PUD projects spending to be under budget

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EPHRATA — If current trends continue the Grant County PUD will spend about seven percent less than the projection in the 2019 budget. Utility district analysts reviewed the second-quarter finances at the regular commission meeting Aug. 13.

Analyst Jeremy Nolan said the biggest reason the PUD will be spending less is that some projects scheduled for 2019 will be delayed until 2020. On the other hand, some projects scheduled for completion in 2020 will be finished in 2019, he said, and completion of others was delayed from 2018 to 2019.

The PUD is working on a two-decade project to upgrade the turbines and generators at Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams. The generator upgrades at Wanapum Dam should be completed this year; completion was expected in early 2020. Turbine upgrades at Priest Rapids Dam are projected to finish the year over budget. In that case some components arrived earlier than expected, and crews will be able to get more work done as a result.

Expansion of the Mountain View substation near Quincy was an example of expenses scheduled for 2018 that spilled over into 2019, Nolan said. That’s projected to push it over the budget. Some of the expansion work at the Randolph Road substation will be rescheduled for 2020, and that project should finish the year under budget.

The PUD’s fiber expansion project is projected to finish the year under budget. It took longer to award the contracts and organize the work crews than anticipated, Nolan said. “They thought they were going to be able to make that (delay) up, but it doesn’t look like they’re quite going to be able to make all that up.”

The fiber connection program is projected to be over budget, due to more customers asking to connect to the system. (The PUD builds the fiber system, but does not sell directly to retail customers.)

“You’ve got more people asking for fiber than what you thought you were going to have?” asked commissioner Dale Walker.

Nolan said that was part of it – more people want to connect, and because the system is expanding more people have access.

“That’s a good thing,” Walker said.

Chief executive officer Kevin Nordt said PUD officials set a goal for connections in 2019, high enough that the staff running the fiber program weren’t sure they would hit it. In the first half of the year the fiber program is exceeding it. “It was a positive surprise that we’re selling as many fiber connections as we are.”

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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