“Currently in North County, Raymond/South Bend area, the transmission line that brings power in from Bonneville comes along the Aberdeen highway and then comes from Green Creek Road, where Bonneville has a switching station to the Raymond station. If for some reason both of those transmission lines went down, then there would be an outage to Raymond/South Bend areas. By having a transmission connection to Grays Harbor PUD over at the South Beach County line, or in that vicinity, if that were to happen here to those two Bonneville lines, we could . . . keep the South Bend and Raymond substation energized and the majority of the people on,” Miller said.
Several ratepayers in attendance complained that this aspect of the project was never before released to the public. “Every time we have a meeting here, it’s a different thing,” one man in attendance protested. “Stop it. Sit down, if it’s really needed, if you truly, truly think it’s needed, then it can be quantified and you can put it down on paper and let us all see.”
Another individual explained that the Tokeland/Grayland area has poor reliability: “All you have to do is drive that system down there and look at the shape it’s in and then go to Long Beach and look at the lines there . . . or drive down Highway 6 here. Compare the construction; compare the size of the wire, size and quality of the poles, the hardware on the poles and you’ll see a vast difference. That’s why those people down there have lousy service. No money has been put into it.”
Miller agreed: “If someone else was going to take over your system, I’d imagine you’d do a minimum of work, because then they come in do whatever they wanted to do, to upgrade or make changes.”
One other attendee commented: “If they know you’re going to take something away from them, why upgrade it? And this has been going on since 2000. . . And you wonder why Tokeland is in tough shape? Look at yourself, go look in the mirror,” he said to the PUD Board.
An individual who had not recently attended any PUD meetings made an observation after sitting through half of the meeting:“Sitting here listening to everybody and hearing some unkind things being said and not hearing a lot of rebuttal from our commissioners . . . I find a fault in communication. I have not seen any from this body of elected officials or a body that is serving our community. I would think if this project has been this many years in its development, why is there not a prospectus, or a proposal, or a listing of all permits? I would think by this time there would be a three-inch binder that has been published and should be out that somebody could come in and view or sit and read. I don’t think somebody should have to go onto the Internet to find whether this little machine is keeping track of outages or have to go to the Corps of Engineers to find out if there are any permits. . . I don’t understand; where is this information? Why don’t you have it?”
Thompson explained: “This PUD, on a regular basis, does projects. For example a big upgrade on the Naselle substation, we didn’t put together a big notebook on that. Each year there is a project to maintain the system, to upgrade, to keep it working properly. This is pretty much the same kind of thing. I don’t mean to suggest that we don’t want to put information out.”
The newcomer continued: “Communication is the key in anything. When you have your answers and the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, then your butt’s covered; nobody can question you then, because all you have to say is, ‘here’s the information.’. . When you’re in the public, when you’re a politician, when you’re an elected official, you have to cover your backside. . . It’s obvious from these people that are upset that this hasn’t been done and now you’re catching the flak from it. You can’t get away from that flak because you didn’t dot your i’s and cover your t’s. I don’t know how to get you out of this uncomfortable situation that you’re in right now because, unfortunately, you’re an elected official.”
Another newcomer commented that he was also disappointed by the communication at the meeting: “I walked into this room tonight as a neutral observer, stirred by some thoughtful articles in the Herald recently. I must say after hearing the discussion, I’m no longer a neutral observer, because the PUD is presenting a very weak case. The PUD may have a case, that’s certainly fair, I don’t know enough to talk down their case, but they need to present the case so people will see that side of the story. Right now, the only side of the story that hangs together is the anti-PUD side. I think that’s pretty obvious. Anybody who walks in here and listens to the whole discussion, you get no quantitative rebuttal from the PUD people. That’s sad. There may be a rebuttal and you need to put that rebuttal out.”
In other news, Miller announced a rate increase, which will occur the 1st of October. “The wholesale power cost just increased from Bonneville by 9.6 percent on average, effective October 1st and the transmission rates went up 11 percent. . . We looked at those rates and their effects on us beginning October 1st, and retail rates will go up 3 percent to offset. There will be a surcharge and it’ll start and be 3 percent.”
“I’m a bookkeeper for several non-profits in town,” an attendee explained. “When that raise went in a couple of years ago, their utility bill went up 36.4 percent, from $70 budget plan to $110. . . So now with this coming in, and these are non-profits where it’s only by the grace of God and the loving community that they get their money, I’m real nervous. . . You’re talking $18 million and I’m worried about whether we can keep $3,000 in the checking account to avoid the $14 charge that the bank gives us every month. So, when you’re talking $18 million, I’m worried about $3,000.”
Another ratepayer agreed: “There’s a whole lot more people in this county that are in the same shape as the non-profits.”
The next and final public meeting held in regards to the PUD Tokeland extension project will take place Thursday, September 12th at 6 p.m. at the PUD building in Long Beach.