The Tuesday, July 2, meeting of the PUD No. 2 included a presentation by General Manager Doug Miller on the history of the PUD and the Tokeland extension.
Tokeland, North Cove and Grayland were initially left out of the Pacific County PUD when it was formed in the 1930s because SR 105 ended around North River, he said. Getting service to those areas was impractical. Those customers continue to be served by Grays Harbor PUD No. 1.
The extension project, which initially began in the late 1990s, will bring better reliability to Tokeland-Grayland area customers who pay higher rates through Grays Harbor PUD, Miller said.
He laid out two options for extending service to the area: One uses 11 miles of overhead line and 2½ miles of underground line. The cost would be $13 million, Miller said.
The other combines an overhead line and an underwater cable crossing Willapa Bay at a cost of $15 million.
The commissioners voted later in the meeting to pursue the first option when cable bids were rejected at the recommendation of Pacific County PUD Chief of Engineering and Operations Jason Dunsmoor. He said the low bid did not meet specifications and the next lowest bid was 15 percent above engineering estimates.
Miller discussed a transmission loop from Tokeland to Oysterville. That project was originally considered part of the Tokeland extension. The PUD sold $10 million in bonds to finance the entire project in 2001, but rising material and fuel costs in the early 2000s forced the PUD to split the project into two parts.
Miller said the loop to Oysterville would create reliability, limiting the number of customers who lose power during an outage, he said.
The total cost for the entire project, from the extension to the transmission loop, would be $39 million in 2013 dollars, Miller said.
Swanson Cringes at Costs
Miller said the project would be financed by selling bonds.
“There will be no increase in retail rates due to this project,” he said.
At 4.3 percent interest for 20 years on $18 million, the annual payment of principal and interest would be $1.46 million, he said.
“If you take the $1.46 million and you take the number of customers in the Tokeland, North Cove, Grayland area and you multiply those customers by a monthly basis to get you to an annual basis, based on average monthly revenue receipts, when you take out the large customers we have — the Weyerhaeusers and all of those — on an annual basis it just about covers that $1.46 million, just to put it in perspective.”
Commissioner Mike Swanson, who attended the meeting by conference call,
said the costs of the Tokeland extension project and the Oysterville loop “Kind of makes me sick to my stomach. They’re big numbers, and we still aren’t sure of them, obviously.”
He expressed concern about the interest expense on the bonds that were sold for the project in 2001.
“$1.2 million interest expense on the bond that was taken out in 2001, you have to add that in to the expense of what’s occurred already, and my numbers come out to $2.8 million plus some change…. All those numbers had time to pile up to $1.67 million. If you add $1.2 million for interest expense, you’re up to $2.8 million for this, and the project is supposed to be $16 (million) to $18 million, and initially it was supposed to be $10 million, and of course it’s taken many, many years …. I don’t know if people are going to be happy if we spend that kind of dollars for other people that are already getting power, but aren’t, of course, being represented but are in our county.”
Controversy over a Genie model S-40 manlift that was rented by the Pacific County PUD and damaged in 2003 continued to hound the commissioners during the public comment period.
Tim Pettit, a former PUD employee, blasted Miller’s actions regarding the lift.
“I was hoping senior management would be open and honest about the event, deal with it with transparency and show good leadership qualities,” he said. “Yes, there would have been some issues for some individuals to deal with, but it would have been out and over … and it would have prevented other issues that have transpired in the past and even now in the present; instead there have been continued untruths and cover-up efforts by the general manager.”
Pettit raised questions about the bill for the lift.
Commissioner Ron Hatfield replied, “We have auditors, as we speak, looking into this issue, and for me, that’s where it belongs.”
Swanson said: “I did get ahold of Mr. Robert McIntyre at United Rentals prior to our meeting, regarding Doug’s letter to him to release the risk assessment document regarding the damaged manlift. He said he received the letter but has not responded. I queried him further. He said when he does respond, he said his response will be that they will not release said document without a subpoena.”
Time To Reconsider
South Bend resident Ron Craig said among his concerns was that Miller could not say how much it will cost to purchase the Grayland, North Cove and Tokeland area equipment from Grays Harbor PUD.
Miller said earlier an independent appraiser would evaluate the equipment and negotiations would follow.
Craig also lauded the recommendation against awarding the cable contract.
“Thank you very much for whoever recommended not awarding these (cable) bids, because I think it was another gigantic mistake,” he said. “But I also think running the rest of the power line to Tokeland is a mistake, because what we’re doing is jumping into a need where there is not a need. What are you paying for? You’re paying for reliability. What’s that worth? It’s indeterminate, it’s subjective.”
Now is a good time to rethink this, he said. Get some public input. Get the engineering requirements. Re-evaluate the whole program.
“Let’s cut our losses where we are.”
Tokeland resident Terry Larson painted a grim picture of service from Grays Harbor PUD No.1.
“We need it; I don’t care what all the outsiders say,” he said. “We’re down on Tokeland, short of power; we lose thousands of dollars a year on burned out computers, appliances, stuff going bad in your freezes. And we call Grays Harbor PUD and they say, ‘Oh a bird landed on your line,’ or some feeble excuse. So, Mr. Craig, if you called yours and they said a bird landed on your line and you’re putting out a fire and you’ve got a thousand dollars in your freezer, what are you going to do?”
Dick Sheldon, a former Pacific County PUD lineman-turned-oyster grower, said he and other oyster growers first became concerned in 2002 when they noticed a line built from Nahcotta to Oysterville with a 110KV line on top. The rumor of a marine cable added concern because oyster beds lay in the area.
