As a strong Pacific storm approaches the Washington coastline, the Grays Harbor PUD is reminding its customers to be prepared for the possibility of power outages.

“While we pride ourselves on system reliability, it never hurts to be prepared,” said General Manager Dave Ward.  “If the lights go out, our crews are ready to go, but there are steps our customers can take to help them deal with outages.”

Customers should check their outage preparedness kits to ensure that they are stocked and ready.  Items in those kits should include:

  • Flashlight
  • Blankets
  • Fresh Batteries
  • Sleeping bags
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Candles
  • Supply of drinking water
  • Candleholders
  • Non-perishable food
  • Non-cordless, landline phone
  • Manual can opener

During an outage, the PUD System Dispatch Center immediately sends service crews out to find the cause of the outage and assess what repairs are needed.  In addition, the PUD Communications Department begins notifying customers through the PUD website, media, Twitter and Outage Alert email system.

There are also methods for customers to inform the PUD of power outages.  To report an outage, customers can call the outage reporting line at 360-537-3721 or 1-888-541-5923.  If your call is not answered (it continues to ring), it means the PUD is experiencing a high volume of calls. Your call will be answered in the order it was received.  In addition, customers can go to the PUD website at www.ghpud.org and report an outage electronically

During an outage, there are a number of steps customers can take to protect themselves and their property, including: turning off and unplugging all sensitive electrical equipment, keeping freezer and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible so the cold air stays inside until the power comes back on, not operating generators indoors and avoiding areas where PUD crews are working.

If for some reason your power stays off for an unusually long time, again contact the outage reporting line at 360-537-3721 or 1-888-541-5923 to ensure that PUD crews are aware of your outage.

For more information on how you can be better prepared for power outages, click the following link: Preparing for Power Outages

The results of an internal survey show the Grays Harbor PUD employees believe the PUD is improving its performance in many areas including internal communication, cooperation and goal setting. 
 
“This is a clear indicator that the Grays Harbor PUD is headed in the right direction,” said Board of Commissioners President Russ Skolrood.  “The results we received from our 2013 survey told us that we needed to improve the ways in which we communicate and the ways in which we encourage teamwork and cooperation throughout the PUD.  That message was heard and today we have a response from our staff that says we are beginning to achieve that goal.”
 
In 2013, 23% of employees agreed with the statement “There is a strong feeling of teamwork and cooperation within the District.”  2014 totals indicated a strong improvement, with over 67% of respondents agreeing with the statement.  The District also made huge strides in the area of internal communication.  In 2013, only 37% of respondents agreed with the statement “The District effectively communicates information about changes that impact employees.” However in 2014, 62% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with that statement.
 
The PUD employees also agreed with statements centering on understanding how jobs contribute to PUD success, commitment to quality work, meeting supervisor expectations and the promotion of a safe work environment.  However, there is still work to be done, even in areas of where the PUD made some its largest gains. 
 
“These are areas that focus on the Grays Harbor PUD’s ability to improve services and reduce costs by creating a better working atmosphere.  While we have improved in communication and cooperation, there is no reason why we can’t continue to gain ground,” said General Manager Dave Ward.  “There are still over 30% of our employees who think that we can do a better job keeping them informed and creating a positive and productive work environment.  That is a number we can work to improve.”
 
Ward also believes that more can be done to improve employee satisfaction in the areas of accountability, employee growth & development, and the use of staff input. The 31 question survey was administered over a two-week period in October.  In all, 106 out of 161 employees responded, for a return of 65%.

The Grays Harbor PUD has released its report card for the 3rd quarter of 2014.

2014 Report Card - Third Quarter

The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have adopted a 2015 budget that maintains current staffing and internal expense levels while making investments in system safety and reliability.  The $118.1 million spending plan was unanimously approved by the commissioners at their Monday meeting.

“This is a sustainable budget that sets the PUD on solid ground heading into 2015,” said Board President Russ Skolrood.  “Throughout Grays Harbor, our customers are making the tough choices that allow them to live within their means.  They expect the same thing from their PUD and the budget we adopted today allows us to do that.”

The budget achieves the PUD Strategic Plan goal of keeping annual budget growth below 2% and does so without borrowing money to fund $10.2 million in capital expenses.  These improvements to the PUD’s power system infrastructure and general plant include replacing aging poles, the addition of new power and cable lines and the purchase of new transformers and equipment.  Combined with the construction of access roads, substation work and computer and vehicle upgrades, the system upgrades will allow the PUD to continue to provide safe and reliable power to it’s over 48,000 customers.  

Rising power supply costs will necessitate a 3% increase in customer rates beginning in July of 2015.  Over the next six months, PUD staff will be working to find a way to absorb the increased power costs in the budget, meaning the amount approved by the Commissioners will likely decrease.

“Our staff has and will continue to prioritize PUD spending as we move into 2015, ensuring that we spend money only on the projects we need to fulfill our responsibility to our customers,” said General Manager Dave Ward.  “Between now and July we will closely examine and scrutinize our expenses to reduce the size of the increase we will be asking our Commissioners to approve.”

 

The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners will be presented with a 2015 budget that maintains 2014 staffing, travel and training levels for the coming year.  The commissioners will consider a resolution adopting the budget at their meeting on Monday, Nov. 17th.

The 2015 budget will total $121.2-million.  It will include power supply costs, capital improvements to the PUD power system infrastructure and general plant, state and city taxes and personnel costs.  The budget will also feature a projected rate increase of 3%.

“We’re holding the line in 2015,” said PUD Board of Commissioners President Russ Skolrood.  “What we have before us is a balanced spending plan for the coming year, taking into account the need for system maintenance and reliability, responsible staffing levels and increased power supply costs.”    

The increase in power costs from the Bonneville Power Administration will mean an increase in customer rates beginning in July of 2015.  While the increase is currently expected to be three-percent, PUD staff is hopeful that cost adjustments over the next six months will reduce the total amount.

“Power supply purchases total 61% of our budget.  The price we are paying for power will increase in the coming year, meaning we will have to ask for a small increase in the rates we charge our customers,” said Commissioner Dave Timmons. “No one wants to increase rates and our staff has done a fantastic job of reducing costs and prioritizing district spending.  I am confident they will find a way to absorb any additional costs and if necessary ask for an increase that has the smallest possible impact on our customers.”

While many districts introduce rate increases at the beginning of the year, the Grays Harbor PUD will postpone any needed increases until the summer, when customer power costs are traditionally lower.  In addition, the PUD has stabilized rates and costs to be able to proceed with smaller, annual increases that accurately reflect the power market.

“We have instituted long term planning that should serve the district and our customers well in the future,” said Commissioner Arie Callaghan.  “Rate increases are an unfortunate necessity due to the power market, but the plan we have created allows us to remain on an even keel, rather than seeing the size of increases go up and down.”

There are some aspects of the 2015 budget which are still unknown, namely the final costs associated with the Harbor Paper clean-up.  While those expenses are planned to be covered in 2015, they are not anticipated to increase customer rates.

“While this is a very conservative budget, I really feel that the Grays Harbor PUD has turned a financial corner and is headed toward a much brighter future,” said Skolrood.  “We are funding our budget though the revenue we generate rather than borrowing money.  We are managing our power system to improve reliability and safety and we are living within our means.  That is a trend I like very much.”