Okanogan County PUD Commissioners decide not to increase rates

Okanogan County PUD Commissioners decided not to reinstate a revenue increase….

OKANOGAN – With financial pressures still affecting Okanogan County PUD customers during the pandemic, commissioners decided not to reinstate a revenue increase this year. Instead, they approved the first reading of a resolution to tap into the rate stabilization fund to replace the lost revenue.

The commissioners held a special meeting to discuss financial needs before making the decision at their regular meeting Aug. 24. Without the revenue increase, the district needs to make up about $623,000. With $6 million in the rate stabilization fund, the commissioners discussed the alternative plan of accessing those funds.

Commissioners also authorized staff to work towards a bond issuance to move the district’s capital project plan forward.

The conversation will continue at the Sept. 14 meeting. The district is also in its initial stages of budgeting for 2021 and released the upcoming schedule for meetings through the end of the year: Regular meetings at 3 p.m. were set for Oct. 12 and 26, Nov. 9 and 23, and Dec. 7 and 21. Evening budget workshops will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26, Nov. 9 and Nov. 23.

In other business, the board:

• Talked with Don Linnertz of TwispWorks and Fred Feit of Tilson Technologies, both representing the efforts of the Methow Valley Broadband Action Team. They asked the board if the PUD would apply for a grant to extend fiber down Twisp River Road, which is in Okanogan County Electric Cooperative’s electric service territory. The deadline for the grant is Sept. 9 (before the next board meeting).

Their presentation included a map of the area and the expectation that at least 50 percent of residences would connect to services. Feit said other agencies had been approached about providing broadband services, but none were willing to do so.

However, there were concerns about the logistics of moving outside PUD territory to serve OCEC customers with fiber, especially since there are customers within PUD territory that still need service. The quick deadline wouldn’t allow time for the discussions and decisions that would need to be made to make the project work.

Instead, staff and commissioners encouraged the team to continue the conversation and present projects already within PUD territory to be considered for grant applications.

• Approved Resolution 1723 establishing a new pole attachment rate. The district currently has nine customers for this, at a maximum rate of $14.64 per attachment since Aug. 8, 2000. The resolution increases that rate to $23.50 per attachment, calculated according to state law.

• Approved Resolution 1709 modifying the cost of power adjustment (COPA) to be reviewed once per year, comparing cost of power year-to-year.

• Approved a financial policy for the district.

• Approved two resolutions to surplus telecom equipment and two vehicles that are beyond their useful lifespan.