Smart meters discussed at City Council

by Richard Uhlhorn

After a Wednesday evening meeting concerning Advanced Two-Way Meters was cancelled by the PUD, Mayor Mike Cooney requested they make a presentation at the Tuesday evening, March 13 City Council meeting with time for public comment from the Smart Meter Awareness Group.

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A number of residents filled Chelan City Council Chambers to hear a presentation by Chelan County PUD on their proposed smart meter program for the Lake Chelan Valley. Members of the Smart Meter Awareness Group were on hand to remark about the program.

“As promised I am allowing an option for the public to weigh in,” said Cooney in his opening remark. “We are going to keep it a smart dialogue.”

John Stoll, Managing Director of Customer Utilities for the PUD, gave a detailed slide presentation regarding the PUD’s efforts to bring a smart meter system to the Lake Chelan Valley citing numerous advantages over the standard old meters that are currently in use now. These advantages include:

  • Control: gives the customer control of his/her energy use;
  • Reliability: better electrical outage notification to customers and the utility for quicker restoration;
  • Safety:ability to detect abnormal conditions, i.e. illegal power consumption;
  • Accuracy: increased meter read accuracy;
  • Privacy: no meter readers accessing your property;
  • Environment: reduces the amount of PUD vehicles on the road;
  • Financial: helps to potentially reduce future cost pressure

“We’ve studied this for years,” said Stoll. The PUE installed 6,000 one-way water meters in 2006. The smart meter issue was presented to the Board of Commissioners in 2015 and the plan is to select a contractor in 2019, have Opt-out policies (customers will have an opt-out option) refined and presented to the Commission, and by quarter three of 2020, have the Advanced Meter program installed and operating. “We’ve studied this for 14 to 15 years now,” said Stoll. “This technology has been out there for a long time and is now on its third generation.”

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John Stoll, Managing Director of Customer Utilities

The cost of program is estimated at $13 million with an estimated benefit to the PUD of $33 million over 20 years with a payback period of 14 years.

One of the cost reduction benefit outside of the PUD’s increased efficiency and responsiveness during electrical outages is the identification of High Density Loads (HDL) from crypto-currency mining that is being conducted without PUD knowledge or permits. “Some have played by the rules and are up and running, but others have not,” said Stoll. “It’s pretty much a cat and mouse game.”

The City of Chelan, however, put a moratorium on any crypto-currency mining until they can better understand the issues.

In gearing up for this transformation, the PUD has briefed all elected leaders, held more than 18 community meetings, sent out more than 45,000 direct-mail postcards encouraging feedback and more than 33,000 emails on the PUD’s current email list. There have been three public comment Commission hearings held and the public can research the subject of smart meters at the PUD’s dedicated website landing page  (www.chelanpud.org/advanced-meters).

Customers will have an opt-out opportunity and still have their old meters read by a meter reader, but it will have additional costs related to that service.

The PUD has had pushback from the Smart Meter Awareness Group in Chelan who are genuinely concerned about added RF (radio frequency) emissions to an already large RF output from Wi-Fi and Cell Phones. The PUD reported that 15 minutes of cell phone usage equals about 375 years of advanced meter exposure.

Public Comment:

Robin Casal, spokeswoman for the group said they had collected 500 signatures against the smart meter installation that includes five doctors, 20 health practitioners and Ann Congdon, the one PUD Commissioner who voted against the program. “We hope you have looked at the information we gave you and have researched this issue,” she told the City Council members.

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Robin Casal, Smart Meter Awareness Group representative.

She cited RF as an accumulation factor in the increase in cancer, autism and other diseases or issues. “Radio frequencies is a large contributor to this and this would be another addition,” remarked Casal. “It adds to comprised immune systems in children and seniors, adds costs to the health industry and affects our environment.”

She accused the Council of being in fear of disrupting its relationship with the PUD and talked about the liabilities. Others talked about opting out, but didn’t feel they should have to pay extra to opt out.

One of the more interesting comments came from Garett Boss. He stated that two way access opens up the possibility of giving outside people more access to your home. Boss stated that there are programs that can process 16,000 passwords a second. However, no one is going to go to the trouble for nothing. “I’m just saying it can happen.”

