Seamless transition promised in PUD electrical service takeover
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Nina Odell, right, Puget Sound Energy’s director of government affairs and public policy, about the transition to the Public Utility District’s service at Monday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commissioners as County Administrator Philip Morley looks on.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Officials of both Jefferson County Public Utility District and Puget Sound Energy promise a seamless transition and no rate increase when PUD takes over providing service to county electrical customers at midnight March 31.

“The grid is continuous,” PSE's director of government affairs and public policy Nina Odell told Jefferson County commissioners Monday.

“We hope there's not even a blip.”

PUD Manager Jim Parker also offered commissioners details about what customers should expect during the transition.

“Our goal is that the transition will be seamless, and you won't even know that we have taken over,” he said.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the customers.”

Odell and Parker were scheduled to make a similar presentation to the Port Townsend City Council during its Monday night workshop.

Parker said customers will not see a rate increase from January.

It will be three months after the PUD takes over providing service before it will qualify for a preferred rate from Bonneville Power Administration, but that will not affect what customers pay, Parker said.

Twelve new jobs already have been created, said PUD Commissioner Wayne King after the meeting.

“All of a sudden, we are definitely a big player in the county, and we will be able to hire people for real jobs where they can make real money,” King said.

Odell said that PSE has prepared a booklet outlining what customers can expect during the transition. It will be mailed with the next bill, scheduled for March 10.

That bill will include service up to March 9. It will be the last bill customers get from PSE.

The next bill will be issued by the PUD, which will reimburse PSE for the service it provided through the rest of March.

“We will be providing our level of service until the very last minute,” Odell said.

Account numbers, return addresses and appearance of the bills will change, according to both PSE and PUD.

PUD will assume all of the overdue PSE accounts but the collection process has not yet been determined, Parker said.

Another difference is that PSE, as a private company, is allowed to make charitable contributions, while PUD as a government agency is not, Parker said.

The PSE office at 181 Quincy St. will be closed March 31, and customers can drop off their bills up to that time during office hours. The drop box will close on March 27, Odell said.

Tim Caldwell, who resigned as general manager of the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce in June 2008 to take over the PSE office in Port Townsend, doesn't have any solid plans for the future.

“I am exploring all of my options,” he said.

The PUD office at 375 Chimacum Road in Port Hadlock will remain open, and bills can be paid there.

PUD is taking over the PSE facility at 310 Four Corners Road and may eventually construct a new building that will allow all operations to be housed in one place, Parker said.

The transition began with a vote in 2008 in which the public approved the takeover.

Parker acknowledged that the takeover was not voluntary on PSE's part and lauded the utility for its cooperation during the transition period, something that it was not obligated to do.

“PSE could have held out, and we would have needed to go through condemnation,” Parker said.

“Instead, they agreed to negotiate the purchase, and we are grateful for that.

“If we were going through condemnation, we'd probably still be in court right now.”

King credited Parker for his role, calling him “a driving force” in the purchase and transition process.

County Commissioner David Sullivan called the transition “a positive thing.

“It's been looked at for a long time,” he said.

“The devil's in the details, and I'm real impressed how detail-oriented the PUD's been during this whole process.

“I have confidence in these guys.”



Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 25. 2013 6:16PM
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