Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday decided that combining Wenatchee-area customer and utility operations at a new location in Olds Station offers the best value and customer service for the most people over the next 50 to 100 years.
Board members unanimously approved the staff proposal to consolidate operations that are now at several sites in town and build a combined facility on 19 acres of land in north Wenatchee. (At 02:20 on the board audio recording)
“I really applaud the process that got us to this decision,” said Board President Garry Arseneault. “With most of our meters now north and west of Olds Station, downtown Wenatchee is no longer the center of our service area. We need to be in the physical location that allows us to gain efficiency. We would be fiscally irresponsible not to do it.”
Commissioner Steve McKenna said he appreciated, “the community coming out to listen and to learn … it’s really quite unique.” He added that the business case for moving was compelling, which allowed him to vote for it with confidence.
Commissioner Dennis Bolz said he appreciated the community’s willingness to grow along with the PUD in exploring building options. “This provides an opportunity for us to serve our ratepayers better. It is a legacy opportunity in terms of service.”
Commissioner Randy Smith thanked staff for the detailed business case that is a strong answer for customers who asked if building the new service center would raise rates. “I can look anyone who asks me that in the eye … and say we can’t promise no rate increases ever, but this decision means less pressure on rates.”
The decision comes after four years of study that grew out of strategic planning. It covered the financial analysis of alternatives including staying put, and conversations with customer-owners. More than 800 people commented on the proposal.
With the decision to move made, PUD staff will now work on detailed design and on selecting a general contractor/construction manager (GC/CM).
Dan Frazier, Shared Services director, said staff will return to the board later this year to ask for approval of the GC/CM and again in 2020 for final approval of a maximum construction price.
Staff also will keep working with the community to address comments about impacts of the move on downtown Wenatchee and on traffic, and suggestions on design and public access at the new location.
Chelan PUD is collaborating with the city of Wenatchee, Port of Chelan County and a range of downtown stakeholders, including Music Theatre of Wenatchee, to start planning for the future of the PUD’s Fifth Street campus, Frazier said.
In other business, commissioners:
- Reviewed a comprehensive proposal for increasing long-term value at Rocky Reach Discovery Center. Casey Hall, project manager, said taking a long-term view in planning revealed areas needing focus so the 1960s-era center will be viable over the next 50 years. A new entry, café improvements and display space are proposed to maximize exhibits that will be moved from the powerhouse museum and presented with a new, interactive storyline. Commissioners will be asked to approve adding $876,000 to the project at the April 29 meeting. Funds for the total proposal of $5.8 million would come from a mix of Public Power Benefit, capital and operations and maintenance budgets. (00:38)
- Received an update on the new Customer Information System (CIS) installation. Mark O’Bryan, project manager, said critical software testing is necessary to stay on track for “going live” this fall. He said staff is considering how best to support the hours needed for testing, which could include limited times when customer calls may go to voicemail for later response. (00:55)
- Approved a staff recommendation to replace instead of repair two Rock Island Dam spillway hoists. Commissioners OK’d advertising for bids and set a new capital budget of $3.2 million for the project. (01:10)
- Praised the effort by two employees to create supported work opportunities for people with different abilities. Sharon Turcotte, Office Services manager, and Ruth Erwert, Recruiting manager, took personal ownership to find a firm that offers coaching support for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities to learn duties and be successful in PUD jobs. And, the pair organized training for PUD coworkers on how to support those new employees. (00:18)
- Received an update on the level of Lake Chelan. This year’s Lake Chelan Basin runoff forecast is 70 percent of normal. Janet Jaspers, energy trading and planning manager, said Chelan Hydro generation is being reduced this spring to make sure the lake is full by July 1. (02:22)
- Heard follow-up from General Manager Steve Wright on the clean energy agreement with Microsoft announced last week. Wright said the news was warmly received by environmental leaders and by other businesses seeking to increase their carbon-free power supply. Chelan County commissioners also sent a statement of support. (01:50)
- April 20 – Earth Day celebrations, Chelan and Wenatchee
- April 29 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m. (rescheduled)
- May 13 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m. (rescheduled)
- May 25 – Kids Fest, 10 a.m., Walla Walla Point Park
The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 29, 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