Chelan County PUD commissioners are showing support for spending $10 million on redevelopment of the Fifth Street campus they're vacating.

The commissioners are figuring out how to use extra money being aimed at supplementing funds in the utility’s Public Power Benefit program in 2024. 

Commissioners created the program in 2015 as part of Chelan PUD’s vision to enhance the quality of life in Chelan County.  

At the beginning, commissioners allocated about $4 million for the fund. That level has increased to $6 million a year, which is earmarked to support projects that fall within the PUD’s authority as a public utility. Funding is contingent on the utility meeting its financial obligations. 

PUD staff made a presentation for commissioners this week. 

After initial vetting for statutory authority and alignment with PUD programs, a committee reviewed 12 proposals and selected five projects for roard consideration: 

  • Expanded fiber network: Accelerates the expansion of the PUD’s broadband network in order to provide access to 85 percent of Chelan County customers by 2026. 
  • Fiber expansion design: Funds the development of preliminary designs and cost estimates for the next phase of expanding the wholesale fiber network. The study will inform future decisions by the Fiber department and commissioners. 
  • Stehekin reliability: Explores solutions to increase electrical capacity in the remote community of Stehekin as energy demands grow and change. 
  • Manson parks connection: Connects the PUD-owned Manson Bay Park and the Old Swim Hole with an elevated boardwalk that would provide safe, continuous access and protect the riparian area. 
  • Fifth Street redevelopment: Creates an internal road and sidewalk through the Fifth Street campus to connect the separate parcels in a way that’s consistent with the community vision for redevelopment.   

PUD Staff then presented commissioners with three options for consideration: 

  • Increase the total Public Power Benefit funding from $6.0M to $8.35M a year, which would allow all the proposed projects to move forward. The cost would be higher and it would not allow funding for new projects as they arise.
  • Consider a $4M one-time allocation for the Fifth Street Campus the PUD is vacating for a new headquarters in Olds Station. It would allow additional projects to be considered as they arise but would also have a higher cost.
  • Only select projects within the $6.0M approved funding, which would be consistent with approved funding, but not all of the projects would be funded.

Commissioners expressed strong support for the $4 million increase going toward redevelopment of the Fifth Street campus the PUD is leaving. 

They may pass a resolution formalizing that move at their next meeting in October. 

But commissioners also expressed a need in the near future to change how extra money is dealt with. 

Commissioner Garry Arseneault said they would have much more flexibility if they created a separate fund where money would carry over into the next year. 

"By throwing them into to a fund that retains that surplus, even in those years where we have slowing revenue, we'll still be able to fund projects," said Arseneault.  

Commissioner Carnan Bergren largely agreed, saying a separate fund needs to be set up so they can track where the money is. 

“I think there’s a need to be able to track some funds, have a fund set up where we actually put money in,” said Bergren. “Some years we might have more money, or others we might not because right now the funds come from unrestricted funds.”

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