Jefferson County Public Utility District works on low-income rates program

Kenneth Collins

Kenneth Collins

PORT HADLOCK — Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners say they are continuing their efforts to work out details for a viable program that would reduce power costs for low-income residents of Jefferson County.

“It’s important for people to understand that there is a conceptual agreement among the commissioners,” said Kenneth Collins, District 2 commissioner, on Wednesday. “Currently, we just don’t have all the details.”

The commissioners continued discussions Tuesday about a program that would allow low-income residents to apply for reductions on their power bills.

The program has been in discussions for more than two years, Collins said, but is now taking shape.

“There are people, especially when we have a cold spell like we just did, who tend to struggle,” Collins said.

He said when he was campaigning in 2014 for the District 2 seat, he talked with many single parents struggling to get by and senior citizens living on a fixed income who were concerned about heating their homes through the winter.

In the PUD’s first winter of providing electrical power in 2013, roughly 500 people had their power shut off, according to Collins.

“Thanks to our customer service team, that’s now less than a 10th of that original number,” Collins said.

However, Collins said, the commissioners all agree that there is more they can do.

“We know that unemployment is higher in Jefferson County and the average income tends to be lower than the state average,” Collins said. “There are a lot of people living on fixed incomes as well.”

Currently, the commissioners are looking at a plan that would provide reductions on a sliding scale based on income.

People making less than $12,000 per year would get 60 percent reductions, those making less than $15,000 would get 30 percent reductions and that would continue down the scale.

The commissioners said they have met with Dale Wilson of Olympic Peninsula Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) and hope to work with the agency to ensure the people who need assistance get it.

“We’re looking at potentially working with OlyCAP so people in their low-income programs can get these reductions,” Collins said.

“There are just details that need to be worked out so people are not penalized for getting assistance from both programs.”

An estimated 300 people getting assistance from OlyCAP would fall into the PUD’s low-income rates, but Collins said the expectation is that this could potentially jump to 500 people.

He said the PUD plans to continue talks with Wilson to figure out the remaining details of the program.

No timeline has been set for putting low-income rates into effect.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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