The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved a $127.6-million operating budget for 2021. The spending plan will invest $10.5-million in the utility system and infrastructure in the coming year and will spend roughly $70.8-million on the energy PUD customers rely on to power their homes and businesses.
“This budget really comes down to service, affordability and reliability,” said PUD Commission President Russ Skolrood. “The energy the utility purchases continues to be amongst the cleanest and most affordable in the country and the system that delivers that energy must do so while standing up to the rigors of the Grays Harbor environment. The investments the board has approved for the coming year will ensure that our customers can rely on those services to continue.”
In addition to energy costs, which make up 71% of the operating budget, the utility capital budget will invest $4.22-million in the utility distribution system, $2.11-million in the PUD transmission system, $2-million on utility substations, and $2.16-million on the utility general plant. Some of the standout projects include over $1-million spent on improvements to the Central Park, Scott Street and Montesano substations, concluding work on the Chehalis River Crossing Towers, extending the utility fiber system and maintaining and replacing the equipment that helps the PUD maintain system safety, reliability and affordability.
“Working together, the PUD Operations, Engineering and Telecommunications departments have identified the areas in which the utility needs to focus its attention and invest its resources,” said General Manager Dave Ward.
The 2021 budget will include a proposed 2% rate adjustment which will not be implemented until May. By waiting until the spring, the PUD staff have the time to assess utility finances and determine if the full adjustment is necessary.
“In 2020, the PUD chose not to go forward with our rate adjustment because of the impacts of COVID-19,” said Skolrood. “By waiting until after the winter, we have a better idea of where we will be financially and what we need to do to responsibly manage the 2021 budget.”
The coming year will also begin with the PUD continuing the measures taken to protect staff and customers from COVID-19 while continuing to provide the critical services its customers rely on. This will include the closure of the customer service lobby, remote working and meetings where and when possible, and the isolation of utility operations and telecommunications crews.
“The actions taken by the PUD have worked well,” said Ward. “Energy and telecom services are always critical to the residential and commercial communities of Grays Harbor, but during the COVID response, they have become even more so. Our ability to continue to provide those services in the midst of a pandemic response can give customers a sense of security and normalcy in a time when both are needed more than ever.”