Grays Harbor PUD to adopt new accounting and customer billing system

Beginning on June 1st, the Grays Harbor PUD will adopt a new computer system to manage accounting and customer billing programs. To ensure a smooth transition, PUD customer service staff has begun a two week training program which will mean a smaller number of staff will be available to take customer phone calls and assist walk-in customers.

“We are asking for our customers to be patient,” said Customer Service Manager Katy Moore. “For the next two weeks customer service staff will be split between training on the new system and assisting our customers. While this may mean slightly longer wait times, we will continue to provide the quality service our customers have come to expect.”

The reduction in available customer service staff will also mean the closure of the PUD drive-thru window for the next two weeks (March 30-April 10). During this time period, customers may utilize the drop box in front of the main building to drop off payments or come in to our customer service lobby. Payments can also be accepted by phone with a debit or credit card, made online or at any Anchor Bank branch. The window will reopen for drive-thru service at 8:00AM on April 13.

The National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) system is used by utilities throughout the country and will replace the aging and obsolete PeopleSoft system. The new NISC system will allow the PUD to improve both cost and service efficiency in its accounting and customer service departments. With the introduction of the new software, PUD customers will notice a new look to the web portal used for online access to customer account information and online billing. While the look may change, the functions of the page will remain the same, allowing customers to easily pay bills, access their accounts and learn more about their power usage.

In the coming months, the PUD will use all available methods to publicize information on the adoption and implementation of the new system leading up to the “go live” date of June 1st. This will include radio and print advertising, online postings at ghpud.org and regular updates in the PUD Energy newsletter.

“The more information we can share with our customers and staff, the better prepared they will be,” said Moore. “This way, we hope for the uninterrupted continuation of our online services.”

Morning Razor Clam digs approved, watch for nesting shorebirds

State shellfish managers have approved a weeklong series of razor clam digs starting April 4 at four ocean beaches.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) confirmed the digs after marine toxin tests showed the clams on those beaches are safe to eat.

All of the digs are scheduled on morning tides. No digging will be allowed on any beach after noon.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, reminds diggers they will need a valid 2015-16 fishing license to participate in all upcoming razor clam digs, since the new license year begins April 1. Various types of fishing licenses are available online (fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/), by phone (866-246-9453), and from authorized license dealers throughout the state.

“The razor clams we’re seeing are really fattening up, and are perfect for the frying pan,” Ayres said.

Under state law, diggers are required to keep the first 15 clams they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container

Beaches in Washington with razor clam fisheries include: Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point. Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor. Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas. Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Seabrook, Pacific Beach and Moclips. Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park. (This beach is closed to harvest until further notice)
Beaches in Washington with razor clam fisheries include:
Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.
Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.
Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Seabrook, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park. (This beach is closed to harvest until further notice)

The upcoming dig is scheduled on the following dates, beaches, and low tides:

  • April 4, Saturday, 7:23 a.m.; 0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
  • April 5, Sunday, 7:57 a.m.; 0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
  • April 6, Monday, 8:32 a.m.; 0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 7, Tuesday, 9:09 a.m.; 0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 8, Wednesday, 9:48 a.m.; 0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 9, Thursday, 10:32 a.m.; 0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 10, Friday, 11:23 a.m.; 0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors

WDFW has also proposed additional digs in April and May, pending the results of future marine toxin tests. Tentative dates for those digs are posted on the department’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.

During all upcoming digs, state wildlife managers urge clam diggers to avoid disturbing snowy plovers and streaked horned larks. Both species nest in the soft, dry sand at Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula, and on a section of Twin Harbors beach.

