy said. “You can put this in a savings account and take it up to the treasurer’s office and get her to buy stocks and bonds with it and increase that interest income, but that is not what we do here. We are not a financial institution in my judgment, we are a utility.”

“If we were starting from scratch, how would you come up with a number?” Wilson asked him.

Healy said he didn’t know how the PUD settled on $750,000 and agreed that the $2.3 million figure was the most professionally established number that PUD had seen.

“It’s just a methodology, it’s just a first run,” Kay said.

During the managers report, Kay said that there had been several new electric and water hook ups, and they were getting more inquiries.

He said the PUD was still not having any luck with the tree trimming contractor, and that they would be doing some of the work in house, as soon as they found traffic control assistance.

As for continued supply chain issues, Kay said that former General Manager Dave Tramblie had ordered voltage regulators 14 months ago and he had just learned they were in transit, somewhere on a truck headed to the PUD.

Other items are arriving, and Kay told the commissioners that they will likely see some larger invoices come through for items the PUD ordered months ago.

Leak detection continues. Reid noted that a report showed that leaks in the Skamokawa Water System were the highest at 37 percent.

“We are putting in bypass meters and trying to pinpoint that,” Kay said.

The commissioners adopted a resolution approving an interlocal cooperation purchasing agreement with Sourcewell to purchase goods and services before the meeting was adjourned.


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