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Commission Summary Summary 1-25-2022: Grant PUD customer service offices to reopen Feb. 1

Customer Service local offices will reopen to the public Feb. 1. The offices had been closed since March 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The days and hours for the various offices are as follows:

Moses Lake, 312 W. Third Ave. – Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ephrata, 30 C St. SW – Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Quincy, 27 B St. SW – Monday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Royal City, 505 Royal Rd – Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Payments can also be made at the city halls of Grand Coulee and Mattawa during their normal business hours. Additionally, customers can make payments and get help with their accounts by calling (509) 766-2505 or visiting www.grantpud.org. Payments can be made at any time and any day of the week by phone or online.

The decision to reopen comes as Grant PUD continues to monitor the pandemic and take actions to keep customers and employees safe, long term, by planning for adjustments to protective measures including testing, masking, social distancing and policies for remote work.

Hear the full discussion at 4:42:00 on the commission audio. See the full report on pages 110-125 of the presentation materials.

Survey results show customers satisfaction with Grant PUD remains high

Results of a customer survey conducted in November indicates that 86% of customers show high levels of satisfaction with the utility. The survey was conducted of residential rate payers via a mix of landline, cell phone and online interviews.

Commissioners learned that the results of the biennial survey showed the overall satisfaction score had increased 4 points, up from 82% in 2019. Since 2015, overall customer satisfaction has ranged from 82%-90% of surveys tallied.

The survey scores Grant PUD's performance on a series of specific opinion categories. When looking at results by gender, age, location within the county and other demographics the survey scores show that, with few exceptions, residents across the board are satisfied.

Senior Manager of External Affairs, Andrew Munro, told the commissioners that it was nice to see the improvement in many key areas compared to the results in 2019, emphasizing that it takes a group effort to ensure the utility continues to provide a high-level of customer service.

Overall survey results show residents continue to recognize the excellent work Grant PUD is doing to minimize outages, provide good customer service, keep rates affordable and provide general communications to customers and the public.

The largest change in customer perception from 2019 was among those who said the utility was doing a good or excellent job of providing access to high-speed internet. This year's combined score was 67%, up 9 points from 2019.

Commissioner Judy Wilson said the survey results are an indication of an overall recognition among customers of the variety of efforts across the utility to provide outstanding service and to ensure customer needs are being addressed.

The survey did reveal that less-satisfied residents are generally those who believe their bill is not affordable or do not believe they have fiber access at their home.

A third-party research firm, Strategies 360, interviewed 401 residential customers. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 4.9%

See a summary of the survey results on pages 79-109 of the commission packet. Hear the presentation which begins at 55:50 of the commission audio.

Work to reduce outages pushes Q4 overtime budget

Managing Director of Power Delivery Jeff Grizzel told commissioners that a renewed effort to replace worn equipment before it fails pushed overtime costs 51% over budget through November, but the work will likely pay off in reduced outage time for customers.

Power Delivery spent $4.9 million for overtime pay during that period, up from the budgeted $3.3 million. Much of the overage came from crews working overtime on Fridays to upgrade pole components to reduce the chance of pole fires and replace aged electric-system components.

"It was a conscious decision to overspend," Grizzel said.

Acting General Manager and CEO Rich Wallen added, "Long term, we're looking to reduce the frequency of outages to improve the customer experience."

Major fourth-quarter projects include continuing work in "Design Build 2" – a bundle of substation and transmission upgrades – and the Quincy Transmission Expansion Plan (QTEP) to increase electrical capacity and reliability in the Quincy area.

Public open houses are planned from Feb. 8 to March 3 in Quincy and George to share information about two QTEP-related transmission line projects and gather public comment.

1. Quincy 230 kV Transmission Improvement Project:

Quincy in-person open house:Feb. 8 and 16, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Port of Quincy Conference Center, 101 F St. SW

Virtual open house: Feb. 17, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visit www.grantpud.org/qtep for a link to join the meeting.

2. Wanapum to Mountain View 230 kV Transmission Line Project

George in-person open house: Feb. 22, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., George Community Hall, 403 W Montmorency

Quincy in-person open house: March 2, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Port of Quincy Conference Center, 101 F St. SW.

Virtual open house: March 3, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visit www.grantpud.org/qtep for a link to join the meeting

Hear the full discussion at 2:42:10 on the commission audio. See the full report on pages 42-59 of the presentation materials.

