Utility studies to cost Port Angeles $60,000 more than expected

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The city will pay almost $60,000 more than was originally estimated to re-evaluate how much it costs to run each of the city’s four main utilities.

The city will pay Redmond-based consultant FCS Group a maximum of $145,876 to perform cost-of-service studies on the city’s electric, water, wastewater and solid collection and transfer station utility.

The approved amount, OK’d by City Council members in a 5-1 vote Tuesday night with Mayor Cherie Kidd voting against, is $65,876, or 58.2 percent, more than was originally budgeted for 2013.

“I think this consultant is too high-priced,” Kidd said Wednesday. “They’re very qualified. I was just disappointed in the pricing.”

“I thought it was too large a discrepancy between the two numbers.”

City Councilman Dan Di Guilio was absent and was excused from the meeting.

The point of the studies is to examine the city’s utility rates to ensure the different rate classes are equitable, said Phil Lusk, the city’s deputy director of power and telecommunication systems.

The discrepancy was because of a staff oversight.

Cost-of-services studies

Lusk said the number budgeted in 2013 resulted from staff using a figure likely from the last time utility cost-of-service studies were done in 2008.

“[The study] was something that we haven’t done for quite some time, and it seemingly got lost in the shuffle,” Lusk said.

Additionally, Lusk said, the work and subsequent cost needed for such studies have increased since 2008.

Lusk said the cost difference will be funded in part from the money saved from an unfilled utility staff position, about $40,000, and roughly $32,510 set aside for contract services in the water and wastewater utility budgets that likely will not be spent this year.

“It will not require any rate increases, and we won’t have to take any funds out of reserves,” Lusk said.

Lusk said the budget estimate oversight will be remembered when future cost-of-service studies are planned.

“We’re all responsible for reviewing our budget,” Lusk said.

“And I’m thinking that in our collective memory, when reviews happen in the future, this will be retained.”

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 08. 2013 5:42PM
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