PUD board spotlights best value for the most people for the longest time
Information released by Chelan County PUD
What will it take for Chelan County PUD to make sure it provides the best value for the most people for the longest time? At their last board meeting, Chelan County PUD commissioners considered the question and got a sneak preview at the issues coming up in business plans for 2020-2024.
Board members affirmed updates to the PUD’s mission and vision. The new Mission Statement puts “enhance the quality of life in Chelan County” front and center. The vision is now a “Vision/Challenge” Statement: “In a rapidly changing utility environment, we will provide: The best value for the most people for the longest time.”
General Manager Steve Wright said external strategic planning provides feedback from customer-owners on “big picture topics.” Now, senior managers are using the community response and mission and vision/challenge statements to address all the work across the PUD.
Tracy Yount, External Affairs director, reported strategic planning survey answers came in from nearly 2,700 customer-owners. Those responding sent back 3,600-plus individual comments. PUD staffers are reading and summarizing each one.
Early trends show customer preference for more frequent, smaller electric rate increases (if needed) to balance the risk of unpredictable wholesale market returns; support for early environmental and recreation investments at Rock Island Dam before relicensing to secure a longer license; and for water, wastewater and fiber services to be more self-sustainable, said Neil Neroutsos, Communications manager. The survey also found support for a modest level of investment in economic development.
Looking ahead, Wright offered a view of “best value” that includes maintaining high marks for customer satisfaction, finances, the fiber network and compliance. Given the current strong financial position, he said staff is assessing what it would take to move the PUD’s hydro capability, retail service reliability and safety into top-tier rankings, plus higher ranking for PUD technology use
Five-year business plans, due in October, will include the assessment.
“This is as interesting as any presentation we’ve received from you,” said Commissioner Randy Smith. “We’re at one of those moments in time that don’t come along often.”
Commissioner Dennis Bolz agreed. “We’re at a legacy moment, where we have the financial and human resources to move this utility forward.”
In other business, commissioners:
- Were briefed by David Lodge, project manager for the Service Center and Fifth Street Redevelopment, on the status of the projects. Commissioners voted to accept the recommendation to select Absher Construction of Puyallup as the General Contractor/Construction Manager (GC/CM) under the provisions of the publicly bid request for proposal. Lodge said Service Center architect, TCF of Tacoma, continues working with employees on the layout and design of spaces in the new building. Staff is putting together a process for gathering community input for the Service Center’s public lobby. One idea is to use a theme of how water is vital to all of us and connects us in so many ways. Lodge also briefed commissioners on an all-day visioning workshop held June 21 at Pybus Market with the consultant team CollinsWoerman hired by Port of Chelan County, City of Wenatchee and the PUD. Thirty community members joined the workshop to talk about shared values, the kinds of features and activities that would be most desirable on this prime, 7.5-acre piece of real estate that is a gateway to downtown Wenatchee and what the challenges may be. Lodge said workshop participants wanted to see a welcoming, vibrant and attractive use – with lots of open space – for the redevelopment. Lodge added that the consultant team will come back in the fall with options and opportunities for the whole community to weigh in on proposed recommendations at an open house.
- Thanked engineers Wenbo Jia and Mike Lawson for taking personal ownership by quickly and thoroughly gathering and summarizing information needed to restore operation of a Rocky Reach unit after machinery failed.
- Reviewed electric load growth so far this year and ongoing work to meet demand. Six months into the year, Chad Rissman, Distribution asset director, said Chelan PUD is on pace to complete 1,000 electric service connections, the most in PUD history.
- Received an update on plans to let guests and the local and regional community know about changes coming for Rocky Reach Discovery Center. Outreach will encourage people to come to see their favorite exhibits this summer before the center closes for extensive remodeling this fall. The center will reopen in May 2021.