Okanogan County PUD will install 15 free drive-in hotspots throughout the county, especially for students working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg shared basics of the plan at the April 27 PUD board of commissioners meeting. Working with schools, the PUD has identified the 15 locations based on current availability on the district’s network and the local need for access.
The idea of these “drive-fi” (drive-up Wi-Fi) connections is that anyone can drive to an access point, download and/or upload needed schoolwork, and then drive away when done. Each location has about a 300-foot range for connectivity.
The units arrived on April 27, and staff are working on programming them and planning an installation schedule. Once deployed, the sites will be available most likely through the summer, then could be removed if school resumes as usual in the fall. The PUD will work closely with schools to help share information on the drive-fi sites as they become available.
In other COVID-19 updates, General Manager Steve Taylor said staff will continue to adapt schedules to provide essential services while observing social distancing and extra sanitation processes. Those who can telecommute will continue to do so for a while. Changes to PUD schedules that affect the public will be posted on the district’s website and Facebook.
So far, the PUD has approximately 390 past due accounts, amounting to over $73,000 in bills. The district has waived more than $5,000 in late fees since the COVID-19 restrictions have been in place.
In other business, the board:
- Heard from Director of Finance and Accounting Janet Crossland that the final FEMA payment for the Okanogan Complex fires should arrive April 27. The final amount due is just over $600,000.
- Heard that an outage on April 23, in which 3,000 customers were without power, was the result of a failed recloser in the Tonasket substation. Crews were able to switch to a different circuit, and were working on making a full repair without having an additional outage.