Amid the challenges of COVID-19, many Okanogan County PUD customers are catching up on past-due bills according to a report at the July 20 board meeting.
The district still has 305 accounts with $48,000 past due, Customer Service Supervisor Mindy Morris said. However, three of those accounts represent over $12,000 in telecom accounts, and they were expected to be paid up in the next week. Also, the district has begun to receive LIHEAP (low-income home energy assistance program) funds from both the Colville Tribes and Okanogan County Community Action, with more to come to help customers pay off their past due bills.
The 305 accounts would have been due for disconnect in ordinary circumstances, but the PUD ceased disconnects due to non-payment in mid-March, due to the COVID-19 crisis. The district also would normally collect late fees, but has not been since mid-March, representing about $63,000 not collected in the four months since.
Customer service continues to work out payment arrangements with customers struggling to pay their bills. Customers with questions can contact the district during business hours, Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In other business, the board:
- Observed a moment of silence for Accounting Manager Fred Burke, who passed away earlier this month. Commissioners also voted to appoint General Manager Steve Taylor and General Counsel Heidi Appel to serve as co-committee members in Burke’s place on the PURMS (public utility risk management services) operational committee.
- Heard from Operations Manager Randy Bird that a line truck, under work order since October 2018, is finally nearly ready. After a few punch list items are completed to the district’s specifications, it should be complete and delivered in late August. The total cost of the custom truck is about $410,000.
- Heard that the district is still anticipating the suspension of surcharges from Bonneville Power Administration, representing about $350,000 less in charges to the PUD through September 2021. The surcharge had been in effect since December last year. Since the district did not do a rate increase this year, the surcharge was not being recovered – about 90 cents per month for the average residential customer. Power reports show the district is about $1 million behind budget on power revenues year to date. The district will discuss revising its 2020 budget to reflect COVID-19 affects, as well as prepare for the 2021 budget soon.