Commission Meeting News

PUD commissioners boost fund to help cover the bills for people in need

by Rachel Hansen | Jan 20, 2021

WENATCHEE, WA Chelan PUD commissioners voted Tuesday to double the donations customer-owners have given since March 2020 to Helping Hand, a fund that helps low-income people cover their utility bills (02:45:30 on the board audio).

“I am proud of our community for contributing to this cause,” Commissioner Garry Arseneault said in a board meeting earlier this month. “It speaks to the core of who our community is and the concerns we have as citizens in Chelan County.”  

The $40,565 match will be transferred into the Helping Hand fund from the PUD’s Public Power Benefit program, bringing the total of available aid to more than $128,000. For information on how to apply, visit or call (509) 661-8002.

Earlier this month, PUD staff reported to commissioners that 257 residential customers owed a collective $113,400 in past due balances.

Middle-school teacher Carmen Johnson celebrated the commissioners’ vote Tuesday. She has donated to Helping Hand for several years, and continued supporting the program after she moved out of the county to East Wenatchee last year.

“I work with some of the most at-risk kids, and I know what a difference it makes when they don’t have basic needs met,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “Students don’t come to school ready to learn. Parents can’t parent well. The things I like to give most to are focused on helping families cover the basics, so they can concentrate on the important things in life, like love and learning.”

Ray Bowen -- cofounder of Charlie’s Produce and a longtime property owner in Chelan -- donated $1,000 to Helping Hand last month after learning about it from his Chelan PUD invoice. He came from a lower-middle class background, and still remembers the generosity of those who tipped him 25 cents for carrying their golf bags when he was 10. (“That was a lot of money back then!” he said.)

“I know there are people in Chelan County that are struggling to put food on the table.  And when you have to decide between food and heat, you’re not going to win,” Bowen said. “It’s not about the amount you give, it’s about the giving itself.  If you give what you can, it will make a difference.”

In other news, commissioners:

  • Heard a report about progress on the Service Center (00:27:00)
  • Heard a report about two mobile substations that will help ensure reliability and accommodate new growth into the future (02:14:53)
  • Reviewed PUD goals for 2021 in the District Performance Plan (00:50:00)
  • Heard a recap of outage restoration efforts Jan. 11-12 (02:32:20)

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The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 1. The public is welcome to attend remotely in accordance with the latest guidance from the state Department of Health.

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