He blasted Miller, who said earlier that oyster growers were contacted.
“I never heard about this, even though we’ve had conversations going all the way back to 2002,” he said.
He asked if a cost-benefit ratio had been performed to justify the line. He challenged Miller’s statement earlier in the meeting that the Oysterville substation was built because of load.
Miller said, “Used to be 75-80 percent of our growth was on the Long Beach Peninsula and 75-80 percent of that was on the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula, and there’s still a lot of empty lots up there.”
Sheldon said: “If he has taken trouble to examine Growth Management document of Pacific County you’ll find that the north end of the Peninsula is rural. Primarily 5-acre lots. The entire Peninsula is cut by north-south swales, basically wetlands. The potential for growth up there is zip. So I have to question that. I have to also question the fact that we would be under capacity. I don’t see that at all.”
Sheldon derided the PUD for building the lines years ago and leaving them unused.
“I look right out my window at this 115 thousand volt line that’s never been turned on. It’s been sitting there since 2001, deteriorating,” he said. “All that transmission stuff has been sitting up there, absolutely no use. Several miles of line that wasn’t completed.”
He said it appears everything at the PUD is secondary to the wishes of management and the engineering department and suggested the commissioners examine the situation from the perspective of the ratepayers.
From A Lesser God
Raymond resident John Dunsmoor told the board not to fall for any tricks and give the people of the Tokeland area the service they deserve.
Energy is the lifeblood of society. It runs our prosperity and our standard of living and it’s the engine of our economy.
“The extreme environmentalists have figured this out and they will go to any extreme to stop a project that improves the delivery of that energy,” John Dunsmoor said. “And there’s no better system to deliver energy to its point of use than the electric system. What I see here is a handful of ‘haves’ telling you, the commissioners, that the ‘have-nots,’ the people in Tokeland, don’t deserve what the ‘haves’ have, and I hope you don’t fall for that.
Don’t treat the people of Tokeland as if they were from a lesser god.”
Vicki Larson of Tokeland, wife of Terry Larson, addressed the board and the audience, requiring board President Diana Thompson to intervene in some disputes.
“Mr. Sheldon and others, the fact is history does matter. We are Pacific County, whether you want to keep throwing us under the bus year after year over here.”
Sheldon said, “My grandfather was born in Tokeland.”
“Good,” Vicki Larson replied.
Thompson entered the fray. “Mr. Sheldon, we’re not going to have these arguments,” she said. “She gets to a chance to speak; we’ve listened to what you’ve said.”
“With respect, she was addressing me,” Sheldon said.
Vicki Larson continued: “The fact is Pacific County PUD has a county responsibility, as the rest of you do, to Tokeland. The highway’s been through all these years. The reason we went through was because we didn’t have the highway. … Anyway, I’m here to say, we need power. We’ve waited long enough. The PUD has spent years and years trying to get that for us. It isn’t going to be cheaper next year or the year after. It’s time to get this done.”
“Point of order,” Craig said, interrupting her. “Point of order. If we’re going to be personally addressed …
“I’m speaking,” Vicki Larson said.
“I’ve requested a point or order,” Craig replied. “If we’re going to be personally addressed, you’ve got to give us a chance to respond.”
Again, Thompson intervened. “Enough,” she said. “We’re done.”
“Then quit having her address us,” Craig said.
“We’re done,” Thompson said.
“All right,” Craig said.
Thompson and Sheary got into a discussion of ethnic proportions when Thompson attempted to close the public comment period.
“Unless there is someone who hasn’t spoken, I think we’re done taking public comments,” she said.
“How can that be?” Sheary asked. “This is a public meeting.”
“A public meeting …,” she started.
“Don’t point your finger; stop that,” Sheary said.
“I’m Italian, it’s just the way I talk,” Thompson replied.
“So am I, ma’am,” Sheary said.
“OK, enough!” Thompson said.
“Stop!” Sheary said.
“No, this is our meeting,” Thompson said.
“You stop with your attitude,” Sheary countered. “I asked you this before.”
“Steve, enough,” she said.
“Then be civil,” he said.
“What a public meeting means, is the public is entitled to come and hear,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t mean we are required to hear listen to every single comment somebody wants to make, and we’ve given you all an opportunity to speak, and unless there’s someone who has not had the opportunity to speak then I think we’ve heard what you’ve had to say.”
Sheary protested that he had more to say.
Both Sides of the Argument
Thompson yielded the floor to Dave Hawthorne, who said he lives in Tokeland and has a place in Menlo. He said he has mixed feelings about the Tokeland extension.
The loop in the system would help ensure that if there is a catastrophe in one area the power could continue to flow.
On the other hand the costs are a concern.
“The one problem I do have is we’re going ahead without really understanding what it’s going to cost to get the equipment from Grays Harbor PUD.”
He also fears running power along the bay could spur development.
Thompson closed the meeting by saying that she keeps hearing that the PUD doesn’t need to serve Tokeland because the area is already getting service.
“I have a problem with that. If we were only going to serve areas that had high population, then Naselle wouldn’t get served and places out in the Valley wouldn’t get served and where I lived probably wouldn’t get served. And there are people in this room who wouldn’t get served as well. That’s not what PUDs are all about. PUDs are about providing service to the community and it’s the whole county, not just the parts we happen to like.”
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 7/8/12. If you would like to respond to this story, go to hometowndebate.com
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