Commission recap, 12/11/18

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Decision delayed on proposed contract for general manager

Grant County PUD commissioners Tuesday agreed by split decision to table discussion on a proposed employment contract for General Manager Kevin Nordt.

Neither Commissioner Bob Bernd, who retires from the board at the end of this year, nor Commissioner Terry Brewer who'll also leave the board at year's end, voted in favor of the decision.

The decision to table came after former Grant PUD General Manager Tim Culbertson, who was in the audience, urged commissioners to postpone the vote until next year, when new commissioners Judy Wilson and Nelson Cox join the board. Ray Van Dyke of the Ag Power Users group, agreed with Culbertson, as did James Berschauer of Ephrata.

Commissioners didn't set a firm date to renew the discussion. (2:47:55 of commission audio)

Commissioners also:

— Unanimously approved a $1.06 million contract with National Wood Treating Company of Albany, Oregon to test and treat Grant PUD power poles. Grant PUD has some 66,000 power poles, many of which have not been tested and treated in years. The contract will help ensure the poles' reliability for the sake of public and employee safety, and extend the poles' useful life. Three companies bid on the contract. The winning bid was the lowest. (2:24:50 of commission audio and pages 18-33 of the commission packet)

— Unanimously agreed that the discretionary portion of premiums required under the Washington Paid Family and Medicare Leave Program would be withheld from employees' paychecks. Commissioners supported payment Option 2, which would withhold up to 0.6333 percent from Grant PUD employees, rather than Option 1, which would have called for Grant PUD to pay the premiums instead of the employees. Commissioners said it amounted to about $75,000 in savings to the district. The program funds leave to qualifying employees starting in 2019. (Discussion begins at 2:27:00 of commission audio and pages 34-37 of the commission packet)

— Unanimously approved a $256,000 increase in an ongoing contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for avian predator control around the tail races of Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. The new maximum contract price is $1.1 million. Predator birds eat young salmon. (2:33:55 of commission audio and pages 38-56 of the commission packet)

— Unanimously approved $10 million for the first year of a five-year contract with North Sky Communications of Vancouver, WA for fiber-optic design and construction. The contract is from 2019 through 2023. Commissioners will annually determine the funding amount for the following year's work. North Sky has been working to expand Grant PUD's fiber-optic network and was the lowest of five bidders for this contract. (Discussion begins at 2:35:20 of commission audio and pages 57-104 of the commission packet)

— Agreed to table until the Jan. 8, 2019 commission meeting a proposed three-year, $3.97 million contract with Central Washington Management Group to manage Crescent Bar Island. The company has been managing the island. Commissioners preferred to table the discussion until newly elected commissioners begin their terms in January. (Discussion begins at 2:42:00 of commission audio and pages 105-229 of the commission packet)

— Learned that Grant PUD's Fish and Wildlife Department is on track to end the year slightly under its $15.44 million budget. Fish and Wildlife Manager Tom Dresser pointed to a busy year ahead recalculating survival rates for sub-yearling chinook — a species too small to tag at that age — and deciding whether it makes financial sense to take over management of Grant PUD's Priest Rapids Hatchery from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. (Discussion begins at 31:00 of commission audio and pages 8-19 of staff presentation materials)

— Heard that work to preserve the Wanapum language is progressing. Wanapum Elders have been involved in recording the language and having their recordings documented and transcribed. In 2019, these elements will be used to develop a curriculum to teach the Wanapum language to future generations. A temporary language technician will help organize the language program curriculum.

Also moving into next year, work will continue on the right embankment at Priest Rapids Dam. A historic train route that once served trains traveling to the Hanford site was discovered within a portion of the embankment where work will need to occur. It is not anticipated to severely affect the results or timing of the project. (Discussion begins at 59:50 of commission audio and pages 20-27 of staff presentation materials)

— Heard results of a recent survey amongst customers and other stakeholders of Grant PUD. The assessment was done via phone interviews with 58 people. Most respondents were a mix of customers from Grant PUD's rate classes. However, interviews also included responses from political and industry leaders at the state and national level.

The work wasn't meant to be a scientific study, but rather an opportunity to gain insight into the overall impressions of their satisfaction of Grant PUD and where there are opportunities for the district to improve.

Key findings include overcoming communication gaps, seeking greater public input in the early stages of policy development, promoting better understanding between customer groups and continue to provide a unified voice and leadership for public power and the benefits of the hydro industry throughout the state and country. The results will help direct community engagement activities in the coming year, as well as direct questions for a more in-depth customer satisfaction survey that will occur in 2019. (See the full report on pages 46-73 of staff presentation materials and discussion begins at 1:11:05 of commission audio)

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Gummi bears caramels donut carrot cake carrot cake chupa chups bonbon tootsie roll.