Next month, the Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners will consider a budget for 2019 that will include $9.1-million in capital expenditures. The budget outlines costs for the maintenance and upkeep of the PUD system, new customer connections, the installation of new equipment and improvements to utility facilities.
“While the total capital investment makes up less than 10% of our overall budget, that amount is what makes so much of what we do possible,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “The safety and reliability of the PUD system is at the core of our mission to our customers. Our responsible and affordable capital budget makes that happen.”
Nearly three quarters of every dollar spent on capital improvements will go to the replacement of aging equipment, including aerial and underground transmission and distribution lines, hundreds of utility poles, and substation transformers and circuit breakers. In 2019, the utility plans to invest $2-million into the PUD transmission system, $3.9-million into the distribution system and $1.4-million into its substation network
“Our engineering and operations crews have worked together to identify the work that needs to be addressed now to keep our system working in the way our customers expect,” said Engineering Director Schuyler Burkhart. “Our budget team started with a $14.8 million proposed cost and worked it down to the more affordable amount we had planned for the year.”
The remainder of the proposed capital budget is dedicated to general plant improvements, including telecommunications, facilities, IT systems, fleet and tools, which will see a total investment of $1.75-million. These improvements will be partially funded with grant dollars, secured by the utility to improve the telecom network used by local internet service providers.
Overall, the proposed 2019 capital budget shows an increase of 11.5% over 2018, which is a reflection of gradual improvements in the PUD’s financial state. While the needs, value and estimated life of the system call for the PUD to spend between $12-million and $13-million on its upkeep, the utility is recommending that the Board gradually work toward that total as finances improve, rather than increase spending in a way which would mean a larger increase in customer rates.
The commissioners are expected to approve the 2019 budget in November. It will take effect on January 1.