Commissioners want to confirm assumptions used to develop strategic proposal
Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday agreed to have staff take the next steps in developing a long-term view by confirming concepts and assumptions used to develop the proposed strategic facilities plan.
Commissioners asked for staff to move forward with detailed engineering, design and financing analysis. No decision has been made to move or build any particular facility. In the next 60-90 days, staff will be looking into greater detail at costs, resources, land availability, scheduling and even greater community collaboration and communications. Recommendations to build any specific facilities will come back to PUD commissioners for approval.
Board members weighed public comment in seeking refinement of the recommendations on how to enhance the customer experience while producing long-term benefits for PUD customer-owners through increased employee productivity and reduced operation and maintenance costs.
Options developed so far in a nearly two-year look at PUD facilities, and endorsed by a customer advisory group, call for:
- Building a new, combined headquarters and operations center at a location north of the Wenatchee River and selling existing PUD properties.
- Providing a combination of new construction and renovated structures at Rock Island and Rocky Reach Dams.
Commissioners also heard from Linda Haglund, Wenatchee Downtown Association executive director. She conveyed concern from small business members in downtown about the impact of PUD business and utility operations moving away. Collaboration will be very important, Haglund said, on future plans for facilities the PUD may leave, as well as where a new combined facility might be headed.
“We embrace that message,” said General Manager Steve Wright, “And, we will make sure we have a good community conversation about where we might go and what might happen here.”
Commissioners set up a reserve fund in anticipating of paying for future facilities. With two commissioners away, board members deferred the decision on how much to put in the fund until a meeting when all commissioners could discuss an amount.
In other business Monday, commissioners:
- Heard that customers are invited to take charge of their power and let the PUD know what they think about new two-way digital meters. Customer Service Director Andrew Wendell and Communications Manager Suzanne Hartman, said community meetings will be held around the county this month where customers can see the new advanced meters and ask questions about the technology. PUD staff are also looking to talk with service clubs and community groups The goal is to upgrade meters to provide customers with self-service “dashboard” capability to manage their account, with features offered online now by many other utilities. The meetings start on Saturday, April 8 at Lake Wenatchee, in Plain and a bilingual/bicultural meeting in Wenatchee.
- Reviewed results of a study on using wireless technology to provide access to broadband in areas of the county deemed too expensive to reach with PUD fiber. Robert Shane, Fiber and Telecom director, said a test of wireless technology in Manson and study of its possible use in the Entiat Valley concluded wireless is not a cost-effective alternative to fiber. Wireless doesn’t offer the quality or level of service of fiber and is not a cost-effective way to reach the remaining 8 percent to 10 percent of the county. Shane said staff will take another look at wireless in five years, or when new technology arises.
- Heard the significant decision by the HCP Coordinating Committee for the Habitat Conservation Plans that spring Chinook survival past Rocky Reach and Rock Island dams can be used as a marker for coho salmon survival as well. Natural Resources Director Keith Truscott said great collaboration among committee members in reviewing and analyzing spring Chinook survival data led to the agreement. The findings will be reviewed at the next 10-year “check-ins” in 2020 and 2021 for each dam on meeting goals in the 50-year fish protection plans.
- Congratulated Truscott and his wife, Carla, Energy Resources conservation specialist, on their joint retirement at the end of the week. Together, the couple has served PUD customer-owners for 70 years.
- Rescheduled three commission meetings to allow board members to attend industry meetings. They moved:
- June 19 to June 26
- July 3 to July 10
- July 17 to July 24
- April 8-13 – Advanced Metering community meetings.
- April 15 – Earth Day Festival, Riverwalk Park, Chelan
- April 17 – Board meeting, 10 a.m. Wenatchee boardroom
- April 19 – Wenatchee Learns “Careers After School” program visits PUD Fleet Services
- April 23 – Earth Day Fair, Lions Club Park, Leavenworth, Noon – 4 p.m.
- April 27-May 7 – Washington State Apple Blossom Festival, Wenatchee