About 50 people attended the meeting, although most of the questions – either about the study or other aspects of the public-power debate – were submitted beforehand, then read aloud by PUD commissioner Alan Corwin.
The PUD study, which was released last week, focuses on three proposals for offering power in the county: building and providing power to the City of Yelm; building and providing power to an area from the Capitol Campus to the Port of Olympia; and acquiring facilities from Puget Sound Energy and providing power from Tumwater’s core to the Port of Olympia.
The estimated initial financing is $41.9 million for the first proposal, $50.5 million for the second and $153.6 million for the third. The estimated 10-year savings for the three proposals using wholesale power provided by the Bonneville Power Administration, compared with PSE providing the service, is $10 million for the first proposal, $18.7 million for the second and $215.7 million for the third.
Tax-exempt and taxable bonds would be used to finance the proposals, according to the study.
The financing estimates also include separation, legal, consulting, startup and working capital costs of $6.25 million for the first proposal, $8 million for the second and $25 million for the third.
PSE has released a preliminary valuation of its assets in Thurston County. It shows $588 million in physical assets – poles, wires and transformers – plus $71 million to $100 million in real estate. PSE officials have said public-power startup costs could push power takeover costs to $1 billion; PUD commissioners have disputed that figure.
Here are some of the questions that were submitted for the meeting, read aloud by Corwin and answered by Corwin:
Question: Does the PUD have to provide service to the entire county?
Answer: No. There are other counties that have multiple power providers, such as in Lewis County. It gets power from Lewis County PUD and a municipal utility.
Q: How will the PUD handle the up-front costs (of offering power)?
A: All of those up-front costs are built into the estimates of the study. And we would manage that like any business by obtaining long-term financing and then amortize the cost over time.
Q: How are decisions made?
A: This is an elected board. There are three of us, elected to six-year terms. If the public doesn’t like us or how we perform, they can vote us out of office. We’re here to serve Thurston County, not stockholders. We’re here to offer the best, reliable service we can at the lowest (water) rates.
Q: How would you deal with storm-damage repairs?
A: The same way Puget Sound Energy does. If there’s damage, they bring in people from adjoining areas (to help). Right now, Thurston County PUD has agreements with other entities for any storm damage to our water systems. We would bring in people from other PUDs, and the other electric PUDs do that as well.
ABOUT THE ISSUE
The interest in public power was launched by the Thurston Public Power Initiative, a grassroots effort that collected enough signatures to make the November ballot.
Voter approval in November of Proposition 1 would give the Thurston Public Utility District, currently a water utility, the authority to pursue public power.
The march toward November has ramped up the public-power debate among PSE, the PUD, the Thurston Public Power Initiative and a group that opposes the initiative, the Alliance to Protect Thurston Power. The latter group is headed by former Olympia Mayor Doug Mah, former Secretary of State Ralph Munro and former County Commissioner Diane Oberquell.
There’s also an open seat on the PUD commission that will be filled this fall by either public-power supporter Steve Fossum or Linda Oosterman, who remains undecided until she has all the facts.
“I’ll make my decision based on reliable information that has been properly vetted,” Oosterman said Tuesday.