PUD 2020 budget includes $10 million in improvements, potential 2% rate increase in May

The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners has approved a $127 million 2020 budget that includes $10 million in system improvements and could include a 2% rate increase beginning in May.

With 72% of utility costs tied to power purchases, PUD Board Vice President Arie Callaghan says the increase will cover the rising costs for those purchases, but will not be implemented until after the cooler winter temperatures have passed and the 2020 financial realities are clearer.

“By waiting until May to actually adjust rates, we allow the high energy usage period to pass before impacting customer costs and allow staff to include seasonal factors that may impact the final size of the rate adjustment,” said Callaghan. “Raising rates is never easy, but by making small adjustments each year, we are able to maintain the long tradition of safe and reliable service our customers expect and deserve.”

While more than 70% of the 2020 spending plan goes toward power purchases, another $10 million is earmarked for capital projects to renew and replace utility infrastructure.

“It comes down to the service and the system that keeps the lights on for our customers,” said Russ Skolrood, PUD board president. “This budget invests in the energy, staff and infrastructure our customers rely on to provide them with high value utility services. This is a responsible budget for the utility and the customers it serves.”

Of the $10 million capital budget, $4.2-million will be spent on the utility distribution system, just over $2 million each on the utility general plant and transmission system and $1.6 million on the PUD’s substations. Projects include replacing aging equipment throughout the utility system, beginning work on replacing the 90-year-old Chehalis River tower crossing, transformer and breaker replacement at substations throughout Grays Harbor, the replacement of two utility fleet line trucks and the continued growth of the PUD’s telecommunications system.

“The PUD is responsible for telecom and energy service to over 41,000 customers. To do that we must maintain tens of thousands of transmission and distribution poles, over 1,500 miles of overhead and underground lines, 36 substations and hundreds of miles of telecommunications fiber,” said PUD Board Secretary Dave Timmons. “Working together, our staff have put together a schedule and budget that helps grow and maintain a reliable system.