Looking ahead to what financial impacts that COVID-19 may ultimately have on Chelan County PUD customer-owners, commissioners asked staff to keep a close eye on trends and report back often to help them determine whether, what more and when the utility might offer to support the community.
Board members already have waived late payment fees and halted service disconnects until the end of July. Commissioners also delayed putting approved rate increases in place until Dec. 1 and directed Fiber staff to work with service providers to set-up free internet access points at 50-plus locations across the county.
Commissioners urged PUD customers concerned about paying their utility bill to call Customer Relations staff at (509) 661-8002 to discuss payment arrangements. There are federal and customer-supported Helping Hand funds available now, staff said.
Looking ahead, board members agreed that the efforts put in place through the end of July will provide much-needed time to carefully consider next steps. The PUD has seen only a modest increase in customers calling to seek assistance so far. Revenue past due is up from previous years. (At 02:28 on the board meeting audio recording.)
“This is not a short-term problem,” summarized Board President Garry Arseneault. “I agree with my fellow commissioners in not wanting to rush into it at this point. There are advantages in waiting until at least the end of July… (when) we’ll have a better picture of what the need is and it will be more evident on how to address it.
“By not rushing forward …we can look at the issues and with that time come up with new, perhaps more creative approaches.”
Commissioners agreed that if aid is provided it should go to those most in need. They also asked staff to consider how support would mesh with programs being developed for customers carrying the largest “energy burden” as outlined in new state requirements.
Mike Coleman, Fiber and Telecom managing director, reported the good news that the first four internet access points are active at Beehive Grange Hall southwest of Wenatchee; on Albin Drive in Entiat; at Riverside Center in Cashmere; and in the parking lot at the Leavenworth city pool. Signs and online notifications will direct users to the sites offering free 100-megabit to1-gigabit per second internet. (03:48)
General Steve Wright also reported on District support for local healthcare’s pandemic response including public information officer help, aid in organizing and staffing contact tracing and advocating for increased testing.
Public Power Benefit funds are a possible source for all the COVID-19 support costs.
And, senior managers reviewed first quarter results for the District’s annual performance plan. Of the 210 items, about 60 percent were on track with 53 items delayed by the PUD’s COVID-19 response. (00:10)
In other business, commissioners:
- Heard an update from Dan Frazier, Shared Services director and David Lodge, project manager, on next steps for redevelopment of the PUD’s Fifth Street campus. The briefing was based, in part, on the findings of the Collins-Woerman Market Assessment Report, which provides a roadmap for preparing the headquarters property for future mixed-use development. There are no specific commitments for the site at this time. Frazier said that the rest of 2020 will be spent on getting ready to market the property to prospective developers. This will include:
- Creating a parcel plan with supporting request for proposals to develop the parcels;
- Identifying needed utility and infrastructure improvements;
- Establishing design standards;
- Preparing parking and circulation flow for the property;
- Determining the feasibility of a “zero-carbon district.” and
- Preparing a marketing plan for the phased development.
Staff also said that an inter-local agreement will be prepared for continued collaboration between the PUD, City of Wenatchee and Chelan-Douglas Port Authority. (01:22)
- Heard that market conditions resulted in bonds being sold on April 21 to secure savings on financing costs and needed infrastructure. Heather Irelan, lead treasury analyst, said the $133.8 million in low-cost bonds are forecast to save about $1 million a year in financing costs over their term. (03:06)
- Thanked John Sagerser, Engineering and Project Management manager, for the ownership he’s taken in leading the project team for the Rock Island Powerhouse 2 rehabilitation project. The complex project is financially one of the largest projects the District has taken on in the last decade, and is using an alternative procurement (design/build) method. Sagerser was credited for achieving high performance from his team with clear communication, participation and accountability and helping the District improve project planning and procurement by championing the design/build method. “Thank you for your trust in me,” Sagerser said. (00:03)
- May 11 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m., PUD boardroom
- May 13 – Board workshop, 9 a.m., Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Way, Wenatchee
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The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 11, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
Chelan PUD records most commission meetings, and a link to the audio is available on the PUD’s home page at www.chelanpud.org. Find us at Facebook.com/ChelanPUD and follow us on Twitter @ChelanPUD.
Here for you, providing the best for the most for the longest – chelanpud.org