Okanogan PUD discusses rates, costs

OKANOGAN - Okanogan County PUD commissioners continued their discussions regarding rates and costs at their Feb. 24 meeting, presenting proposed rate changes that could be effective April 1.
The district has worked with FCS Group on a cost of service analysis for all rate classes (residential, industrial, etc.) to determine the actual costs of providing services to each class. Some were determined to be recovering less than their costs, so those classes could see rate increases higher than others to move to a more equitable structure.
The proposed rate changes reflect an overall 2 percent revenue increase for the district, driven largely by the district’s need to replace aging infrastructure. Overall increases proposed per class (averages are not easily factored in all classes):
• Residential: 2.9 percent increase (average of $2.50 per month)
• Small general service: 1.8 percent increase, (average of $3.30 per month)
• Large general service: 0.5 percent increase, (average of $16.42 per month)
• Irrigation: 1.5 percent increase (average of $7.18 per month)
• Industrial: 0.5 percent increase
• Frost control: 10 percent increase
• Area lighting: 2 percent increase
• Street lighting: 2 percent increase
This proposed increase affects base charges, energy charges and, where applicable, demand charges to reach the overall percentage increase. The last rate increase was April 1, 2019.
The cost of power adjustment, usually indicated on a separate line from the kilowatt-hour energy charge, will be folded into the energy charge, currently at $.00600 per kWh, which could make the rate increase look higher, but is actually just a change in designation.
More details on the proposed rate changes are available on the district’s website.
Commissioners discussed the proposed rates at a March 2 special meeting at 6 p.m. at the district’s Okanogan headquarters building. The discussion will continue at the March 9 regular meeting of the board at 3 p.m.
In other business, the board:
    •    • Approved second reading of the district’s wage and salary program, which would help budgeting processes for 2021 if approved. Staff analyzed comparable market wages and salaries, and proposed adjustments to the policy that would allow non-union staff to move toward their established salary midpoint depending on their performance. Commissioners will discuss the resolution again at their next meeting.

• Authorized General Manager Steve Taylor to initiate negotiations with Gebbers Farms regarding the district’s purchase of the Chicken Creek substation. Construction Design Manager Allen Allie said the purchase could help the district support an already heavy load in the Brewster area, plus allow for growth. The district has had to turn down requests for services in the area because there is not enough infrastructure to support the projects. Gebbers built the substation, and approached the district about purchasing it. Staff have looked into some initial estimates, but do not yet have solid numbers on cost.
• Heard from Customer Service Supervisor Mindy Morris that the district’s Project Help assisted 26 households last year with $4,790. The program is funded by ratepayer donations, facilitated by Community Action, to help those in a financial crisis to pay utility bills. Morris also said that the district began the new Call Capture program last month, which calls those scheduled for disconnection and reminds customers to pay their bills; the district has seen an 80 percent reduction in disconnects since the program was implemented.
• Heard from Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg that an amendment to the Wells Dam power sales agreement will be forthcoming, which would free up some flexibility for the district while maintaining the Canadian entitlement portion of the Wells Project in a different way. It would cost the district about $8,000 more per year, exact amount to be determined.

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