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Garett Boss gave an interesting take on how smart meters could be hacked.

Councilman Ray Dobbs asked if the opportunity is there to hack into the two way system, has it happened? “Absolutey,” stated Boss. “It’s happened in New York and Los Angeles to turn off power.” Dobbs then asked if the smart meters were smart enough to tell who hack into it? “No!” replied Boss.

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Councilman Ray Dobbs

Casal brought up the point that the City had promised a workshop and that it hadn’t happened. Mayor Cooney replied that it was setup, but the PUD cancelled and that he was affording the time at a Council meeting for them to be heard. He then told the group that he spent time with the City Attorney and that the City can’t do anything about stopping the PUD’s program. “I wanted the public to have a say, but this is between the PUD and you,” said Cooney. “I hope you feel you got heard.”

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth said the PUD is state regulated and that it is difficult for the City to come between them. Port Angeles is the only City to block smart meters in the state because they own their utility.

City Attorney Quentin Batjer that of all the cities I the state, Port Angeles is the only utility that is city run. “I would urge any action be taken up with the PUD commission. For the city to take any action, it take findings of fact to justify it and at this point would be imprudent of this juncture,” said Batjer. “My analysis is that this issue is a policy issue, not a legal issue.”

Dobbs asked if other technologies were being explored. “Is that something being considered by the PUD?” Stoll replied that RF is the most common technology being used. “The utility has not made up its mind, but the feasibility of using the fiber network is important.”

Dobbs asked Commissioner Ann Congdon why she voted against the smart meter program. She replied that her background was in biology and that she research the issue and felt compelled to vote no, but didn’t want to get into all of the reasons at the meeting.

Mayor Cooney read a resolution that was passed unanimously by the council. It read in part that the Mayor and the City Council of the City of Chelan:

  1. Recognizes Chelan Citizens for participating in the public dialog including City of Chelan and Chelan County PUD open public meetings.
  2. Recognizes the Chelan County PUD for a widespread public input process including 18 informational meetings across Chelan County and numerous other meetings, post cards, e-mails, media and website information.
  3. Wishes to convey our concerns about Advanced Meters and encourage the Chelan County PUD to carefully weigh the input of our citizens, and to decide in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of our community.
  4. Requests that the PUD explore all technology for backhaul of data.

For more information on the advanced metering system go to the PUD’s website
at:www.chelanpud.org/advancedmeters.

For more information on public concerns, visit the Smart Meter Awareness Group website at: http://www.facebook.com/pg/smart.meter.awareness.

Hospital hires interim CEO

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Lake Chelan Community Hospital has hired an interim CEO to take Kevin Abel’s place. Abel is leaving soon to take a new position in Whitefish Montana.

“We are very pleased to have Steve on board as our interim,” said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board chair.  “We look forward to working with him on all of the projects we have begun and feel confident that he will serve our community very well.”

Press Release
For Immediate Release

Lake Chelan Hospital hires Steven Patonai as interim CEO

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Steve Patonai
Interim CEO at Lake Chelan Community Hospital

Chelan, WA – Steven Patonai, who has more than 25 years of senior healthcare executive experience, will start as interim CEO at Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) Monday, March 19. He replaces LCCHC CEO Kevin Abel, who is leaving this month for a new CEO position with North Valley Hospital in Whitefish, Montana. Patonai will serve as CEO while the LCCHC Board looks for a permanent CEO to replace Abel.

Patonai comes from Houston, TX, where he worked as CEO for two major hospitals. His experience also includes executive experience in a variety of hospitals, from smaller organizations to tertiary medical centers, providing him with a diverse wealth of expertise, including hospital operations, physician recruitment and hospital construction.

“We are very pleased to have Steve on board as our interim,” said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board chair.  “We look forward to working with him on all of the projects we have begun and feel confident that he will serve our community very well.”

Patonai, who began his medical career as a pharmacist, has a personal interest in local healthcare. He and his wife Sharon own property in the valley and are currently building their retirement home near Rocky Point. He first visited Chelan when working as CEO of Auburn Regional Medical Center outside Seattle more than 15 years ago.

