Okanogan County PUD commissioners approved the purchase of a new substation near Chicken Creek, which will serve the needs for additional services and provide better reliability for areas of the south county.
The substation was built by Gebbers Farms, and their staff approached the PUD wanting to sell the substation. PUD staff performed financial and operational studies for acquiring the substation. The purchase agreement is for $2.3 million, based on the actual cost of constructing the substation.
General Manager Steve Taylor said the district could not build the substation for that low of a cost, and that it has already taken on about 2 megawatts of irrigation load off the Brewster substation, relieving circuit constraints.
The district will use a line of credit to purchase the substation. Because of the opportunities it opens for additional services, staff anticipate the substation will pay for itself.
In other business, the board:
- Heard that 14 of the 15 planned drive-up WiFi hotspots are active, with the final expected at any time. Together, the hotspots have seen 660 unique users. All hotspots have been used, most on a daily basis. The five most-used sites are the Wenatchee Valley College parking lot in Omak, Oroville substation, Okanogan Armory, Tonasket PUD office and Conconully hot spots.
- Heard from Taylor that the district is working through new guidance from the state on requirements regarding COVID-19 restrictions and impacts. Although public utilities were already waiving late fees, making payment arrangements and not disconnecting customers due to non-payment, the state has extended its requirements on these actions until July 28, along with new requirements. Some customers have been confused by state messaging, thinking that they won’t have to pay their bills at all. Utilities across the state are trying to work with the state office to avoid damaging messaging and maintain local control for public utilities to best serve their unique communities. Okanogan PUD currently has 301 accounts that would be due for disconnect, for a total of $54,600. LIHEAP funds are available to help low-income families.
- Heard from Taylor that staff will work on a 2020 budget revision, reflecting the suspension of the rate increase originally budgeted for April 1 and other revenue losses or added expenses due to COVID-19.
- Heard from Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg that April retail power sales were almost exactly as budgeted, only under by $3,653. May wholesale sales were $68,326 over budget. With a mild winter bringing low retail sales, the overall year-do-date power sales revenue is still about $1 million under budget.
- Heard from Gadeberg that telecom end users now total 3,252 and continue to be added. June followed the trend of the last few months of being the highest billing total for the district at just over $274,000.