My 3 Priorities

Continuing to advance and enhance the quality and morale of Skagit PUD employees.

The reputation of the Skagit PUD as a nationally recognized model of efficient and forward-thinking utility management is a direct result of the cohesive and supportive environment that is inherent in the way our PUD handles business. As Commissioner, it is my responsibility – a personal priority – to protect the integrity of our employees, and the Utility, from internal and external threats. It represents what even the smallest bit of respect can do to strengthen the morale, comradery, communication, and job performance of all employees, across the board.

This also includes working with our union in a manner that is transparent and honest. In my 16 years as Commissioner, the somewhat novel relationship that Skagit PUD has with its union and non-union employees has remained a point of pride for me for one very simple reason. It represents what even the smallest bit of respect can do to strengthen the morale, comradery, communication, and job performance of all employees, across the board.

This can be seen in the countless awards and accolades our utility has received in 2017 and the first half of 2018. In a more exciting way, PUD morale and camaraderie can be seen, literally, by our two inaugural, all-volunteer, team entries in to the American Waters Works Association’s “TopOps” and “Hydrant Hysteria” Competitions. Our “Hydrant Hysteria” crew took a very impressive 4th place finish in the AWWA Pacific Northwest Section (PNWS).

The “TopOps”, or Top Operations” Team took first place in the regional competition, beating teams from Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Our three person team answered rapid fire questions about all things pertaining to the water industry, including technical and math problems. In June, they competed at the national competition and finished 7th out of 19 teams. Well done!

To have the commitment (and interest!) to train and represent Skagit PUD voluntarily speaks volumes to the level of pride the employees of the PUD have for the work they do and the work product they produce each day. This new chapter for the Utility is something I embrace and will continue to encourage over my next term.

Finalize implementation of our 5-year strategic planning initiative.

The 5-Year Plan will guide the PUD’s decision-making process in three major areas:

    • Customer Focused Services;
    • Communication with the Public and our Partners; and
    • Internal Communication & Organizational Operation Development.

To minimize foreseeable rate increases over the next ten years, the PUD must embrace as many efficiencies as possible to keep costs to our ratepayers down. Implementing AMI meter technology, continued build out of our Asset Management Program, and adopting more streamlined billing and payment structures for our ratepayers – such as online payments, credit card payments, auto checking payment options, and newer applications such as Venmo (a subsidiary of PayPal) – are all avenues for creating greater efficiencies, equally as critical as the actual installation of pumps, pipes, valves, and vaults for the next 10-year cycle. The more efficient we become the better we will meet the challenges ahead.

Establish a strategic planning initiative to address current growth projections, forecast geographical demands, and budgetary needs for Skagit PUD and its ratepayers.

It is critically important that, as one of three Commissioners with a fiduciary obligation to serve the interests of the PUD, I consider what is best for the PUD presently while also giving equal consideration to the projections and growth forecasts provided by our local county commissioners.

The cost of maintaining a rapidly growing water infrastructure system puts stress on every part of the operation – water resource protection, rising utility and material costs, aging infrastructure, and maintaining a highly skilled and motivated workforce. Managing demand and priority equally, while still maintaining a high level of fiscal responsibility, takes knowledge, skill, and experience within the water utility industry. As the population growth continues at its current pace so does the demand for greater infrastructure needs. The PUD will find ways to maintain infrastructure planning while remaining fiscally prudent and sensitive to the impact any rate increase would have on customers.

Eight years ago, Skagit PUD doubled the size of Judy Reservoir’s filtration treatment plant after county wide growth and demand called for its expansion. The expansion offered a 25-year horizon on capacity. However, in 2017, Judy Reservoir achieved close to maximum demand capacity multiple times that year, signaling a need for further strategic assessment of current assets and usages with the understanding that any critical decision to increase filtration capacity will take several years of permitting and construction. As residential development plans continue to be approved for higher elevation properties in long term peripheral growth areas, the demand for pumps, pipes, and water delivery via Skagit PUD will only escalate the need for long term solutions. We must begin to have real impactful conversations about what is the most rational use of Judy Reservoir’s treatment facilities when demands at higher and lower elevation locations both begin to increase at rapid rates. Is one treatment center enough? Maximum demand capacity will undoubtedly be tested time and again as that future grows out.

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