The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved a resolution authorizing a 2% increase for its electrical customers, going into effect at the beginning of June. The increase was included in the 2021 budget which was passed last November, but was not enacted during the high energy usage winter months. In addition, the delay allowed the utility to complete its financial analysis for 2020 and the first months of 2021.
“The decision to raise rates is not one that the Board takes lightly and comes only after a detailed examination of the PUD’s financial state,” said PUD Board President Russ Skolrood. “With power purchases making up 70% of our budget, the two-percent increase recommended by utility staff is the lowest practical amount that will allow the PUD to cover those costs and continue the critical service our customers rely upon for their homes and businesses.”
“This is not a decision that we enjoy making and it is never an easy one,” said PUD Board Vice President Arie Callaghan. “But costs continue to rise and we have a responsibility to operate the utility in a safe and reliable manner.”
The increase will be the first rate adjustment by the utility in two years. The PUD Board chose not to increase rates in 2020 in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the utility delayed implementing the increase until the beginning of June, rather than the beginning of May as was originally scheduled.
“I am glad we were able to delay this increase until the spring and push it back by one month to June 1st,” said PUD Board Secretary Dave Timmons. “I understand that this will impact all our customers during an already difficult time, but small annual adjustments like these that cover increasing costs are the responsible way to go since they help the PUD cover costs and avoid making larger increases that can have a greater impact on our customer’s budgets.”
The utility’s system charge of $39.00 will not be increased. The charge is paid monthly by every PUD residential customer to cover system maintenance and repair, and is adjusted by recommendation of a cost of service study conducted by an independent, outside agency.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP (administered by the Coastal Community Action Program) is accepting appointments for those seeking assistance in paying home energy bills. Beginning on Thursday, April 15th at 10:00 AM, appointments may be made online at www.coastalcap.org. If you do not have internet access, you may call on April 15th (phone # - 800-828-4883) beginning at 8:00AM.
The Grays Harbor PUD has received a national commendation from the American Public Power Association for its support in restoration efforts in Clark County following the President’s Day Weekend Ice Storm.
“A fundamental part of the utility business is the respect we all share for our highly specialized line workers,” said Clark Public Utilities CEO/General Manger Lena Wittler. “In times of emergency, mutual aid can be the difference between hours, days or even weeks of recovery as our crews work around the clock to restore power. We are grateful to Grays Harbor PUD for their assistance.”
After working for nearly two days to restore power to almost 10,000 Grays Harbor PUD customers impacted by freezing rain, snow and ice, two volunteer Grays Harbor crews were dispatched to the area north of Vancouver, Washington following a request for mutual aid from Clark Public Utilities. For two days, the Grays Harbor crews assisted Clark crews with restoration efforts related to the same storm, which knocked power out to 50,000 customers.
“They were great! Excellent attitudes, helpful and hard working. I would put them on the top of the list for any mutual assistance in the future,” said Clark Public Utilities Director of Operations Gene Morris.
“This is a great example of the dedication, skill and professionalism of our crews,” said Grays Harbor PUD General Manager Schuyler Burkhart. “After working in the cold, snow and freezing rain here, they answered the call for aid from a neighboring utility. That demonstrates a dedication to service. I am so proud of the way our crews responded and the reputation they have earned in our region and throughout the industry.”
As part of the feasibility study to increase broadband service in the SR-12 (South Elma, Porter-Malone, Oakville, neighboring areas) area of East County, the Grays Harbor PUD will be hosting a pair of virtual community meetings for residents and business owners in that area. The first meeting on March 24th will focus on broadband for commercial/business customers and the second meeting on March 31st will focus on broadband for residential customers. A second meeting for commercial/business customers has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 6 at 4:00 PM.
Scammers are renewing their phone calls to Grays Harbor PUD customers, threatening to shutoff power if payment is not made on accounts they claim are overdue. In the last week, the PUD has been notified by multiple customers that they had been contacted by phone and that in some cases, the incoming calls appear to be from the utility.
“The bad news is that the scam calls are still being made. The good news is customers are calling the PUD to check their accounts rather than handing money or information over to the scammers," says Customer Service Supervisor Megan Warner. "If you get an email or phone call threatening to shut off your power or containing account information you think is suspicious, call the PUD Customer Service office to report the call and to check on your account status. These scams only work when you volunteer your personal information.”
Recipients of such fraudulent phone calls should under no circumstances agree to send money or give bank account, credit card or other personal information. Rather, customers are advised to immediately contact PUD Customer Service at 360-532-4220 to verify the claim.