The management’s plan is to build 11.5 miles of new line at $16 million, build connecting infrastructure at? million, and buy out Grays Harbor service in Northwest County at ? millions. Northwest County being Tokeland and Grayland, which for the past 60-plus years Grays Harbor PUD has built and is presently serving. Westport/Grayland’s distribution point is now four miles at Westport, a core service area. The new point will be 25 miles away in Raymond. In major outages, core service areas are always fixed first. Northwest County, with only 1100 meters, is no longer a core area; how can this improve service?
Countywide opposition has challenged this irresponsible takeover. The PUD management’s claim that, “it’s the right thing to do” in justifying tacking 25 to 50 dollars a month to customers’ bills over the next 10 to 20 years is beyond stupidity. This is a malicious disregard for the citizens/owners of the PUBLIC utility districts intelligence and welfare including our fellow citizens in Northwest Pacific County, our soon to be full partners in paying off this absurd debt load with no real benefit to anybody.
Thirteen years ago, PUD management borrowed $10 million to complete a line from Raymond underwater to Oysterville with little public knowledge or input. For 13 years we’ve been charged for this through surcharges on our bills. Both ends, about one-quarter of the project, were built the $10 million has disappeared with the benefit to our PUD? Nothing. We’ve ended up with two lines and a substation to nowhere, which has actually become a liability due to the PUD management’s lack of experience, planning, and basic research prior to starting that pet project. It should never be completed indebting us with the huge costs for a standby power cables crossing dug in 14 miles through famously unstable Willapa channels, sand bars, and oyster beds, with no practical way of repair or maintenance, to serve as backup power for less than eight hours average per year, (4 hours after patrolling and switching) is institutional insanity. However our $10 million is gone and management is still trying to revive this dead horse to justify the Northwest expansion. In a classic bait and switch.
The management in this fiasco is PUD manager Doug Miller at $170,500 per year, engineer Jason Dunsmoor at $148,500, PUD commission chair Diana Thompson (Long Beach) and Commissioner Ron Hatfield. Commissioner Mike Swanson (Naselle) is not aligned with the other four enforcing through the Northwest takeover. Mike has indicated strong concerns over both necessity and cost.
Our proposal to hold three cross county public forums to discuss this proposal was denied by chairwoman Thompson. Instead, three management-controlled meetings began in Tokeland August 27th, and scheduled are Raymond, September 9th, and Long Beach, September 12th, specifically to sell this scheme. Pacific County PUD is not obligated by Washington law to buy out the Grays Harbor PUD service area.
PUD indebtedness is fine, restricted to emergencies or legitimate improvement. It’s not fine, borrowing to pay for PUD management’s personal wish list. Management must be made to answer the hard questions. Economic justifications? The total cost? Repayment plan? Cost per customer per month? For how long? What benefit for operation? How will Pacific County PUD service be better than Grays Harbor PUD? Problems with required permits? The cost of Grayland buyout? No competent management would start any phase of any project without completing this basic research.
In particular, not hold three meetings pushing for public approval without it. The three PUD commissioners have complete control over this issue. There is no appeal afterwards. At this point two of them are determined to force it through. A firm stand, even at these controlled meetings can make a difference. This will probably be your only chance.
Editor’s Note: Dick Sheldon is a shellfish grower in Nahcotta. His family homesteaded in North Cove in 1885. He has been a serviceman/lineman for the Pacific County PUD and a lifelong resident of Pacific County. This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 8/29/13. If you would like to respond to this story, go to hometowndebate.com