Western Snowy Plover    Streaked Horned Lark

The snowy plover is a small bird with gray wings and a white breast. The lark is a small bird with a pale yellow breast and brown back. Male larks have a black mask, breast band and “horns.” Both species are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

 

Mayor Jack Durney says he’ll seek a fifth term in Hoquiam

Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney says he plans to run for re-election. He said on Facebook over the weekend that “Making sure that our Hoquiam waterfront does not become a massive tank farm and that Hoquiam is more proactive rather than reactive about industrial development is a high priority with me.”
The former mayor of Aberdeen also recounted some of his accomplishments over the last 4 terms, including upgrades to neighborhood parks, the Eastside Fire Station, a new boat launch being constructed soon behind Swanson’s, and the city’s Tree City USA designation.
Durney added “more still needs to be done and I want to continue to be a part of it.”

Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney
Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney

I am announcing that I plan to file for re-election as Mayor of Hoquiam.  I continue to have the energy, enthusiasm, and passion about serving my home town.  My grandfather Durney came to Hoquiam in the 1880s,  built our family home at 5th and K where my father was born and I grew up, and a town that my family business – now in its third generation – is located.

 

With the help of about 200+ residents 10 years ago, we created the Hometown Hoquiam strategic plan to improve sidewalks, abate dangerous structures, improve our police protection by focusing on community policing and re-opening our jail, improve our parks, make the necessary updates to our aging underground infrastructure, and focus more on economic development.  With the cooperation of a great city council, I believe I have brought to the city a strong management team who over time have made the changes and come up with the creative ideas that have allowed Hoquiam to fulfill these goals.

 

  1. We have obtained grants to improve mobility in Hoquiam by replacing several blocks of sidewalks, have installed quite a few handicap ramps, and have created an innovative partnership with individual property owners to replace dangerous neighborhood sidewalks by tearing out the old sidewalk and installing a new one if the property owner pays for the materials.
  2. We have obtained grants and low interest loans to replace much of our aging water and sewer infrastructure and right now are replacing about 2-3 miles of our water transmission line from the treatment plant on the Quinault Highway in to town.
  3. We have created a unique partnership with the Washington Department of Corrections to house some of their probation violators which has allowed us to re-open the jail on a very cost effective basis.
  4. We have upgraded all of our neighborhood parks and installed a water spray feature in the totally renovated Art Pocklington Central Play Park.  John Gable Park has also been modernized and new entrances and sidewalks are to start soon.  Funds from these projects have come from the general fund but a large percentage has come from donations and grants.
  5. We are looking forward to starting construction of the new boat launch and docks on the Hoquiam River later this year behind Swanson’s that will allow 20-30 boats to dock there.
  6. A 100% grant has allowed us to totally rebuild the East Side fire station to better serve the neighborhood and also the growing industrial development on that side of the river.
  7. I am also very proud of our effort to plant over 200 trees along the main streets and in the new sidewalks to enhance the environment and beauty of the community.  We created an Urban Forestry Board and have received the Tree City USA designation – the only city on the coast of Washington to with this honor!
  8. But so much of what is going well in Hoquiam is a result of the cumulative effort of a number of individuals or groups outside of the city hall who contribute to this community that I like to call Hometown Hoquiam – our service clubs, Scout groups, school groups, Loggers Playday, Polson Museum, 7th Street Theatre, the Elks, our faith community, and just regular citizens who support our events and serve on various citizen committees.

 

But more still needs to be done and I want to continue to be a part of it.  Making sure that our Hoquiam waterfront does not become a massive tank farm and that Hoquiam is more proactive rather than reactive about industrial development is a high priority with me.  Other priorities include finding opportunities to grow housing (as with the new Summerhaven Homes development past Woodlawn), following through on our water and sewer infrastructure, expanding even further recreational opportunities, and focusing even further on working collaboratively with Aberdeen and Cosmopolis on joint public safety opportunity to reduce costs and improve service.

 

I believe we have a lot to be proud of in Hoquiam. I want to be able to continue to play a part in that and continue to work with the superb public works, police, fire, finance, court, and parks staff who provide exception service to my hometown.  I wish my grandfather were alive today to see what his hometown is doing.

Former Montesano Vidette Editor Steven Friederich recently honored by WCOG

Four Washington citizens were recognized by the Washington Coalition for Open Government on Saturday, March 14 at the organization’s annual Open Government Conference in Tacoma. The four were honored with the organization’s Key Award which is given throughout the year to people who have done something notable for the cause of open government within the past 12 months.