“Lake Chelan Hospital is very well positioned,” he said, “and Kevin Abel has done a great job. With the new hospital building project, it’s an exciting time to be part of local healthcare, and I hope I can have a positive impact.”

Patonai looks forward to working in a smaller hospital where he can interact more closely with staff and patients. “It gives me an opportunity to return to the roots of why I got into healthcare in the first place,” he said, “to help people.”

 

Peters resigns from fire commission

For those who missed Tom Peters on KOZI Radio on Tuesday morning, following is his full stated for resigning from Chelan County Fire District No. 7. 

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Tom Peters resigned his position as a Chelan Fire & Rescue Commissioner
on Tuesday, March 13, after serving the community
in that position for the past four years.

I have resigned as commissioner of Chelan county Fire Protection District 7 (Chelan Fire & Rescue). At the outset of my term I said I would serve as long as I continued to help improve Chelan Fire & Rescue. After lengthy consideration, I concluded I was no longer able to do so.

Let me make this very clear – I am convinced that each and every individual in Chelan Fire & Rescue is committed to the mission “to protect the lives and property of the citizens and visitors in our district and community through emergency response, education and prevention.” This has not changed.

Now, as a private citizen and no longer an elected official, here are my reasons for resigning after four plus years as your Fire Commissioner.

First, Washington State’s Open Public Meeting Act severely restricts our commissioners from performing their duties in an effective and efficient manner. According to this act, “the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.” As a result, Commissioners are forced to limit all discussions with fellow commissioners to public meetings under the scrutiny of the public and the media with every word open to interpretation and potential legal scrutiny. What would generally take days to accomplish in most business settings takes months to accomplish in the public eye. Transparency is crucial to the functioning of an effective government – an informed public is imperative in this regard. However, sensitive and candid discourse among commissioners in confidence is necessary at times to produce quick, effective decisions about services that have real life and death consequences. The Open Public Meeting Act may be well intentioned but the constraints it imposes on public officials are excessive, unproductive, and raise costs for everyone. I was no longer willing to serve with such debilitating restrictions.

Second, the pubic cannot expect any organization to function on a budget which, by law, is only allowed to increase 1% per year despite inflation rising at higher rates. For as long as I can remember, I have never seen wages and benefits in the public or private sector grow by 1% or less; most often it has been 3% or more per year. Since people are the single most important and most expensive asset of Chelan Fire & Rescue, it is unrealistic to expect the department to survive on 1% per year. Many people in Chelan have voiced that they expect the same level of service from the fire department over time with no increase in revenues. This simply does not work.

Third, Washington State limits, by law, the revenue sources for fire departments. Chelan Fire & Rescue currently depends almost entirely on property taxes, occasionally supplemented by federal grants which are very unpredictable. Fire Protection District 7 has approximately 7m500 property owners, yet has over an estimated 2,000,000 visitors between May and October of each year. After researching this, I have found no practical way for our district to tax these visitors to help pay for services they may receive while they are here. Nor does our district appear to have any practical way to tax businesses that benefit from visitors. Yet our fire district provides its services without support from this transient population. This is an unsustainable situation which contributes to the inevitability of increasing local property taxes at rates that may force, unfairly, numerous property owners from their homes. I do not condone, nor could I support the reliance on a single primary source of revenue that promotes this outcome.

Fourth, the 2018 Chelan Fire & Rescue Community Task Force Report stated in its introduction “tax initiatives, burgeoning personnel/operational costs for providing services and increased demands for services have outstripped the ability to effectively fund most Fire Departments at their current level.” Yet, I have not seen effective plans from the department that contains substantive means to cut costs in the future. Instead of valuing input from its Chelan Fire & Rescue volunteer members, and the whole department working collaboratively to create new, better, and less expensive ways to provide services, the answer to increased demands is always the same old model I’ve heard since I’ve been here: more paid staff, more money, and more taxes. Instead of the hospital board agreeing to explore with Chelan Fire & Rescue the possible consolidation of EMS and fire services, they deliberately failed to engage actively because the Manson Fire District would not join the conversation. Certainly higher taxes will be required to support emergency services going forward but much too little has been done to find efficiencies that would minimize the size of such increases.

