An Update from Pend Oreille PUD: COVID-19 Precautions

July 8, 2020

7-8-2020 Our Newport Lobby is Currently Open

Our Newport Lobby is currently open on a limited basis allowing for customers to enter who are wearing a face covering and following social distancing practices.  At this time, we are limiting the number of occupants in the lobby to two people at a time. Thank you.

6-4-2020 Campground at Campbell Park is set to Reopen June 15th

Good News! The campground at Box Canyon Dam, Campbell Park, is set to reopen to the public on Monday, June 15th. The campground typically stays open through the summer and into late fall until the weather turns and snow begins to accumulate. Hope you are looking forward to a great summer ahead - stay safe and well. Thank you.

6-1-2020 Link to Governor Inslee's Proclamation 20-23 

Governor Inslee has issued Proclamation 20-23, pertaining to Utility Ratepayer Assistance and Preservation of Essential Services. Our PUD is committed to keeping our customers connected to essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. If you are experiencing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for support, including long-term payment arrangements or bill assistance. This Proclamation does not relieve customers from the obligation to pay for utility services.

The current Proclamation can be found here: Proclamation 20-23

5-8-2020 Financial Assistance Options

We are here for you ~ We know a growing number of our customers are struggling to make ends meet. We are here for you and we want to work with all of our customers facing financial hardships due to COVID-19. If you find yourself unable to pay your bill, please give us a call at 509-447-3137.  We’ll listen to each unique situation and work to identify ways to ease the burden.  There are multiple forms of assistance available and we want to remind you that although we are not performing disconnections for non-payment during this crisis, customers are still obligated to pay for utility services.  We want to hear from you so we can understand your situation.

There is good news for customers concerned about keeping their utility bills current.  The Department of Commerce (DOC) is sending $9 million in COVID-19 crisis funding to Community Action Agencies throughout the state for rent and energy assistance. About 5,000 eligible households all over Washington will be helped. More information can be found here: DOC

To see if you qualify for the “Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program,” visit Rural Resources at https://ruralresources.org/

In addition, the WA State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) issued a press release last month with respect to disaster cash assistance that is available for some residents.  The assistance program can help with basic needs including utility bills.  See the DSHS Press Release which includes links for more information.

5-5-2020 An Operations Update: Workforce re-entry & additional WiFi hotspots installed

The PUD is slowly bringing field crews, operations personnel, and other staff members back to work.  The novel coronavirus (or COVID-19) has required the PUD to operate with a significantly smaller workforce, a restricted supply chain, and limited customer support services since March 18, 2020. These measures were implemented to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, while also ensuring critical services are properly maintained throughout the health emergency. To date, the efforts have helped to slow the spread of the deadly virus according to federal, state, and local health professionals.

Until now, virtually all of the PUDs 80+ employees have been teleworking or working staggered shifts to promote appropriate social distancing and keep employees and customers healthy and safe.  This week, the PUD is utilizing a modified operations plan that brings some employees back under strict social distancing guidelines and modified work practices.  At this time, several employees will continue to telework to keep the number of employees in District facilities at any given time to a minimum.  The PUDs common areas that are typically accessible to the public, will remain closed for the safety of everyone.  The Newport drive-through window has been open utilizing reduced hours and is now fully operational Monday through Friday 8am-5pm.

“Our employees are excited to be returning to work to better serve our community and customers,” said Colin Willenbrock, the PUD’s General Manager.  “There is still uncertainty ahead, but rest assured, we stand committed to preserving the health and safety of our customers, employees, contractors and communities while delivering the services you depend on.  Our hearts go out to all those that have been affected by this crisis.”

The PUD has continued efforts to bring internet access to help those in the community that do not otherwise have access during this difficult time.  Given that schools, restaurants, and many businesses in the area remain closed, the four (4) temporary community WiFi hotspots that were installed by the PUD in March will remain active and available to customers for the near future.  Two (2) additional hotspots were installed recently in collaboration with the Washington State Broadband Office and NoaNet.  Numerous hotspots have been deployed throughout the state and they are being coined “Drive-By WiFi” or “Drive-In WiFi” and are helping to bridge the digital divide.  The new hotspots that are now active in our county can be accessed at the following locations under the WiFi name “HomeworkHub”:

·       Usk at the Crossroads where Hwy 20 meets Hwy 211 – 421341 Hwy 20

·       Tiger at the Tiger Historical Center Parking Lot - corner of Hwy 20 & Hwy 31

A special thanks from the PUD goes out to the Washington State Broadband Office for the  equipment and labor to install both new locations, NoaNet for coordination of the project, as well as the labor to install the Tiger location and internet connections for both Crossroads and Tiger locations, as well as both the Kalispel Tribe and the Tiger Historical Center & Museum for allowing the use of their property for parking to access the hotspots. 