 

Gene Pollard, a member of the King County Public Hospital District No. 4, asked for help from WCOG Board member and attorney, Kathy George, when he thought his board was about to take an illegal vote. George intervened and the voting process was changed to comply with the OMPRA.

 

Former Montesano Vidette Editor Steven Friederich has spent his career using the state Public Records Act to peel away the layers of local government in Grays Harbor County.  During the past year, his public records requests helped reveal county contractors were playing video games at the county workplace; followed investigations into city employees wasting thousands of hours of productivity watching videos and surfing the internet; employees watching porn on city-owned equipment; and the facts behind the termination of a popular public works supervisor.  Friederich even stood his ground when the mayor of Montesano wanted to know how supposedly confidential documents were being leaked to him and promptly filed a records request regarding the mayor’s investigation into the “leaks” at city hall.

 

Althea Paulson and Bob Fortner of Bainbridge Island filed suit against the city in September 2013 claiming the city and Councilman Steve Bonkowski, Ward, and then-councilwoman Debbi Lester failed to turn over public records that had been requested under the state’s Public Records Act. They sought emails council members sent and received on their personal email accounts. The city’s Governance Manual stipulates that council members use their city provided email accounts, and to forward any city related emails sent to them on private accounts to the city for retention.

 

Join WCOG and help in the non-partisan fight for transparent government and open public participation. WCOG was founded in 2002 by a group of individuals representing organizations with a broad spectrum of opinions and interests but all dedicated to the principles of strengthening the state’s open government laws and protecting the public’s access to government at all levels. WCOG stands for the principle that transparency and public participation are essential building blocks of good government.

 

Membership is open to the public. For more information contact WCOG at 6351 Seaview Avenue NW, Seattle, WA 98107-2664, on the web at www.washingtoncog.org, or call (206) 782- 0393.

Cantwell, Murray, Baldwin, and Feinstein Introduce Oil Train Safety Legislation

Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation that would set strong new safety standards for trains hauling volatile crude oil, to better protect American communities along the tracks.

 

The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015 requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt the use of older-model tank cars that have been shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments.

 

“Every new derailment increases the urgency with which we need to act,” said Senator Cantwell, ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Communities in Washington state and across the nation see hundreds of these oil tank cars pass through each week.  This legislation will help reduce the risk of explosion in accidents, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and ensure first responders have the equipment they need.  We can’t afford to wait for ten accidents per year, as estimated by the Department of Transportation.”

 

“Families and communities in Washington state and across the country should be able to feel safe knowing that every precaution is being taken to protect them from oil train disasters,” Senator Murray said. “This legislation will help make sure the most dangerous tank cars are kept off the tracks and is a strong step forward in reducing the risks of oil train accidents and making sure our communities have the resources they need to be prepared for emergencies if they happen.”

“As more and more volatile crude oil moves through Wisconsin and through our country via rail it is critical that appropriate safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of deadly accidents,” Senator Baldwin said. “I’m proud to join Senators Cantwell, Feinstein and Murray in introducing legislation that takes immediate action to phase out the most dangerous tank cars carrying crude oil through our communities and I am hopeful our colleagues in the Senate will join us to prevent future oil train tragedies from occurring as we work to increase safety and efficiency along America’s railways.”  

 

“As more crude oil is moved by train, we’re seeing a surge in derailments and explosions. Until we deploy safer tank cars and stronger safety rules, countless communities across the country face the risk of a devastating accident,” Senator Feinstein said. “That’s why I’m supporting Senator Cantwell’s bill, which will save lives and property and ensure that railcar investments now underway will lead to significant safety improvements. We can’t wait for the next deadly accident to take the necessary steps to improve rail safety.”

 

The legislation would:

 

  • Require PHMSA standards for volatility of gases in crude oil hauled by rail.