I have to come to understand that Washington State, the residents of the Lake Chelan area, and Chelan Fire & Rescue, all have set unrealistic expectations that cannot be met using the current system of governance and taxation. Compromise on all fronts will be required to arrive at a system that does work, and provides the public the emergency services they require. The Fire Commissioners alone cannot fix this broken system and, it is not their responsibility to do so.

Throughout my tenure I promoted communication and encouraged participation of all members of Chelan Fire & Rescue and the community in fire department matters. I sincerely hope the future will be forged by melding great ideas from each commissioner, administrator, volunteer and career firefighter, with the best interests of the community in mind.

Tom Peters

Spring Sports is underway in Chelan

by Richard Uhlhorn

Important upcoming meetings to attend

by Richard Uhlhorn

The Lake Chelan Valley is gearing up for Spring and there are a number of meetings that will be taking place outside of the regularly scheduled meetings of local organizations and agencies.

Community Clean-Up Planning Meeting: On Monday, March 12, there is a planning meeting for the Community wide clean-up effort at the Vogue beginning at 5:30 p.m. This is a short planning session to divide up the clean-up efforts in town between the various organizations who will be on the streets, in the parks, alleys and on the highways on the morning of April 20 in advance of the annual Earth Day celebration in Riverwalk Park on Saturday, April 21.

Advanced (Smart) Meter Program: On Wednesday, March 14, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Chelan County PUD representatives will update the Chelan City Council on the status of the PUD’s Advanced (Smart) Meter Program. The public is invited to attend and time will be allotted for public comment. The meeting will be held in the Chelan Fire Hall conference room at 232 E. Wapato Way.

NOTICE: THIS MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. PUD REPRESENTATIVES WILL PRESENT TO THE CITY COUNCIL ON TUESDAY EVENING, FEBRUARY 13 INSTEAD. CITY COUNCIL BEGINS AT 6 P.M.

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan looks clean and pristine, but there are subtle changes taking place that is affecting water quality. The upcoming meeting on April 19 should be put on everyone’s calendar to find out what is going on.
Photo by Richard Uhlhorn

Lake Chelan Water Quality: On Thursday, April 19, beginning at 6 p.m. an important Town Hall meeting on Lake Chelan Water Quality will be held in Chelan City Council Chambers. This is being hosted by the City of Chelan and will include presentations by the Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit on the on-going efforts to study and to maintain lake quality.

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Barry Wise took this photograph this year off his beach in Manson. It is a reflection of some of the changes taking place in Lake Chelan . The lake has never had large freshwater clams like these in the past. Why now? Attend the meeting on April 19.

Farewell reception planned for Kevin Abel at Sorrento’s on March 24

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by Richard Uhlhorn

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Hospital CEO Kevin Abel will be leaving Chelan for a new job in Whitefish, Montana. A farewell reception has been planned for March 24 at
Sorrento’s Restaurant from 1 to 3 p.m.

Lake Chelan Health & Wellness Foundation, Hospital Guilds, B, Y and E, the Lake Chelan Hospital & Clinic employees and the Lake Chelan Rotary Club are hosting and sponsoring a farewell reception for outgoing CEO Kevin Able on Saturday, March 24, at Sorrento’s Restaurant at Tsillan Cellars from 1 to 3 p.m.

Abel, who has guided the hospital through to the successful bond issue for a new hosptital is leaving Chelan to become the CEO of North Valley Hospital-Kalispel Regional Healthcare in Whitefish, Montana.

“Personally is it really hard to leave this valley,” said Abel. “I have a great staff, but this is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Everyone is welcome to join this farewell reception to thank Kevin for his many years of outstanding service to the hospital and community.

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Impact fees, records requests & housing all a part of City Council meeting

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by Richard Uhlhorn

At the last Tuesday, February 27, Chelan City Council meeting, there were several items on the agenda of interest to the public.

