Clallam Public Utility District OKs membership dues after debate

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Public Utility District commissioners have approved membership dues after debating annual payments to Northwest RiverPartners and the county’s Economic Development Council.

District commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to include Northwest RiverPartners in a list of organizations the PUD supports.

Commissioner Jim Waddell voted no.

“It’s a waste of money for ratepayers,” Waddell said in a virtual meeting.

Northwest RiverPartners — which includes farmers, utilities, ports and businesses — promotes hydropower and has argued against the removal of the four lower Snake River dams in Eastern Washington.

The Vancouver, Wash.-based nonprofit billed Clallam County PUD $28,919 for annual dues, including $12,394 for digital media.

Waddell, who has advocated for dam removal, said Northwest RiverPartners “cherry picked” information from a Bonneville Power Administration report to make an invalid case about the effects of water temperatures on declining salmon runs in the lower Snake River.

“They should be off this list, if we’re going to vote on the whole list,” said Waddell, a retired U.S. Army Corps civil engineer who founded DamSense (www.damsense.org).

The list of organizations the PUD is supporting this year includes the Washington Public Utility District Association ($92,182 in annual dues), Northwest Public Power Association ($30,000), Washington Public Agencies Group ($27,000), American Public Power Association ($25,000), North Peninsula Building Association ($625) and the Sequim ($595), Port Angeles ($372) and Forks ($100) chambers of commerce.

After a robust debate, commissioners Will Purser, Rick Paschall and Waddell voted to approve the payments with a revised $10,000 amount for the Clallam County Economic Development Council, or EDC. The nonprofit EDC works to support local businesses.

Purser, a 20-year commissioner and current board president, said the EDC’s $20,000 funding request was “quite a jump from what we’ve done in the past.”

The EDC received $10,000 from the PUD last year and no funding from the district from 2017 to 2019.

“Also, back some years ago, we concluded that we had to get some tangible product from the EDC for us to legally be able to contribute,” Purser said.

PUD General Manager Doug Nass said the EDC had provided valuable demographic information and was “doing more than they’ve done historically.”

Waddell said EDC Executive Director Colleen McAleer had been “very instrumental” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EDC helped Clallam County officials distribute $45,200 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to PUD customers who were experiencing a financial hardship.

District Finance Manager-Treasurer said the EDC’s scope of work includes business recruitment, business retention, business expansion, business assistance, readiness and capacity building.

“I think we all agree that the EDC and Colleen’s doing a great job, but I’m concerned about the auditor,” Purser said.

“We need to make sure there’s a line-of-sight benefit to the PUD, and we need to document that in some fashion. I’m not opposed to participating in EDC by any means, but we just have to do it prudently.”

Waddell used the same argument to question the direct benefit from annual memberships to the building association and three chambers of commerce.

“What’s the link there?” Waddell asked.

Paschall said he was concerned about the increased payment to the EDC and suggested $10,000 as a compromise.

“What if it was $15,000?” Waddell said.

“Too much,” Paschall said.

“What about $12,000?,” Purser said, adding: “We’re in a bidding war here.”

“I’d go with $10,000,” Paschall said.

In other PUD business, Purser was re-appointed as president of the commission and Paschall was appointed as vice president.

Waddell, who became secretary by default, voted no.

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

Peninsula virus cases hit plateau

Health officers still urge caution

EYE ON JEFFERSON: County to consider affordable housing project

The three Jefferson County commissioners will consider a recommendation from the joint… Continue reading

EYE ON CLALLAM: County to conduct hearings on proposed charter changes

The three Clallam County commissioners will conduct a hearing on proposed county… Continue reading

Health officers: Get vaccinated for your community

Fourth surge could be worse than expected, they say

Port Townsend edges toward PDA pact

Council tentatively OKs revised agreement

Family and friends plan to honor the memory of Don Knapp, a longtime coach and volunteer of youth athletics, at the Sequim Little League's James Standard Memorial park on Sunday. Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group
Family, friends look to honor Knapp

Longtime coach, volunteer to be remembered Sunday

Puppeteer Fred Michael's marionettes will entertain passers-by at Port Townsend's Pope Marine Plaza this Saturday. photo courtesy Port Townsend Main Street Program
Busking on the Block set for Saturday

Marionettes to be star of show

Barbara Tusting, foreground, and Mary Paxton carry a few of the seedlings out of the hoophouse outside Port Townsend's Quimper Grange garden. The plants are among thousands to go on sale Monday in a fundraiser for the Food Bank Farm & Gardens of Jefferson County. Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
Gardeners can shop online, then pick up plants

Food Bank Farm Gardens host inaugural event

Police agencies, prosecutor decline abuse allegations against Sequim couple

No charges will be filed against a Sequim elementary school… Continue reading

Most Read