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Commission Summary 4-26-2022: Plan approved to relocate Grant PUD headquarters, service centers

Commissioners unanimously gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a plan to relocate over the next decade Grant PUD's Ephrata headquarters and its Ephrata and Moses Lake service centers at a total cost estimate of $266 million.

All three buildings need costly repairs, energy efficiency upgrades and more room for current operations and future growth. The Ephrata headquarters building is in an area prone to flooding, making needed upgrades or expansion a poor investment in the long run, commissioners have said.

This Facilities Master Plan will improve response times to outages and create buildings that can grow with the utility for decades, Facilities Manager Tim Fleisher has said.

The Ephrata Service Center, determined to be in most urgent need of repair and expansion, will be rebuilt southwest of Ephrata on ample land for future expansion.

Service centers contain a warehouse and supply yard, electric and telecom shops, transportation shop, lockers for field crews, office space and meeting rooms.

A new, larger Moses Lake Service Center would be built in southern Moses Lake. The old service center and Moses Lake customer service office would eventually be closed, with customer service counters likely moved into a leased storefront location somewhere in town.

Property purchasing and more detailed planning could begin in 2023-2024. The master plan calls for all three facilities to be designed together and construction carried out in sequence, at whatever schedule the commission approves, Fleisher said.

If construction begins in 2025, the initial plan would have new Ephrata Service Center complete and occupied in approximately 2027, followed by the Moses Lake Service Center in 2029, and the Ephrata headquarters in 2032.

After buildings are complete, Grant PUD's existing smaller facilities in Quincy, Coulee City, Royal City and the Wanapum Maintenance Center will remain open and lightly staffed and equipped to ensure rapid response times to the county's more remote areas. Commissioners and staff would weigh the ongoing need for these small "satellite" facilities after the new ones are operating.

The existing building housing the Moses Lake Local Office and the Grand Coulee Service Center would eventually be closed and served by other centers. Grant PUD would maintain a customer service presence in each of the communities that now have them.

"We still want a customer-facing presence in each of the communities," Fleisher said.

A plan for how to use or dispose of old buildings will be part of future analysis, he said.

Hear the discussion beginning at 1:26:15 of the commission audio and see the full report on pages 1-14 of the presentation materials.

Rate Schedule 1 and 7 helps push retail energy sales above the Q1 budget forecast

Commissioners heard that electricity sales to Grant County residents, business and industry ended the January through March quarter about 2.7% above budget, as colder-than-expected temperatures resulted in increased energy consumption.

Large General Service, Rate Schedule 7, ended the quarter 7% above budget forecast, attributable to an increase in cryptocurrency mining. Around 28 average megawatts of energy are attributable to cryptocurrency mining in Grant County.

Large industrials came in close to budget levels. Energy use in Rate Schedule 16, Ag Food Processing, was down about 8.5% compared to the budget forecast, due to lower-than-forecast energy use.

State data shows 142 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and 160 battery electric vehicles in Grant County and at least seven commercial charging stations. Commissioners have expressed interest in the county's growing use of electric vehicles and have asked staff to monitor the impact they could have on the county's electric system.

Hear the discussion beginning at 4:12:30 of the commission audio and see the full report on pages 81-106 of the presentation materials.

Commissioners also:

--Heard from Managing Director of Power Production, Ty Ehrman that construction on the Priest Rapids Right Embankment Improvement Project officially began last October and work is progressing well. Crews estimate that the project will be completed early in 2024.

The project is part of a federal requirement to improve the dam's seismic resilience and one of 51 capital projects scheduled for 2022 within Power Production. The department's capital budget for 2022 is $69.8 million.

Ehrman highlighted different success stories throughout Power Production of employee-driven suggestions that are driving continuous improvement actions to improve safety, increase project quality, and enhance job efficiency within the department.

Commissioner Nelson Cox said it was positive to hear about employees' efforts to improve their own workspaces.

Hear the discussion beginning at 3:26:50 of the commission audio and see the full report on pages 48-80 of the presentation materials.

--Heard that Grant PUD's Power Delivery is scheduled to manage 40 capital projects this year and anticipates being within budget for its $69.6 million capital budget for this year.

Managing Director of Power Delivery, Ron Alexandar provided the department's quarterly update and highlighted several of the projects and initiatives the department is focused on for 2022 including the Quincy Transmission Extensions Plan which recently completed public hearings regarding preferred route recommendations. Other projects include:

  • Design-Build 2 – A multi-year endeavor of several electric system upgrade projects
  • 10-year reliability improvement plan
  • Various technology advancements including GEN2, Clevest and Energy Management System upgrades

Hear the discussion beginning at 2:42:20 of the commission audio and see the full report on pages on pages 34-47 of the presentation materials.

--Approved the following action items that can be found in the commission packet:

--Unanimously approved changes to the district's Governance Policy.

--Unanimously approved a service area agreement with Douglas County PUD which authorizes each utility to continue to provide electrical service to certain customers within the other utility's service area with prior approval. The new agreement supersedes an existing agreement.

--Unanimously approved a change order to an existing contract with North Sky Communications to provide an additional $18.4 million of funding to allow North Sky to continue with its fiber optic design and construction work. The 5-year contract was originally awarded in 2018 with the intent of adding additional funding via change order on an approximately annual basis to continue the expansion efforts of the utility's fiber-optic network.

--Unanimously approved a 3-year employment agreement with General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Rich Wallen.

--Unanimously approved a motion authorizing payment to Shelton Corrals for materials delivered earlier this year.