Commission recap 1/10/2023 -- Commissioners Nelson Cox and Terry Pyle sworn in for new terms

Grant County Superior Court Judge Tyson Hill was on hand in Grant PUD’s Ephrata commission room Tuesday to officially swear-in newly re-elected Commissioner Nelson Cox to a second, four-year term on the commission and Commissioner Terry Pyle to his first popularly elected six-year term.

Cox, a retired potato farmer from Warden, represents District B-At Large. Pyle was appointed by commissioners in October 2021 to fill the remainder of the then-vacant District 2 position. Voters in November gave Pyle another six years. Pyle teaches business and economics courses at Big Bend Community College.

Commissioners chose board officers at their Dec. 15, 2022 meeting. This year, Commissioner Cox will be board president, Commissioner Tom Flint, vice president and Commissioner Terry Pyle, secretary. Commissioners Larry Schaapman and Judy Wilson round out the board.

Hear the swearing-in at 2:52:37 on the commission audio.

Recreation visitors survey back this year after COVID hiatus

Grant PUD is again launching its in-person survey of visitors to the utility’s Columbia River-recreation areas to gauge visitor satisfaction with amenities and overall experience.

“This is very, very useful date for us,” Manager of License Compliance & Lands Services Shannon Lowry told commissioners Tuesday of the survey.

The visitor-opinion data helps Lowry and her team decide how to improve visitor safety and enjoyment of the utility’s camping and picnic sites, boat launches, walking trails, swimming areas, restrooms, and other amenities found in Grant PUD’s 20 recreation areas around the reservoirs of Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams.

The survey will happen this summer and again every three years. It went on partial hiatus during the COVID pandemic. To collect the data, Grant PUD employees, each carrying official ID badges, approach park visitors to collect their responses.

Recreation area visits were down slightly last year after the historic highs of 2021. “We think we’re seeing a post-COVID correction,” Lowry said, adding that more promotion is planned this year to increase public and utility customer awareness about what Grant PUD recreation areas have to offer.

Recreation-related projects planned this year include dredging and bank stabilization at the Priest Rapids Recreation Area, removal of a privately built marina in Vantage, and asphalt repair on the pedestrian trail on Crescent Bar Island. The Priest Rapids Recreation Area boat launch will remain closed until the end of February when dredging is complete. The campground, picnic area, and trail remain open to the public.

Also in the works is an analysis of golf-course use at Crescent Bar. Commissioners requested a report of course’s financial performance over the past five years. Last year golfers played 11,790 rounds of golf, up from 10,165 rounds in 2021.

Despite the increase in golf last year, all services on Crescent Bar, which includes camping and marina fuel sales, collected $723,464 in revenue and recorded $1.56 million in expenses.

The recreation discussion was part of a larger review of the team’s accomplishments in 2022 and a preview of 2023. Hear the full discussion at 48:03:00 on the commission audio. See the presentation on pages 1-17 of the presentation materials.


More fiber expansion, tech improvements planned for 2023

Jacob Johnson, Electronic and Fiber Technicians Supervisor, presented the Wholesale Fiber 4th Quarter 2022 Business Report. The 2022 priorities and their results are:

  • Priority 1 – Upgrade network core. This priority would provide core links to each distribution node at least 100 gigabits with expansion up to 400 gigabits. This project is still in process.
  • Priority 2 – Cover costs. Revenue from the fiber system covered costs in 2022, including customer connections, line extensions and equipment renewal/replacement.
  • Priority 3 – Expand the network. Areas 20-26 were expected to be completed this year. Areas 25 and 26 will be completed in the first quarter of 2023 due to supply chain issues.
  • Priority 4 – Increase of take rate. Last year, 70% of customers with access to the fiber network subscribed to the service, meeting our goal for the year. Grant PUD will continue to promote the benefits of fast internet and reliable service to bump the take rate even higher this year.
  • Priority 5 – Achieve average system uptime. We missed this mark by .01%. The goal was 99.98%, we achieved 99.97%.

A workshop is scheduled for Jan 17, 2023, with the Telecom Engineering group to discuss our Network Core Replacement Project and potentially integrating our current Active E (ethernet) technology with “Passive Optical Networking (PON)” technology, which has become the industry standard.

The 2023 fiber-expansion schedule has been updated with Areas 25 and 26 from 2022 expected to be complete by late March. Areas 27 through 32 are scheduled to be completed throughout the remainder of the year. 

Hear the full discussion at 1:19:24 on the commission audio. See the presentation on pages 18-28 of the presentation materials.

Commissioners also:

-- Learned of preparations already underway to prepare for a compliance audit, June 5-16, of policies, practices and preparation in place to meet federal reliability standards for power generation and delivery. Hear the full discussion at 1:46:37 on the commission audio. See the presentation on pages 28-39 of the presentation materials.

-- Heard that preparations are virtually complete for a February-March audit of Grant PUD’s financial statements. Independent audit firm MossAdams will perform the audit. Hear the full discussion at 2:18:45 on the commission audio. See the presentation on pages 39-52 of the presentation materials.

-- Heard that Grant PUD department heads and their teams have embraced a growing culture of risk identification and mitigation to reduce costs and improve safety. Hear the full discussion at 3:59:37 on the commission audio. See the presentation on pages 54-74 of the presentation materials.

-- Received feedback from several of the county’s cryptocurrency operators, who urged commissioners not to approve a staff-recommended increase in their electric rates without further discussion. Hear the comments at 2:57:54 in the commission audio.

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