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OKANOGAN - Many Okanogan County Public Utility District customers are catching up on past-due bills amid the challenges of COVID-19.

The district still has 305 accounts with $48,000 past due, Customer Service Supervisor Mindy Morris told PUD commissioners during their July 20 meeting.

Three of those accounts represent more than $12,000 in telecom accounts, and they were expected to be paid up in the next week.

Also, the district has begun to receive low-income home energy assistance program funds from both the Colville Confederated 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 for non-payment in mid-March because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The district also would normally collect late fees, but has not been doing so since mid-March. That represents about $63,000 not collected in the four months since then.

Customer service workers continue to work out payment arrangements with customers struggling to pay their bills. Customers with questions can contact the district during business hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

In other business, the board:

-Observed a moment of silence for Accounting Manager Fred Burke, who died earlier this month.

Commissioners also appointed General Manager Steve Taylor and General Counsel Heidi Appel to serve as co-committee members in Burke’s place on the 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.

Total cost of the custom truck is about $410,000.

-Heard that the district still anticipates 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 2019.

Since the district did not do a rate increase this year, the surcharge was not being recovered at about 90 cents per month for the average residential customer. Power reports show the district is about $1 million behind budget on power revenues for the year to date.

The district will discuss revising its 2020 budget to reflect COVID-19 effects, and prepare for the 2021 budget soon.

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