A handful of local residents voiced their complaints to the P.U.D. No. 2 hierarchy at last Tuesday’s (March 5) afternoon bi-monthly board meeting before a crowd of 15 in attendance. Some issues brought up to PUD Commissioners Mike Swanson, Diana Thompson and Ron Hatfield, General Manager Doug Miller, and attorney Jim Finlay included price gauging, high salaries and wrecked equipment.
Dick Anderson voiced his complaints about what he called, “price gauging” on materials by the PUD No. 2.
“Price gauging has reached its maximum,” Anderson said. “Some things are a half to one-third the price (less) as to what they are here. Something shouldn’t cost $335 when you can buy it wholesale for $70. You can buy conduit for one-half to one-third the price in other counties. We’re discouraging people from upgrading service. This needs to be corrected. PUD No. 2 prices are out of order. I hear a lot of people complaining about the prices. In some cases, there’s a 450 percent mark up. Somebody better be doing some math.”
“We don’t have mark ups,” Miller said. “There’s nothing added for the cost to do the work. There’s no gauging taking place.
“I’m just talking about materials,” Anderson said.
Inflated Salaries by PUD
Ron Craig took issue with what he termed “inflated” salaries across the board by PUD employees. “You’re not looking at Pacific County’s affordability,” Craig said. “We have a lot of people below the poverty level. Your wages are out of whack.”
Craig sited 2011 statistics for Pacific County, which states that the average wage for Pacific County is $25,700 and the average household income is $37,000, while the PUD’s average income is $54,000. You guys raised your pay rate by about six percent and have raised it another 2.74 percent in 2014 (wages and benefits).”
With benefits, Craig said PUD employees average $74,290 annually. “Guys, we’ve been too generous,” Craig said. “In 2012, you gave yourselves some wonderful benefits (nine in all)…a 233 percent increase. How do you explain that to the woman who can’t pay her light bill? What’s the rationale? You have your wages too high – that’s the point! We’re losing people! You’re acting like we have a thriving economy. We don’t!”
Craig then went on to attack the number of managers that the PUD employs, while pointing out that the management work ratio is 2.6. “Managers should be able to manage more than 2.6 people.”
Craig took the manager’s salaries to task, which he said, “average in the six figures if you count benefits. How do you explain that? It doesn’t make any difference what other counties are. It’s you that should be doing something about this.”
Miller told Craig that his “percentages are not right” because he was only “quoting wages for non-government workers.”
Craig then pointed out, “The average wage for all workers in Pacific County is $45,000. My conclusion and point is you need to start thinking about the people you serve.”
Hatfield said, “We don’t do this as a whim or anything else. I’m very supportive of the PUD and always have been. Our job is to have a PUD that is maintained well.”
Hugh Fleet said, “it’s the people that work for government that are making so much more than the people supporting them. Believe me, we are considering those people. I pay into the Warm Heart fund every month.”
Craig thanked Swanson for being the only commissioner to vote against their wage increases. (Current pay for commissioners is $1,400 a month plus $104 for each meeting attended and $1,312 for medical insurance.)
Wrecked Man-Lift Incident
Another Pacific County resident, Pat Myers, addressed the commissioners about an incident that allegedly took place during the summer of 2003. Myers asked the board to look into the matter.
“I feel Pacific County residents should have answers,” Myers said, while addressing the commissioners, “Were any of you aware of this wreck? What was the job location? Was there an accident report with the police? What was the extent of the equipment damage? How did the PUD pay for the damage? Was the PUD attorney involved with this transaction?”
Myers then told the PUD that he had a letter that was mailed to the Herald by a whistle blower, but that it would not be “prudent” for him to disclose it at this meeting. “I would like you guys look into it first,” Myers said.
“No, I haven’t seen this picture,” Miller said. “I’m not familiar with this at all.”
Thompson said, “ I don’t know anything about the circumstances of it; when or where.”
“Hopefully, we can get some answers,” Myers said. “I would like to come back in a month.”
No American Flag in Meeting Room
Fleet addressed the commissioners by saying, “I’m satisfied with how you’re keeping my power on.” Fleet said there are 39 counties in the state and asked how rates in Pacific County compare with the rest of the state?
Miller said there are 28 PUDs in the state and Pacific County serves 17,000 customers. “The hydro production rates are a lot lower than we are and Lewis County is lower than us,” Miller said. “Our rates are second from the bottom.”
Fleet also told the commissioners that there should be an American flag in the room and that the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited before every meeting. “It should be said here,” Fleet said. “You should have a flag in here and do that.”
Editor's Note: Please see Ron Craig's Letter to the Editor on page 4.