Expansion continues for Grant PUD's fiber-optic network

The number of customers with access to and those utilizing Grant PUD's Fiber-Optic Network both saw increases last year.

Approximately 338 miles of fiber-optic cable was installed in 2021, as crews completed construction to six more of the previously unserved expansion areas. Through 2021, nineteen of the 40 predefined expansion areas had either completed or nearly completed construction.

Senior Manager of Wholesale Fiber, Russ Brethower said this year's expansion efforts are expected to see construction completed in seven new areas. He also added that the group is planning well ahead to avoid any potential supply chain disruptions, since supplies are in high demand across the industry due to the number of federal subsidies currently available for broadband infrastructure work.

It is currently anticipated that construction efforts to expand the network to all the remaining areas will be completed by the end of 2024.

Project Manager, Jeremy Conner, told commissioners that he expects all the engineering design work on the project will be completed by April 2023, at which time the expansion efforts will then be focused solely on construction.

Brethower reported that in 2021 the system achieved a year-end take-rate of 67%, growing by 3,149 customers. An overall yearly increase of nearly 4%.

The overall system take-rate goal for the end of 2022 is to see 70% of customers with access to the network subscribing to service, said Brethower.

Total revenue from fiber-optic service ended 2021 at $12.19 million, surpassing the $10.95 million goal that was set at the beginning of last year. The revenue is from billing private companies that utilize the network including the service-provider companies that sell internet, telephone, and cable TV services to Grant County customers over the Grant PUD fiber network.

See the full presentation on pages 11-22 of the commission packet and hear the discussion beginning at 3:51:34 of the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

-- Unanimously approved new transmission rates, primarily for the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the irrigation districts that supply the Bureau's Columbia Basin Project water to Grant County farmers. The rate has been the subject of negotiation with the Bureau and districts since 2017. It's designed to cover Grant PUD's cost to "wheel" – transmit – Bureau power over Grant PUD transmission lines to the districts' federal pumps.

Roger Sonnichsen, manager of the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District, thanked staff and commissioners for "getting to the point where we have a rate that reflects the legacy of the irrigation district."

"It's taken a long time to get it right," Commission President Judy Wilson said. "I'd like to thank the staff for continuing to work on it until we got to a place where it was equitable for everyone."

"We've appreciated the manner in which you've worked with us," Grant PUD Chief Customer Officer Dave Churchman said to Sonnichsen. "It's made it easier for us that we've been able to have that open communication."

Hear the full discussion at 3:19:50 on the commission audio. For more information on the new rates, see pages 122-125 of the commission packet.

-Heard that fourth-quarter retail energy sales slightly better than budget. Retail customer electricity sales rose about 2.3% more than budget forecast from October through December 2021.

Large General Service, Rate Schedule 7, combined with Industrial Rate Schedule 14, ended the quarter 19% above budget forecast, attributable to an increase in cryptocurrency mining.

For the year 2021, the actual loads came in 24 average megawatts -- 4% -- above the budgeted forecast.

Hear the full discussion at 2:23:00 on the commission audio. See the full report on pages 60-78 of the presentation materials.

-Unanimously approved a contract with Consolidated Electrical Distributors for $1,857,756 to supply overhead conductor. The contract will supply the overhead conductor which are key parts of the infrastructure that the District installs for supplying electric service to its customers. This Contract allows the District to procure and keep the conductor in stock for future use new infrastructure or as a replacement of existing infrastructure. Read more on pages 8-57 of the commission packet.

-Unanimously approved a resolution revising Grant PUD's existing Code of Ethics Policy. The policy which applies to all employees, officers and commissioners. The revision updates various sections of the existing policy which was adopted in 2014. Learn more on pages 58-78 of the commission packet.

-Unanimously approved a contract with the Colville Confederated tribes. The five-year, $2,935,619 contract will support the district's annual broodstock collection of juvenile steelhead within the Okanogan Basin. The partnership within the agreement covers a variety of activities including adult steelhead collection, tagging, acclimation, releases, reporting and more. The contract will begin on March 1, 2022 and run through February 2027. Learn more on pages 161-183 of the commission packet.

-Unanimously authorized the purchase and sale agreement to acquire 5 acres of land from the Gebber family in the Rocky Ford area for $6,500. The property will be used a new switchyard. Read more on pages 184-199 of the commission packet.

-Unanimously voted to temporarily table a resolution amending the Governance Policy to allow additional time for further discussion regarding defined roles within the policy.