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Planning Director Craig Gildroy went through several items in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Package he felt was important to discuss before the Council considers the Planning Commissions upcoming recommendations

Planning Director Craig Gildroy brought forth a motion to accept the Chelan Planning Commission’s recommendation to prepare a recommendation on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Package. The City Council sets the 2018 amendment docket and instructs the Planning Commission to prepare these recommendations.

Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations may only be amended once a year. The Planning Commission took public input at its January and February meetings.

Gildroy touched on several items in the recommendations which included impact fees on developers. The Growth Management Act allows impact fees to be placed on developers based on impacts to parks, fire services, schools and transportation. “We may not be able to adopt all impact fees,” said Gildroy. “We need to come back to the Council on these issues.”

Gildroy said the Planning Department is monitoring the Date Mining situation and that a public hearing is scheduled for April 10.

He also brought up the Affordable Housing issue and stated that there is no density limitation in the city limits which allows for micro housing and small homes to be built. “How do we get the builders to build it them),” said Gildroy

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth remarked that cottage housing and building accessory dwelling units within the City Limits would provide a lot of opportunities for the rental market.

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Councilman Tim Hollingsworth feels that ADUs and other small housing units built in the City would help alleviate some of the rental problems.

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Councilwoman Wendy Isenhart feels that the local banking industry needs to be a part of the affordable housing conversation.

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Councilman Ray Dobbs

Councilwoman Wendy Isenhart said that the local banks should be a part of the conversation. “The need to be writing mortgages for that.” Councilman Ray Dobbs remarked that the banks can’t not do it (write mortgages) anymore. Gildroy stated that the education part is more important than the work.

Mayor Mike Cooney asked if the Planning Department has seen an increase in people coming in. Gildroy replied that they’ve seen more interest in multi-family units than other types of housing in the City. “We haven’t seen people coming for ADUs.” He reiterated that outside of the permitting to build an ADU, there are no hookup fees associated with them. They are restricted to 300 to 1,000 square feet.

City Clerk Peri Gallucci brought forth a motion to authorize the Mayor to execute the GovQA Professional Services Agreement for Public Records Requests.

“We have been inundated this year and have reached the $100,000 threshold,” said Gallucci. She told the Council that while she doesn’t track the time it takes to process these requests, it is time consuming. Logging public records requests is now required by law and the log must include, at minimum, the identity of the requester, the date of the request, the text of the request, a description of the records produced, a description of any redacted or withheld records, the reasons for any redactions or withholding, and the date of the final disposition of the request.

The requested software has the reporting metric points built in, has a comprehensive web portal where every document including emails are located in the same place, allows the requestor to log in and track their records requests, and offers proactive technology which will eventually reduce the time spent on fulfilling requests at a cost of $4,700 per year with a renewal fee each following year.

“The goal of this program (software) is that all the documents requested will be in that portal,” said Gallucci.

Councilman Ray Dobbs asked if a requester would be able to print from the portal. Gallucci said she wasn’t sure, but would find out.

City Administrator Mike Jackson brought forth a recommendation for a Council consensus to bring forth a motion at the March 13 Council meeting to hire Julie Brunner, Housing and Community Development, to perform preliminary work on drafting a housing availability and needs assessment for Chelan and to work on the potential of forming a Community Land Trust in Chelan and the surrounding area.

Mayor Cooney remarked, “We are not going to get affordable housing in our community without a land trust.” Hollingsworth added that having Brunner on board would help with this issue.”She would help us refine it and focus on the issues. There are a lot of organizations going on a parallel track.”

Dobbs asked if there was a plan for the City to subsidize the affordable housing issues. Cooney replied that there are plans for a major fundraiser and tax credit. “We are trying to sell this to the community… we have to sell it. It is a topic that is dominating and hurting our community. It is the highest priority for people who want to live here and work here,” said Cooney.

John Olson and Steve Kline both commented during the Citizen Comment period that the City needs to look into helping to provide rental units because 80 to 90 percent of the low income workers are looking for rentals, not to purchase a home.

The next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, March 13, beginning at 6 p.m.