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Year in Review: Columbia River PUD buffeted by storms, including political ones

   Columbia River People’s Utility District saw unprecedented storm damage to its power lines throughout the service area in late 2015, but the district weathered a political storm all year. The district’s board of directors started the year with two new board members, Craig Melton and Harry Price.

By March, the district settled two lawsuits with ex-employees Rick Lugar and John Nguyen out of court, immediately before hiring them back to work and then promoting Lugar, then Nguyen, to temporary general manager positions.

In response to higher wholesale power costs and lower revenues, the PUD raised monthly basic fees and electric rates for all customer classes.

In September, with Nguyen at the helm, the PUD made major staffing changes again, when four department managers were terminated on the same day. With heavy flux in the district’s oversight and staffing, the PUD was dropped by its liability insurance provider, Special Districts Insurance Services.

Ratepayers also responded. In December, a recall petition was filed to remove Melton from the PUD board. Recall efforts are anticipated to continue through 2016.

A week after approving a $33.8 million 2016 budget, the district experienced heavy wind storms, resulting in unprecedented outages and damages to PUD equipment. The district ended 2015 with two outstanding lawsuits from five former employees.