Chelan County PUD commissioners on Monday spent considerable time talking about the implications of the coronavirus crisis for the District and directed staff to take the following actions:
- Prepare a resolution to postpone the adopted rate increase that was scheduled to go into effect on June 1 for action at the next board meeting on April 13
- Prepare to discuss on April 13 extending no shutoffs of utility service and waiving of late fees past April 27
- Consider whether the PUD can do more to support residential and small business customers who are being negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis
“We need to do our part to help our community during a time of need, where we can under our authority,” said Commissioner Randy Smith.
Board members also heard about the districtwide impacts that the coronavirus is having on the ability to accomplish its 2020 Performance Plan. Those include: (At 00:35 on the board meeting audio recording.)
- All the PUD employees who can are working remotely, far exceeding the system design and information technology adjustments have been made to allow productive engagement by staff working remotely
- Work practices have been changed to minimize the risk of work needing to be performed without adequate social distancing
- Provisions have been made to ensure reliable electric, internet, water and wastewater service along with meeting all environmental and regulatory requirements
- An increasing number of customer calls are being answered
Those actions mean construction projects are slowed, some maintenance is being deferred and work is being restructured to allow for social distancing. For the roughly 50 percent of meters not read by drive-by mechanism, bills will be determined on an estimated basis until meter readers can safely get back in the field.
“We are seeking to meet our twin goals of protecting employee and public health while assuring reliable utility services will be maintained,” said General Manager Steve Wright. Added Wright, “Our District plan for work to be accomplished in 2020 has taken some pretty heavy body blows.”
In other business, commissioners:
- Heard a report that has been in the works for months seeking to better understand how well the District’s program for low income customers serves the need. Commissioners noted the information will be very useful as they consider actions to aid customer-owners during the next months. (00:13)
- Reviewed new criteria for the Public Power Benefit program called for in the 2020-2024 strategic plan, acknowledging that the District is in good financial health. Using the new criteria, the board agreed to use a $6-million-per-year input for financial forecasts through 2024 and recognized that Public Power Benefit dollars could be used to help address the difficult economic times being faced by customer-owners due to the coronavirus crisis, but only consistent with statutory authority. (02:30)
- Continuing to move forward to pursue the opportunity for historically low financing costs despite the turmoil in the financial markets, commissioners authorized the sale of bonds for financing as long as net present value savings can be created for the District’s customer-owners. Direction from the board doesn’t require the sale of bonds, but offers the ability to issue bonds if there is a window of opportunity. Beginning next week, local residents interested in purchasing bonds will be able to find information on the District website’s Finances page about how they can submit orders through a local broker selling group. (02:19)
- April 13 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m., PUD boardroom
- April 14 – Tri-Commission meeting, 1 a.m., Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Way, Wenatchee
- April 27, Commission meeting, 10 a.m., PUD boardroom
* * *
The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 13, 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