Grant PUD commissioners discuss 2020 budget

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Financial analyst John Metlich goes over preliminary budget numbers at the Grant County PUD commission meeting Tuesday.

EPHRATA — Grant County PUD customers will see a 0.1 percent across-the-board rate increase in 2020, according to a budget presentation to utility district commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioners will decide how to allocate the rate increase among customer classes after the budget is approved, but before the new rates would go into effect in April 2020.

A more detailed look at the 2020 budget proposal is scheduled for the Sept. 24 commission meeting at the Headquarters Office Building at Wanapum Dam. Public presentations are scheduled for early October in Moses Lake, Quincy and Ephrata.

Chief financial officer Jeff Bishop said the budget includes funding for the continuing buildout of the fiber network, and that the five-year projections include enough money to finish that project. (The fiber buildout is in its second year.) There’s also money to continue upgrades to turbines and generators at Priest Rapids Dam, and the expansion of transmission lines and electrical capacity in Quincy.

Retail revenues are projected to decrease between 2020 and 2022, Bishop said, due in part to scrapping a proposed two-percent across-the-board rate increase next year. But the PUD is in a good enough financial situation that the projected rate increases aren’t necessary, he said.

Net wholesale revenue is expected to increase in 2020. Retail demand is expected to increase also, with most of that increase driven by large industrial customers.

Even with less retail revenue, the PUD should meet its financial targets, Bishop said.

Financial analyst John Metlich detailed some of the proposed projects. Upgrades of the Priest Rapids turbines will cost about $20 million and is part of a two-decade project to improve the turbines and generators at both Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. Another $7.6 million is budgeted for generator upgrades. Improvements to the Priest Rapids embankment is budgeted at $20.6 million.

The PUD is projected to spend about $13.1 million to upgrade the transmission lines and substation system, and $12.1 million for the fiber buildout. About $4.1 million will be allocated to help customers connect to fiber.

The utility will be hiring more people, including another crew to work on maintaining substations. Additional employees will be hired for the customer service department.

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

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