Mason's PUD 3
by Aria Shephard Bull
Mason County Public Utility District No. 3 could raise fees associated with setting up and disconnecting accounts, and it may also revise its opt-out fee for people choosing not to receive an advanced meter through the utility's grid modernization project.
The utility district held a public fee hearing, Tuesday, April 10, and plans to implement any potential changes to its fee schedule by April 24, at the earliest.
Some of the proposed fee increases include raising account setup fees during regular hours to $25 (from $20) and during off hours to $225 (from $150) and increasing reconnect fees during regular hours to $75 (from $50) and during off hours to $225 (from $150).
The proposed fee for disconnection for non-payment during regular hours is $75, up from $50.
"We are a public utility and rates are cost-based," said Sherry Speaks, treasurer of PUD No. 3. "This is unlike a private company where they build in a profit margin. We do not. We are required to set fair, just and reasonable rates."
The utility also discussed alternatives to the $50 opt-out fee that it currently assesses its customers who do not want their new advanced meters to digitally transmit readings.
The options ranged from $53.76 per month to pay for the cost of someone coming out to read the meters every month, $26.88 per month for meter reading every other month, $8.96 per month for a meter reading twice a year and $4.48 per month for an annual meter reading.
The utility commission will also decide later this month whether to adopt the state's new standard fees associated with public records requests. The new public records fees include a 15 cent per page charge for photocopies or printed copies of electronic records, a 10 cent per page charge for records that need to be scanned and 5 cents per four attachments for records that need to be uploaded for delivery.
The district could also charge 10 cents per gigabyte for the transmission of public records in an electronic format; the actual cost of any digital storage device (such as a CD or thumb drive), container, envelope or postage; and a customized charge to provide customized access.
All of the members of the public who testified at the hearing came out against the utility district's opt-out fee for people who do not want advanced meters to transmit data.
"The numbers are ... really nonsensical and are not actual costs," said Colleen Walls of Belfair. "These are not based on actual numbers. If they were, PUD 3 would already be broke from not charging these rates in the first place. It just makes no sense."
Mark Miller of Shelton said he moved to the Phillips Lake area because he wanted to get away from the "electromagnetic smog that is King County."
"I am affected by radio waves," he said. "The $50 fee is arbitrary and created out of punishment ... I'm sure the meter reader can do one house per trip. I moved out here to get away from this, and here I am."
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