The PUD hopes that these hotspots help serve community members and keep everyone connected.  Visit the PUDs website for a complete listing of all currently available WiFi hotspot locations.

4-23-20 Campground at Campbell Park Closed Until Further Notice

The weather is certainly starting to show signs of spring, and summer feels like it could be just around the corner. That being said, you may be thinking about getting outdoors and enjoying some camping - we wanted to inform you that our campground at Box Canyon Dam, Campbell Park, is temporarily closed until further notice due to COVID-19. Please note that the day-use areas are still available for public access. Stay safe and well.
Thank you.

4-8-20 Extension of the Governor's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order until May 4th

Given the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order and the extension of the order from today until May 4th, the PUD will continue to keep its offices closed to the public and contractors through at least that time.  While virtually all of our operations fit within the exceptions for essential services, it is our intention to continue to do our part to contain and slow the spread of the deadly virus through modified operations. Medical professionals advise that social distancing is the best way to protect our vulnerable populations from being infected and have confidence that the efforts to date are showing signs of progress.

We remain committed to managing through this together and thank you for your support and patience.  If you have questions or find yourself facing financial hardships, please reach out to our Customer Service Department at 509-447-3137.  While operating at reduced staffing levels, our representatives are answering calls and responding to voice messages as quickly as possible.  The Newport drive-through window remains open Mon-Fri 8am-12pm & 1pm-5pm

4-1-20 Update - Fiber Extensions

The PUD has received numerous inquiries regarding fiber line extensions.  While we appreciate your interest, we would like to clarify that we will not be able to work through all of the fiber requests received, but will make it a priority to first address those with a specific need related to the pandemic – those who require an internet connection to work from home, support remote schooling, or for telemedicine needs.  The requirements, cost, and feasibility to connect have not changed and are unique per site – the PUD is not offering connections free-of-charge and cannot guarantee service availability.  We do advise that you contact your Retail Service Provider to ensure that they are able to respond to new service connection requests.  Please feel free to call our customer service center as well to inquire further.

3-31-20 An update from the PUD with respect to COVID-19 precautions, our operations, and details about fiber line extensions

Events and circumstances continue to evolve on a day-by-day basis and given Governor Jay Inslee’s most recent proclamation, the PUD is considered an essential business and we are allowed to remain open and maintain operations while establishing and implementing social distancing and sanitation measures.

Virtually all of our 80+ employees are teleworking or working staggered shifts to promote appropriate social distancing and keep our employees and customers healthy and safe. We have closed all facilities to the public and limited the physical presence of employees at our main facilities to an average of three people or less at any given time. Those who are on site are practicing prudent sanitation by disinfecting before and after shifts. We continue to maintain service continuity and provide the essential utility services that you depend on, while also following the Governor’s order.

With respect to fiber line extensions, both our state and federal agencies have encouraged that we provide assistance to those who are being impacted by the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, primarily  those who require an internet connection to be able to work from home, support remote schooling, or for telemedicine needs.  If you fall into one of these categories, please contact our Customer Service Department and request a line extension and arrange to schedule an appointment.

It is still our goal to protect both the community and our employees by limiting potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, thus we will evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis to determine both need and availability before deploying our crews.  We also ask that you contact your Retail Service Provider to ensure that they are still responding to new service connection requests as each is operating under their own safety guidelines during this pandemic.

Thank you  - we hope everyone stays healthy & safe.

3-27-20 Free Community Wi-Fi Hotspots are now available

In response to the current situation, the PUD has launched four free community Wi-Fi hot spots.  We are hoping this will help bring connectivity to students and community members that otherwise don't have access.

The following locations currently have free Wi-Fi available using the Wi-Fi name: “POPUD_FREE WIFI INTERNET ACCESS”.

  • Newport at the park across from the Post Office - 100 N. Washington.
  • Ione across from the PUD warehouse at the corner of Central St. & Millyard Rd.
  • Metaline Falls outside the Cutter Theater at 302 Park Street.
  • Cusick at the park near City Hall at 1st Ave & Monumental Way.

A press release was issued yesterday, to read the full story, please use this link: Free Community Wi-Fi.