 

  • Immediately ban the use of tank cars shown to be unsafe for shipping crude oil. Those models include DOT-111s and unjacketed CPC-1232s.

 

  • Require new tank car design standards that include 9/16th inch shells, thermal protection, pressure relief valves and electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

 

  • Increase fines on railroads that violate hazardous materials laws and establish new fines for railroads and energy companies that don’t comply with safety laws.

 

  • Authorize funding for first responder training, equipment and emergency preparedness. Also would authorize funding for increased rail inspections and energy product testing.

 

  • Require comprehensive oil spill response plans for trains carrying oil, petroleum and other hazardous products.

 

  • Mandate railroads establish a confidential “close-call” reporting system for employees to anonymously report problems.

 

  • Require railroads to disclose crude-by-rail movements to State Emergency Response Commissions and Local Emergency Planning Committees along hazmat rail routes.

 

The legislation follows four fiery derailments involving oil trains since the start of February. No injuries were reported, but a July 2013 derailment in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, resulted in 47 deaths. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates an average of 10 derailments annually over the next 20 years as crude-by-rail shipments grow, costing $4 billion.

 

Five years ago, railroads hauled almost no crude oil. Now, more than 1.1 million barrels per day – with more expected – move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest. But safety regulations have not kept pace, and thousands of tank cars now in use to haul hazardous materials were not designed to carry the more flammable crude that comes from regions such as the Bakken shale.

U.S. Coast Guard rescues Two near La Push

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a couple of hikers yesterday near La Push. A hiker that suffered a knee injury and mild hypothermia seven miles southeast of La Push, was airlifted out Tuesday morning.

Hiker

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles safely hoisted the hiker and transported her to the Forks airport where she was taken by ambulance to the Forks Community Hospital.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound in Seattle received a request from Olympic National Park personnel to transport an injured hiker along Goodman Creek Monday around 7 p.m. The 24-year-old woman had reportedly suffered the knee injury Sunday morning and was unable to hike out on her own.

The duty flight surgeon discussed the situation with the on-scene Olympic National Park ranger and EMT, who had placed the hiker in a tent and were treating her injuries. The decision was made not to extract her immediately due to the nature of the injury, time of day and deteriorating weather conditions. The ranger and EMT stayed with the hiker overnight to observe her condition and agreed to reevaluate the situation in the morning.

Around 9 a.m. Tuesday, Olympic National Park personnel reported that the hiker’s condition had worsened overnight, prompting the Coast Guard response.

The aircrew launched at 10:03 a.m. and arrived on scene shortly before 11 a.m. They hoisted the hiker and transferred her to awaiting EMS at 11:41 a.m.

“Thanks to our strong partnership with the Olympic National Park Service, we were able to work together to get the injured hiker the medical care she needed,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jeff James, command duty officer at Sector Puget Sound. “Our crews are always happy to assist local agencies in serving our communities.”

On-scene weather conditions were reportedly overcast skies with an air temperature of 47 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind speed of 8 mph.

The Olympic National Park reports the 24-year-old woman had hurt her knee Sunday along Goodman Creek, and had spent the night on the trail Monday with a Ranger and EMT. Her condition had worsened yesterday morning and park staff called for the Coast Guard rescue. The woman was taken to Forks Community Hospital Tuesday in unknown condition.
A beach-goer was reportedly stranded on a cliff by the rising tide at Second Beach near La Push, yesterday afternoon.

Beach-Goer

A Coast Guard helicopter crew transported a beach-goer who was reportedly stranded on a cliff at Second Beach near La Push, Tuesday.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles safely hoisted the stranded man and transported him to the Forks airport where he was met by friends.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound in Seattle received a request for assistance from Coast Guard Station Quillayute River at 1:51 p.m., reporting that the 53-year-old man was separated from his group of friends and was stranded on a cliff, unreachable by the local first responders.

“This case illustrates the importance of having hoist capable Coast Guard assets in the area,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Mario Roy, a watchstander at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. “Without the fast response of our helicopter crew, this man would have been stranded on the cliff until the next low tide after 10 a.m.”

