At the fair: JPUD shares showerheads, good news about rates

By Allison Arthur of the Leader
Posted 8/11/15

Jefferson County Public Utility District 1 (JPUD) is distributing low-flow showerheads and good news about power rates at the Jefferson County Fair.

The free low-flow, 1.5-gallon-a-minute …

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At the fair: JPUD shares showerheads, good news about rates

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Jefferson County Public Utility District 1 (JPUD) is distributing low-flow showerheads and good news about power rates at the Jefferson County Fair.

The free low-flow, 1.5-gallon-a-minute showerheads are just in time for Port Townsend water customers to use to lower water consumption in the wake of the City of Port Townsend’s water drought emergency proclamation.

The electricity rate news applies to all JPUD electric customers in East Jefferson County.

For this moment in time, at least, Jefferson County electric customers are paying less than they would if they were still under the corporate dome of Puget Sound Energy (PSE).

“It's excellent news,” said JPUD Manager Jim Parker, who admits it's not uncommon for people to come in to the office and complain about paying their bills and note that PSE has cheaper rates.

But not now, and not during the fair, taking place this Friday through Sunday in Port Townsend.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a rate hike for PSE effective June 1, 2015. As a result, JPUD’s electric rates are lower than PSE's, Parker said.

“Based on a standard customer average monthly use of 1,000 kilowatt (kWh), the cost of power in a month for a residential customer is now $102.42 with PSE, but only $99.93 with the district, a difference of $2.49,” Parker wrote in an email.

That’s the value of a 12-ounce drip, without tax.

Parker learned about the rate news while fact hunting for JPUD’s fair booth.

“I was starting to get ready for the fair to put up a comparison and was pleasantly surprised to see the rate increase [for PSE],” Parker said.

But how long will JPUD’s rates be cheaper than PSE’s?

“We’re not going to change the rates before November, no matter what, because the new billing system is coming in,” Parker said.

It's a message, JPUD Commissioner Barney Burke of Port Townsend agrees, that commissioners will be giving fairgoers: “There’s no plan to raise rates right now.”

RATE WATCHERS

Still, some JPUD rate watchers are looking at a recent increase in the wholesale power price Bonneville Power Administration charges and are wondering if JPUD would increase rates in the not too distance future. BPA announced a 7.1 percent increase in electricity and a 4.4 percent increase in transmission charges.

Parker did say that JPUD’s share of the operating cost of BPA has decreased compared to that of other utilities because Jefferson County customers aren't using that much power.

In any event, Parker said, BPA’s increase was actually less than what a consultant had projected, and the district had used it for budgeting.

Parker also wants to share what he considers to be more good news: Power outages are down and reaction times are up, though it’s hard to prove either of those.

The other good news from a hometown standpoint?

“Everybody who works at the PUD lives in the county, including the linemen. We made that a condition of their employment,” Parker said.

That was a selling point back in 2008 when voters approved the idea of the district going into the electric business. That idea became a reality on April 1, 2013, with Jefferson County becoming the first county in the state in 60 years to pull the switch and go into the electricity business.

BILLINGS

There is both good news and “oh no, not that” news to report regarding a new billing system called National Information Solution Cooperative, which JPUD hopes will be online later this fall.

The good news, from Parker’s perspective, is that the billing system is being integrated with the accounting system, and it also manages work orders and all kinds of other issues.

“This is much better than our existing billing and payment software system,” Parker said.

There will be a “Smart Hub,” where customers can access their bills as well as ask questions and file claims.

“So, someone can see there are trees on their line. There's a link. You check it, and the message goes to Bob, who deals with right-of-way issues,” Parker explained.

People also can go online to see how much power they are consuming now, as well as go paperless with their billing.

The not-so-great news is that everyone will be getting a new account number, something that Parker admits can be an annoyance.

Ever the optimist, Parker said, “But it’s all integrated and it's going to be a tremendous step from where we are now.”

Parker is hoping to have a sample bill at the fair booth to show people who stop by.

Oh, and the district also will be giving out LED lights as well as those low-flow showerheads.

Water resources manager Bill Graham said the low-flow showerheads are not the ones that won't get you wet. The ones JPUD is passing out offer 1.5 gallons of water a minute. Graham said they save the typical shower user about 1 gallon per shower.

Parker had hoped to be able to offer rain gauges and a conservation kit that helps people check their faucets for drips and their toilets for leaks, but those won’t be available at the upcoming fair, Aug. 14-16.

However, they are to be available at the third annual All-County Picnic, set for Sunday, Aug. 23 at H.J. Carroll Park in Chimacum.

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