3-25-20 Next Board Meeting to be held via Teleconference ONLY

The PUD will be holding its next Board Meeting on Tuesday, March 31st.  This meeting will be via teleconference only as in-person attendance is not permitted at this time in accordance with the Proclamation by the Governor (20-28 Open Public Meetings Act).  We invite the public to attend the meeting remotely via conference line at (312) 757-3121 using Access Code: 942-299-869.  The full agenda will be posted to our website this Friday and can be found here: https://popud.org/top-links/about-your-pud/commissioners-and-meetings/meeting-information/

This teleconferencing format will also apply to the PUD’s Board Meeting that is planned for April 14, 2020, as the proclamation is in effect through April 23, 2020.  Thank you.

3-20-20 We are here with you ~

At the PUD, our doors may be closed to the public, but we are still here, fulfilling our commitments and serving our customers. As the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold, it is affecting all of us – please know that we are here with you and are focused on continuing to meet your needs and deliver the level of service you have come to know and expect. We are maintaining appropriate staffing levels to deliver the vital electric, water and broadband services you depend on. We remain committed to managing through this together and thank you for your support and patience.

If you have questions or find yourself facing financial hardships, please reach out to our Customer Service Department at 509-447-3137. We want to work with you and help as best we can. Given that much of our staff is working remotely, don’t be surprised if you hear life going on in the background when you call.

We hope you enjoy this first weekend of Spring.

3-19-20 How safe is your drinking water?

Do you have questions about your drinking water and how safe it is to use? If you do, you are not alone and the PUD has some resources to share with you that may help alleviate concerns you have.

The most commonly asked question is “Can the COVID-19 virus spread through drinking water? The Center for Disease Control’s answer: “The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

In a statement released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently, the agency said: “The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low. Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. EPA has established regulations with treatment requirements for public water systems that prevent waterborne pathogens such as viruses from contaminating drinking water and wastewater.”

For more information and to locate answers to the below list of commonly asked questions, visit: https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-drinking-water-and-wastewater.

3-18-20 Newport Drive-Through Window is Open

The Newport drive-through window remains open at this time. Currently, the drive-through window hours are Mon-Fri 8am-12pm & 1pm-5pm.  In addition, our customer service representatives are answering calls and responding to voice messages as quickly as possible.  Please keep in mind that they are operating at limited staffing levels - we thank you for your patience during this time. 

3-17-20 PUD Taking Proactive Measures to Protect Customers & Employees from COVID-19

The below press release was issued March 17, 2020

Newport, WA – Public Utility District No. 1 of Pend Oreille County (PUD) is monitoring information from the Center for Disease Control regarding recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns and is taking proactive measures to protect its customers and employees. Given the fact that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, it is critical that the PUD follow the guidance of the federals, state, and local agency recommendations.

Due to the highly contagious nature of this virus, all PUD facilities will be closed to the public effective immediately until further notice. That includes the PUD’s administrative office in Newport as well as the Box Canyon Visitor’s Center in Ione. The PUD is following its Emergency Response Plan to ensure that essential utility services are provided to customers.

At this time, customer service representatives will still be available to answer and return phone calls, provide account information, and accept payments via the Newport drive-through window. The PUD encourages customers to make payments from home using one of its several easy and convenient payment options including SmartHub, online through the website, or by utilizing the automated pay-by-phone system. Alternatively, you may also drop payments at either the Newport Administration building or Box Canyon facility drop boxes. In addition, payments can be made using the self-service kiosk at the Box Canyon Visitor’s Center.

The PUD will waive late payment fees for the months of March and April. Any household experiencing a financial hardship related to COVID-19 should call customer service to set up a payment arrangement for their utility account. Customers who communicate their situations with the PUD and keep their arrangements will not be subject to disconnection. The PUD is also working to increase funding to its “Neighbors in Need” program in order to provide additional assistance to those affected by this crisis.

“This is a difficult and uncertain time and we are doing the best we can to look out for the safety and well-being of our customers and employees while ensuring we deliver the services customers depend on. By taking these precautionary steps to limit interaction and practice social distancing, we are doing our part to stop the spread of this virus,” said Colin Willenbrock, the PUD’s General Manager. “We are aware of the hardship this pandemic is causing for many of you and hope this gives you piece of mind that we will continue to deliver your vital electric, water and broadband services.”

As the situation unfolds, you can check the PUD’s website for the latest updates and information at www.popud.org.

With respect to future meetings open to the public:

  • The Town Hall and Board Meeting that were planned for Tuesday, March 31st, 2020, in Ione have been postponed.
  • At this time, Commission Board Meetings (except that on March 31) will continue as scheduled and the PUD encourages the public to join via conference line at 509-447-9019 rather than attend in-person.

With respect to your services:

  • The PUD’s field personnel stand ready to respond to outages and encourage customers to continue to report outages by calling 509-447-3137.
  • The PUD will continue to accept line extension applications, but there may be a delay in scheduling.