Okanogan County Public Utility District General Manager Steve Taylor (left) presents a service award to journeyman lineman Bruce Rawley.

OKANOGAN – Department managers updated Okanogan County Public Utility District commissioners April 22 on strategic planning efforts.

General Manager Steve Taylor has instituted strategic planning so manager will evaluate what their departments are doing and what they plan to do.

Ron Gadeberg, director of power resources and broadband services, said the utility is look at moving from the Bonneville Power Administration’s SLICE energy purchasing program to something different. He said more restrictions are being placed on BPA, so it’s a good time to get away from the SLICE product.

Under SLICE, a utility receives a percentage of the federal power output at an equally sized percentage of BPA’s power costs.

Another electricity provider, the Nine Canyon Wind Project south of Kennewick, does not expect changes to its rates in the coming budget year, Gadeberg said. The PUD pays $69 per megawatt.

When bonds to pay for the multi-utility project are paid off in 2023, electricity likely will cost around $25 per megawatt, he said.

He’s also working on a cyber security policy, but is having to draft it from scratch since other utilities won’t share their policies. He said so far the district’s security system is working, “but we have hackers knocking at our door every day.”

Cyber security isn’t just about protecting the district’s customer and financial information, but also about protecting its distribution systems, he said.

In other business, the board:

-Saw Taylor recognize Bruce Rawley for 15 years of employment with the utility.

-Had a first reading of a governance policy resolution.

-Had a first reading of the 2019 wage and salary grade program resolution. Taylor said some employee compensation changes would be coming next year as part of the fall budgeting process.

The resolution would allow the manager to work within the budget to set salaries, but also gives the board a say.

-Learned a new employee handbook has been written.

-Approved a change order and budget increase for an existing Enloe Dam dewatering and inspection contract with Max J. Kuney Co.

-Learned the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative, Winthrop, has approached the PUD about buying broadband services.

-Learned the PUD may seek a grant for car charging stations, given passage of House Bill 1512 by the Legislature. The bill calls for 100 percent renewable energy in the state.

-Heard Sheila Corson, community relations coordinator, talk about events she has attended on the utility’s behalf, the online bill paying program and goals for the department. She said she’s also working on utility history for the 75th anniversary of the PUD in 2020.

-Learned about information technology upgrades from Jerry Day, information systems manager. Among other things, the district is looking into phone systems upgrades and a program that could allow outage and disconnect notices to be sent to customers.

-Heard from Taylor that the Twisp-to-Winthrop reroute project began construction that morning, so the Winthrop and Mazama areas are served via the Loup Loup transmission line for now until the project is complete in several weeks.

-Heard from Treasurer Janet Crossland that there was another decrease in March in the fund balance because of a large tax payment in February and higher-than-normal power purchases in both February and March.

-Learned from Don Coppock, director of accounting, finance and administration/auditor, that most financial numbers are tracking consistently with the time of year. He said staff is working on a draft professional services contract for a cost of service study.

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