From a press release – Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday focused on the building blocks of the District’s 2018 budget, foremost among them – no electric rate increase proposed for the sixth year in a row. Going back to 2000, District rates have increased 9 percent while consumer prices have increased 39 percent.
“Since 2010, at the direction of our commissioners, the District has taken advantage of a favorable wholesale market to reduce debt, avoid rate increases and maintain reliable service to meet growing load,” said General Manager Steve Wright. “While we see challenges in the longer term, Chelan PUD continues to be in strong financial shape in the near term.”
Commissioners agreed with strategic priorities in next year’s budget. They are:
· Investing in key assets with major refurbishment of generating units at Rocky Reach and Rock Island dams
· Paying down debt by at least $24 million, and
· Continuing Public Power Benefit investments in fiber expansion and other board-approved projects.
Board members reviewed and supported key assumptions for the spending plan as well as the timeline for public discussion of the 2018 budget proposal.
A first public look at the specific draft budget is set for 1 p.m. on Nov. 6, followed by more discussion on Nov. 20. Commissioners will be asked to approve the 2018 budget on Dec. 4.
The District expects to end 2017 with strong positive results and to achieve financial targets through 2022. Longer-term forecasts discussed with the board earlier this monthreflect a transition to facing financial challenges in in the mid-2020s as a result of declining wholesale revenue and increasing infrastructure investment demands.
Priorities for 2018 include investing in:
· Hydro project repairs and upgrades
· Systems to provide customers better information
· Electric system improvements to meet growth in existing and new loads
In other business, commissioners:
· Reviewed refinements to the strategic facilities plan and concurred with staff recommendations to move ahead with the detailed design plans at Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams; and begin a comprehensive outreach effort to engage the community in a conversation about the planned development of a consolidated administrative and operations facility in the North Wenatchee area – replacing the current downtown headquarters and Hawley Street facilities. Staff will return for board approval on a timeline and recommendation for a new headquarters/operations center. Shared Services Director Dan Frazier went on to report that further analysis shows a status quo approach of reactive maintenance, including remodeling existing buildings and leasing space for growth, offers less value at more cost over 50 years than building new facilities at one time or phasing the projects. (Discussion at 01:10-01:55)
· Received a request from Lisa Parks, Port of Douglas County executive director, for the PUD to take full ownership, along with operating and maintenance responsibility for Orondo River Park in Douglas County on the Columbia River just north of the community of Orondo. The park, built by the port in 1972, has been a PUD recreation site since 1976 under terms of its license to operate Rocky Reach Dam. It is on both port and PUD property. Michelle Smith, hydro licensing and compliance director, said the PUD is evaluating alternatives for the park’s future. Staff will seek public comment on the options during November and return to the board at its Dec. 4 meeting with more information, public input and recommended next steps. Among the questions to be addressed are whether the park should be focused on day use activities rather than camping. (Discussion at 00:40-01:08)
· Received an update on PUD plans to replace the aging Upper Skyline Reservoir, continue study of a second regional water source and improvements finished at the Lake Wenatchee wastewater treatment plant. (Discussion at 00:20-00:40).
· Were invited to a presentation and panel discussion on Smart Transportation at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 at Confluence Technology Center (CTC). Dr. Michael Kintner-Meyer, staff scientist at the Dept. of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland will discuss next-generation vehicles and why Chelan County could be an ideal proving ground for the technology. A panel discussion will follow with area representatives including PUD General Manager Steve Wright. “Self-driving” Tesla vehicles will be available prior to the discussion for the public to see and even take a test drive between 5 – 6:15 at the CTC.
· Set two special meetings: 1) 6 p.m., Oct. 24, at the Chelan Fire Hall, 232 E. Woodin Ave. for aChelan Substation meeting; 2) 1 p.m., Nov. 7, in the PUD boardroom for the Tri-Commission meeting.