Commission Summary 3-23-2022: Commissioners weigh options for new headquarters, service center buildings

Faced with aged, undersized and inadequate buildings to serve a growing county, Grant PUD commissioners are considering a Facilities Master Plan proposal to build a new headquarters building and two new service centers on land with room to expand at locations yet to be determined.

The preliminary plan calls for the existing headquarters in Ephrata and service centers in Ephrata and Moses Lake to be decommissioned and sold. Small service centers in Coulee City, Quincy, Royal City, and Wanapum Maintenance Center would be retained as "satellite" centers for better response times and service.

An internal Facilities Master Plan steering committee, which included commissioners Tom Flint and Nelson Cox, weighed the recommendations of an external consultant team but ultimately decided that the committee's "regional" proposal would provide better service county-wide.

"We live in a world where our customers are also our owners," Flint said Tuesday. "It's important to cultivate that relationship. Even though this costs a bit more, it serves our customers better, and we retain that relationship."

Commission President Judy Wilson cautioned, "We don't want this to end up being the Taj Mahal," she said. "We need an adequate space."

Costs and timelines for a potential project are still being refined. The steering committee hopes to present commissioners with a more detailed review by April 26. The public would have the chance to view and provide feedback on the plan at a future date.

Current buildings are approximately 30-to-60 years old and are on sites that don't allow for expansion. The buildings require costly energy efficiency and other upgrades to avoid future state sanctions. The Ephrata headquarters is located in a flood plain, Fleisher said.

Any improvements made to the existing buildings would not extend their useful lives long term, he has said.

See the full report on pages 67-73 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion beginning at 4:06:10 on the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

– Heard that after a two-year hiatus due to the impacts of COVID-19, Grant PUD and other regional utilities are once again collaborating with the Foundation of Water and Energy Foundation to bring the Hydropower and Stem Career Academy back to Central Washington.

Senior Manager of External Affairs and Communications, Chuck Allen said the academy is a multi-day event that allows high school students to explore future career opportunities in the hydro industry.

The program is scheduled for June 20-24. Students can visit https://fwee.org/events/ for additional information and to register.

Allen also provided an update on other recent and upcoming outreach activities of the utility. Efforts include a variety of engagements including:

Educational initiatives with local elementary and secondary school students showing the importance of the hydro-system

Involvement in various industry organizations on behalf of the utility

Participation in community festivals and local parades

See the full presentation on pages 96-115 of staff presentations and hear the discussion beginning at 5:31:45 of the commission audio.

– Heard an overview of the Grant PUD Internal Services Department, which is responsible for maintaining 12 Grant PUD buildings and properties, running the Transportation Department, and carrying out procurement functions, Warehouse operations, Security and a host of office services, including photocopies, mail couriers, mail and distribution of office supplies. Internal Services has 75 employees and an annual budget of approximately $20 million. "Everything that goes on in this organization flows through Internal Services," the department's senior manager, Kevin McCarthy, told commissioners.

See the full report on pages 67-73 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 2:14:25 on the commission audio.

– Received an update about the different programs the Leadership and Organizational Department has been engaged in.

Senior Manager of the Department, Thomas Stredwick reviewed several tracking "dashboards" which measure the overall experience of employees as it relates to training and other development activities throughout the organization.

Stredwick also highlighted the utility's educational reimbursement program, which currently has 35 participants enrolled. The program provides funding to support employees looking for further educational opportunities to help them achieve their professional goals.

Data spanning back to 2013 indicates that of the 15 employees that have completed a program of study, 100% remain employed with Grant PUD.

See the full presentation on pages 74-95 of staff presentations and hear the discussion beginning at 4:49:40 of the commission audio.

– Heard about several initiatives the utility's operational excellence group is currently engaged in.

Senior Manager of Operational Excellence Daniel Blazquez highlighted the department's efforts to make Grant PUD a more efficient organization as they focus on three key areas:

  • Continuous Improvement (CI) to focus on Business Process Development and Improvement
  • Corrective Action to identify situations and issues that are in an "off-normal" condition and proposed resolutions for those circumstances
  • Human Performance Improvement to align employee performance with objectives and reduced errors.

Blazquez reviewed the top issues reported through the company's condition reporting system as well as the department's efforts to provide solutions and support to resolve the reported situations.

See the full presentation on pages 116-129 of staff presentations and hear the discussion beginning at 6:04:05 of the commission audio.

– Unanimously approved a resolution to support the carbon-free and environmental stewardship benefits of Northwest hydropower, including the Lower Snake River Dams.Learn more on pages 9-10 of the commission packet.

– Unanimously approved a change order to a contract with Quanta Infrastructure Solutions Group increasing the not-to-exceed contract amount by just over $14 million for a new contract of $72.2 million. The change is necessary to fund the next sequence of "Design Build 2," a package of 11 projects to build new substations, expand existing substations and building a new transmission line, all needed to expand electric-system capacity for future growth. Commissioners agreed to amend this contract to include additional funding for a Baird Springs Substation project to save on materials costs. The totals here reflect the amended contract costs. Learn more on Pages 12-31 of the commission packet.

– Unanimously approved a change order to a contract with MacKay and Sposito, Inc that increases the not-to-exceed contract amount by $3.9 million for a new contract total of $12.2 million. The change is necessary to fund ongoing work on a federal requirement to build a secondary, more seismic-resistant embankment on the Yakima County side of Priest Rapids Dam. Learn more on Pages 32-41 of the commission packet.

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