Property agreement could pave the way for PUD operations and service center consolidation
Chelan PUD and the Port of Chelan County have tentatively agreed to a purchase by the PUD of Port-owned land north of the Wenatchee River Bridge and a sale of PUD ownership interests in the Confluence Technology Center (CTC) to the Port. The agreement provides a path for implementation of the PUD’s strategic facilities plan designed to reduce costs and improve customer service across the county. It also would enhance the Port’s ability to manage its CTC assets. Public comment will be taken on the agreement before the transaction is brought before the respective Commissions for approval.
Discussions between the Port of Chelan County and Chelan PUD began in late 2017 for purchase by the PUD of approximately 19 acres in Olds Station near the CTC (see map below). The property agreement includes three parcels of land owned by the Port to be purchased by the PUD, Port purchase and PUD leaseback of the PUD’s current two CTC units and a long-term lease by the PUD for other Port facilities in Olds Station.
After an extensive facilities assessment in 2016-17, the PUD concluded that a consolidation of PUD facilities in the Olds Station area would improve efficiency, reduce costs over the long run, and reduce the average PUD response time for outages. The tentative agreement is a step toward realizing these opportunities.
The agreement also establishes a commitment for the Port and PUD to collaborate with the City of Wenatchee on redevelopment options for the existing PUD headquarters complex at Fifth Street and N. Wenatchee Avenue. The three entities will look to redevelopment experts to help define alternative visions, and the PUD would commit to establishing a revolving redevelopment fund to prepare the building assets to support alternative visions. That process will include downtown Wenatchee business interests and other stakeholders. The terms of the agreement provide the Port an opportunity to purchase the current PUD headquarters site and/or Hawley Street properties at market value.
“The Port believes this agreement is a win for Chelan County in general, including the citizen owners of the PUD and Port, the City of Wenatchee and its downtown business community,” stated Pat Jones, Port of Chelan County executive director. “This helps advance the Port’s strategic plan by putting vacant property to good use by the PUD. It provides the Port the opportunity to maximize the community benefit of the CTC, including the Video Conference Center, and allows us to develop new facilities in other parts of the county. And we believe that with the city, Port, and PUD together, coordinated redevelopment planning will enhance the future of downtown Wenatchee.”
“Providing the best possible customer service and value to our customer-owners is a cornerstone of our strategic plan,” adds Steve Wright, Chelan PUD general manager. “Current operations have our field people who are on the frontline of customer service, and the materials they need to do their jobs, moving daily in inefficient ways. Moreover, the status quo patchwork of buildings that has evolved over decades on Fifth Street and at Hawley Street would require substantial and not cost-effective investments to meet customer needs efficiently. Moving forward with this property agreement also provides real opportunity for an increasingly vibrant downtown core.”
“We are looking forward to working with the PUD and the Port on the next use for the PUD headquarters building,” added Mayor Frank Kuntz. “We will be part of the study into what’s next at that location. There is tremendous potential for development that can help to further catalyze an enhanced downtown core.”
A potential move to the Olds Station property would consolidate operations currently located on Hawley Street and at the headquarters campus. A new, consolidated facility would mean customer interactions with the PUD will be easier to navigate, whether it’s to pay a utility bill, receive help on energy efficiency plans or to request permits and new services. It also will reduce average service and outage response time in the county. Currently approximately 70 percent of PUD truck rolls from the Wenatchee headquarters go north over the Wenatchee River Bridge.
Under the tentative agreement, the PUD also would lease space from the Port in Olds Station in preparing for and conducting construction and relocation of PUD operations.
The PUD set up an advisory committee more than a year ago to receive input and guidance on its strategic facilities planning efforts. That group has helped get the PUD to this point. With this proposed agreement, the PUD will reengage that group and begin a broader community outreach process. Before the transaction is final, each entity will provide complete details within the agreement and provide an opportunity for public comment.
The Port and PUD hope to close the transactions by the end of the year. The community will have an opportunity for getting involved with design options for the potential new PUD headquarters complex this fall. More information is available on the PUD’s website www.chelanpud.org/PUD-facilities.