At the conclusion of the board’s general business, Thompson addressed the public and called upon the seven people who had signed up to speak at the meeting: “Since there is a number of people who would like to speak, we’d like to limit this to three minutes each. . . This time is not for questioning the commissioners but for you to make your comments so that we can hear what it is that you want us to understand.”
South Bend resident Ron Craig started by serving the board with a letter demanding information about the Tokeland extension project from the commissioners. The project, which began in 2001, would take over service of the Tokeland area from Grays Harbor P.U.D.
Craig: “This project will create a burden to the customers/owners of this P.U.D., from 50 to 100 million dollars. . . The P.U.D. has been criticized [of] permitting agencies, not followed standard accounting practices in project planning, lied in several instances, and has conceivably wasted several million dollars of customer/owner’s money in an ill-conceived, poorly thought out project. Therefore, we, the customers/owners demand that you, our representatives, acting in accordance with your fiduciary responsibility have the Pacific County P.U.D. No. 2 prepare a comprehensive engineering plan before any more expense is incurred.”
Malcolm McPhail, a cranberry grower on the Peninsula, presented the boards with cost comparisons of Grays Harbor rates versus Pacific County rates for cranberry growers.
McPhail: “We pay $13.00 a meter, they pay $14.17. Their rate is 5.84 [cents per kilowatt] ours is 5.2 [cents per kilowatt]. But their horsepower charge is $.76 and ours is $1.25. And if I compare those, if I were in Grays Harbor, I would pay $202 less than I pay in Pacific County.”
Dick Shelton also pressed the commissioners on the issue: “Now what we’re going to do here is create a huge debt, in common sense terms for what? Millions and millions and millions of dollars to pick up 1100 customers in Northwest Pacific County. They’ve gotten better power sources from Bonneville, higher grade lines that run into Grays Harbor, and Grays Harbor has upgraded to take care of these people down there.”
Shelton presented a proposal to the commissioners, which could answer the ratepayers’ questions: “What I’m going to suggest is that we get a fresh start on all of these things. That an investigation be made as far as economic and social issues that are tied in with these line extensions. Take a look to see whether they make any sense, get the facts and figures that will back them up, follow through with the letter that’s been submitted, and do this under an independent body. So what I’m suggesting is a public forum where we can actually talk these things over.”
Kathleen Graham of Long Beach voiced support for Shelton’s idea: “I think Dick Shelton’s suggestion of a facilitator, an independent facilitator, with three meetings, the last one to conclude the first two, done very soon, is an excellent idea.”
To the idea of a public forum, Commissioner Thompson replied: “We want to get some information about exactly what it’ll cost to have those kind of meetings, who we would use as the third party, as a facilitator, and that’s the information I want to get before we have a discussion here about how we’re going to put that together. . . We should be able to come up with something by our next meeting.”
Dick Anderson of Menlo inquired about the man-lift incident, in which a P.U.D. administrator allegedly rented a Genie man-lift in the name of the Pacific County P.U.D. for personal use in the construction of his garage during the summer of 2003.
Anderson: “As a ratepayer and owner, we think that you should direct Mr. Finlay to get the subpoena and get it to United Rentals. . . I think it’s going on six months, that’s way longer that it should be, and it’s pretty obvious there’s a cover-up. . . We feel that you’ve been working diligently to protect management, not to represent the ratepayers. . . Was it true at the last meeting when Mike Swanson had talked to them and they said they had to have a subpoena?”
Commissioner Swanson: “I would actually make a motion to have the commission, or ask the manager to get a subpoena to get that copy.”
Jim Finlay, the P.U.D. Attorney: “I wouldn’t make that motion, Mike, because whether or not you can get a subpoena is very questionable for something, as I understand, is ten years old.”
Commissioner Hatfield: “That issue is being taken up as I reported earlier at the last meeting, by the state auditor at this very time. So I’m sure if they need, that they have the authority to get one if they think they need it.”
Anderson: “Well it hasn’t been ten years, for one thing. But if you delay it however many more meetings, it will be over ten years.”
In response to Anderson’s allegations regarding the man-lift, Commissioner Thompson stated: “You know, what I see happening . . . on a number of occasions. is there are accusations made with no evidence. And you sat there and said to me, you made some accusation and I said, ‘Where’s the evidence?’ and you told me to go find it. Now, I understand that there are concerns, but when there’s no evidence brought, it makes it pretty difficult to make a determination whether it’s just somebody who’s upset about something or whether there really is something to be concerned about.”
The next meeting takes places August 6th in Raymond, when the commissioners will report on the proposal of having a public forum to discuss the Tokeland area annexation from Grays Harbor P.U.D.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 7/22/12. If you would like to respond to this story, go to hometowndebate.com