No injuries were reported. On-scene weather conditions were reportedly overcast skies with an air temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind speed of 15 mph.

Friends Landing near Montesano is now taking reservations

The Port of Grays Harbor’s newest waterfront access facility, Friends Landing, is now taking reservations for the 2015 camping season.

The popular recreation area on the Chehalis River, just outside of Montesano, WA, offers RV and tent camping with 29 sites available. The 18 RV sites include electrical and water hookups and the 11 tent sites have available water. Public restrooms also offer two ADA accessible showers. Camping fees for RV’s are $25 per night with tent camping $15 per night.

A press release from the Port says Grays Harbor’s hidden gem also features two large picnic shelters that can accommodate your next outdoor birthday party, family reunion or company picnic. The shelters can be reserved for $50 per day or $10 an hour.

Continue reading Friends Landing near Montesano is now taking reservations

Hoquiam preps again for Simpson Avenue Bridge closures

A closure of the Simpson Avenue Bridge later this summer will affect Hoquiam businesses again as highway traffic is diverted over the Riverside Bridge. The City council last night suspended their sign ordinance to allow businesses to use sign boards closer to traffic during the closure.
The Washington State Department of Transportation plans to close the bridge this summer to clean, paint, and inspect the historic span.
Newly appointed Councilman Ron Tibbetts recommended the city look at modifying the sign ordinance to include these types of exceptions in the future.

Hoquiam council sets workshop for zoning restrictions on Liquefied Petroleum Storage

The City of Hoquiam last night held their second public hearing on a moratorium adopted earlier this month that halts new oil export facilities on their side of the Port of Grays Harbor. “There are many reasons why oil and gas should not be stored or shipped from Grays Harbor.” Liz Ellis of Aberdeen noted the area’s seismic and tsunami risks, while Dave Forbes of Hoquiam thanked the city “for taking a stand on the crude oil by rail business. I hope this city keeps it up, and really looks at the consequences for some of that bulk storage.”

Mayor Jack Durney recommended that they look further into zoning “we want to also make sure that whatever we do isn’t harmful to some existing businesses.” Councilman John Pellegrini said they didn’t want to “zone out” any businesses with stricter rules, Durney added “I think a workshop is the ideal opportunity, so that we have some time at the staff level to come up with some options.”

The council voted to hold a workshop on April 20th to addressing zoning, that could prohibit Wholesale Liquefied Petroleum facilities.

Mason County head-on collision claims one driver, sends second to hospital

A head on collision on the Johns Prairie Road in Mason County claimed the life of one driver yesterday. The Sheriff’s Office had initially said on their twitter page that alcohol may have been involved, however later said that a medical issue may be to blame. Detective Bill Adam tells us at approximately 5:31 PM, MACECOM 911 Dispatch received a cell phone call from a woman reporting that she was following a person driving erratically (speeding and crossing the center line) on John’s Prairie Road. While speaking with Dispatch, the suspected vehicle crashed head-on into a pickup truck near the Mason County Public Utilities building in the 2600 block, 2 miles northeast of Shelton.

A Deputy Sheriff was in the area arriving shortly after the crash and assisted a US Army medic who also happened to be in the area. Both the Deputy and the medic administered first aid until Fire Rescue Aid arrived.

Multiple witnesses at the scene described that the erratically driven vehicle crossed the center line, crashing into the oncoming pickup truck.

The driver of the pickup truck, a 47 year old Shelton man was transported to Sanderson Field and airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. As of this morning, he is in the Intensive Care Unit in stable condition.

The erratic driver was also transported to Sanderson Field in order to be airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, but succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased at the airport.

Mason County Coroner Wes Stockwell was able to contact the driver’s immediate family and released her name as 53 year old Andrea Tyrone of Shelton.

Preliminary reports state that Andrea may have had medical issues that could have been a factor in the cause of the crash. No other information is available at this time due to the ongoing investigation.