WENATCHEE, WA– Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday decided that combining Wenatchee-area customer and utility operations at a new location in Olds Station offers the best value and customer service for the most people over the next 50 to 100 years.
The PUD reports in a news release that Board members unanimously approved the staff proposal to consolidate operations that are now at several sites in town and build a combined facility on 19 acres of land in north Wenatchee. (At 02:20 on the board audio recording)
“I really applaud the process that got us to this decision,” said Board President Garry Arseneault. “With most of our meters now north and west of Olds Station, downtown Wenatchee is no longer the center of our service area. We need to be in the physical location that allows us to gain efficiency. We would be fiscally irresponsible not to do it.”
Commissioner Steve McKenna said he appreciated, “the community coming out to listen and to learn … it’s really quite unique.” He added that the business case for moving was compelling, which allowed him to vote for it with confidence.
Commissioner Dennis Bolz said he appreciated the community’s willingness to grow along with the PUD in exploring building options. “This provides an opportunity for us to serve our ratepayers better. It is a legacy opportunity in terms of service.”
Commissioner Randy Smith thanked staff for the detailed business case that is a strong answer for customers who asked if building the new service center would raise rates. “I can look anyone who asks me that in the eye … and say we can’t promise no rate increases ever, but this decision means less pressure on rates.”
The decision comes after four years of study that grew out of strategic planning. It covered the financial analysis of alternatives including staying put, and conversations with customer-owners. More than 800 people commented on the proposal.
With the decision to move made, PUD staff will now work on detailed design and on selecting a general contractor/construction manager (GC/CM).
Dan Frazier, Shared Services director, said staff will return to the board later this year to ask for approval of the GC/CM and again in 2020 for final approval of a maximum construction price.
Staff also will keep working with the community to address comments about impacts of the move on downtown Wenatchee and on traffic, and suggestions on design and public access at the new location.
Chelan PUD is collaborating with the city of Wenatchee, Port of Chelan County and a range of downtown stakeholders, including Music Theatre of Wenatchee, to start planning for the future of the PUD’s Fifth Street campus, Frazier said.