Jefferson Public Utility District considers raising some costs of turning power back on

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT HADLOCK — After nearly a year of providing electrical power to East Jefferson County customers, the public utility district is looking to raise some costs for reinstating service that has been disconnected.

Commissioners discussed the proposal earlier this week. It will be forwarded to the Citizens’ Advisory Board for discussion at its next meeting at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the PUD’s facility at 310 Four Corners Road.

After that meeting, the board will decide how to proceed.

Under the proposal, the cost for a customer to turn the power back on would remain $60 and will occur either the day of or the day after the bill is paid, while the after-hours or emergency service would increase from $60 to $250 to reflect increases in the PUD’s cost, according to Manager Jim Parker.

“The only people who can turn the power back on are union members, and we have to pay them overtime to work on the weekends,” Parker said Tuesday.

“And if they have to stop what they are doing to go turn the power on somewhere else, that also increases our costs.”

Parker estimated that about 30 customers are disconnected for nonpayment each week.

He said the PUD didn’t shut off any customer’s power during the first four or five months of its operation because “we were trying to get everyone used to our billing and get our records complete.”

In 2008, voters granted the public agency, which already had provided water and sewer service, to also offer electrical service to East Jefferson County residents.

The switch from Puget Sound Energy, which had served East Jefferson County for about a century, to the Jefferson County PUD occurred March 31 last year.

The PUD provides service for 18,500 electrical power meters, 4,200 water meters and 500 septic customers in East Jefferson County, Parker said.

A list of customers in arrears is prepared each Tuesday night. Shutoffs take place each Wednesday.

Those who are disconnected are at least two months in arrears and have been approached several times about the bill before action is taken, Parker said.

This begins with a pink slip enclosed in a monthly bill if the last one is unpaid, a robo-call and a door tag in approximately two-week increments, followed by disconnection.

No one is shut off whose bill is less than $50 or who has paid in the previous two months, he said.

Customers are not disconnected if they have contacted the PUD about the bill, paid a partial amount or set up a payment plan, he said.

“We take a whole series of steps before we take any action,” he said.

“But if you don’t pay your phone bill or cable bill or water bill, you will get disconnected, and it’s the same with electricity.”

Parker said the cost of shutting off power is hard to quantify since it involves several departments.

One staff member works full time to notify, track and make arrangement for those who are behind in their payments.

There is a special termination billing notice cost, the cost of the robo-calls and the delivery of the door hangers along with the labor and vehicle costs needed to visit the site to reconnect power.

Customers can save the expense and inconvenience of a disconnection by communicating with the utility district, said Commissioner Barney Burke.

“If someone can’t pay their bill, they should call us and make some sort of arrangement,” Burke said.

“A lot of people don’t call because they are embarrassed because they can’t pay their bill, but they shouldn’t be afraid to call us.

“We don’t want to shut off people’s power.”

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

Last modified: March 05. 2014 6:42PM
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