RAYMOND — Retirement of longtime Commissioner Ron Hatfield opens the path for a new face to join the three-member governing board for Pacific County Utility District No. 2, the citizen-owned electricity provider. Hatfield’s district encompasses the county’s northern third. Voters in that area narrowed the candidate field to Dick Anderson and Mike Lignoski. On Nov. 8, voters county wide will decide between the two.
The Chinook Observer conducted separate interviews of the candidates. Here are their answers.
Dick Anderson is a Menlo-area contractor. He moved to Southwest Washington in the early 1970s. He worked locally as a teacher for 30 years and has worked as a contractor for almost 40 years.
What motivated you to run for PUD commissioner?
The most basic reason is the fact that I don’t feel our rate-payers are being justified in being represented. I see the rubber stamping that’s gone on. I see the unruly spending — I guess you’d call it — I feel I’m committed to the rate-payers, and that’s the most important thing to me. So they would have someone they could voice their concerns with.
What work or life experiences have prepared you for this position?
I was in the public school system as an educator for 30 years. I’ve owned my own business for 40 years. I’m an excavation contractor in Menlo. Having gone to the meetings, I know a lot more than I ever have than when I started. I have a business background and I’ve worked with people my whole life. I came there in 1970. I taught at Valley from 1970 to 2000. I started my business in 1977.
What do you think the PUD is currently doing well, and what could use improvement?
Well, my hat’s off to the crews because I think they’re always consistent. I think they always do an admirable job. They need to have someone who is capable of overseeing what they’re doing. That’s what I really think they need. In my opinion, from what I’ve read, one of the jobs of a commissioner is to oversee the duties of the general manager. And at this point, that’s not happening, and it’s just because there’s a reluctance to be transparent.
With Doug Miller set to retire soon, how do you foresee the ideal recruitment of a new general manager going?
There’s two things that they’ve tried to derail my candidacy with lately. One was, one of the guys down here had been told I was planning to replace the crews with private people to do the work. Well, that’s farthest from my mind. Secondly, no one commissioner is going to do anything.
And the other thing that (Ron) Brummel wrote in the paper — he was comparing (Mike) Lignoski and me — that I wanted to fire the manager, and that’s not true. I think you have to have just cause for anything. I think the heir apparent is (Jason) Dunsmoor. I wouldn’t have a problem with him being manager. He’s the current mayor of Raymond. But I think you have to start with an open mind and kind of try to put some of the dust behind us. But that’s a good question, I don’t really know the answer, and I wouldn’t know that answer until... we don’t know when Miller is going to resign.
Is that a decision you think you would seek public input to make?
I think that would probably be a good thing. The public hasn’t been involved in a lot of things and I think maybe part of it would be is to have evening meetings on occasion so that the crew themselves and the general public that has to work would be able to attend. I think at this point its pretty much a shoo-in that (Dunsmoor) has the knowledge. I think he may be lacking on some other areas, but that’s a hard question for me to answer truthfully.
I think if I were to get in there, everybody’s got to be starting out in kind of a new mode and not have prejudice against him for anything that happened in that past, but obviously be alert for what may be going to happen.
Until you’ve been at some of those meetings and kind of get the feel of things and talk to the public it’s really hard to have an opinion for a lot of people. I just knew they were overcharging, but after we got in there, you find out there’s just so much deceit and stuff it’s scary. It’s unfair. So I think you just kind of have to start over.
How do you rate the PUD’s relationship with the public, and how it could it be improved?
I think they need to work on public relations — huge. I mean, there’s no information put out to the public at all since I’ve been going to meetings for three and a half years. You hear hearsay that you can get a rebate on a heat pump or a rebate for changing your lights to LEDs, but, they need to work on public relations, and I think some of the employees need to also.
What can be done to effectively meet the heavy power demands of the growing marijuana industry?
Well, first of all — the expectation and the reality — there’s a big gap in between. I mean, they’re not using as much power as anybody thought. At first it was huge — we’re going to have to build a substation and of course, you’re going to have to build it because you want it. I think our grass growing up there is still increasing, but I don’t know what the future is of it. I mean Charter is one of the biggest ones and they have that one building they haven’t done anything with, so, I heard they’re income is doing quite well.
You don’t see PUD having any problems meeting that demand right now?
No, I don’t think so.
How are you going to ensure projects like, for example, the new Long Beach substation will stay on track and under budget?
I think you have to rely on your general manager and the engineer probably. I mean, I don’t think as a commissioner you’d be able to first-hand control that, but by having the right people in the right positions, it shouldn’t be a problem.
In a more general sense, what needs to be done to keep PUD solvent and relatively debt-free?
I would say kind of stop some of the pet projects, some of the excessive expenditures that have gone through. Like Radar Ridge, they spent, I think it was, they spent $800,000. In order to have to meet that criteria to the federal government you had to have 25,000 rate payers and we’re 8,000 shy on that. So I think that, the idea there was to sell some of that power to the other people. But the marbled murrelet people said from the get-go that wasn’t going to happen.
I personally think the Tokeland project is kind of a fantasy thing. We had one person check into it and he thought it would take 150 years to pay for it. Plus, they plan on all kinds of upgrades. Originally they were going to go to where they are now, go across the bay to Tokeland and come to Long Beach. Well, the bid came in on the wire and that was $15 million dollars because it has to be copper and so forth. Well, I’m not in favor of it. I don’t see the economic advantage of it. Possibly, it would be, but I mean, one tsunami or if that road washes out, all kinds of things. There’s just so much water in Tokeland, I don’t see it being easy. Then you have to have another crew. They say they can have someone respond from Raymond, but I don’t see it taking less than two hours. First of all, you gotta send someone out there to see what’s wrong.
I don’t think the Corps of Engineers is going to let you cross that channel, and the oyster growers are, I think, their input, I think the oyster growers were ready to do battle against it.
Do you have an opinion on the “intertie” with Wahkiakum County?
I think that’s probably been a pretty easy thing. Sounds like it being Wahkiakum, as small as it is, it would probably be a big benefit for them. I don’t see a problem with that.
Pacific County PUD is still involved in a long-running lawsuit with internet and cable providers; How important is a resolution to this conflict and what would you like to see happen?
Everything I’ve heard from Miller is that it’s a win-win for us, but I don’t know how many million dollars have been spent on attorney fees. It goes on and on and on and on. I think the only ones making money are the attorneys. And big time, a lot of money. But (Miller) is confident we’re going to get our $18.75 or $19 dollars a year per pole.
It would just be nice to have a manager in there who was straight-forward and no deceit. You know, it just seems like it’s become sort of a bees’ nest to me.
I know for a fact, some of our other commissioners, one of them from right down here, they were told not to communicate with the crews, and I think that’s totally wrong, I think you need to ask them ‘How’s it going?’ It’s the natural thing. You don’t want to leave them out on an island. They’re dictated to quite a bit anyway, I think.
As long as I’ve been in that area you never hear anything negative about the crew. They do what they have to do. I just don’t see an issue with them at all.
What does Dick Anderson bring to the table that the other candidate doesn’t?
Having gone to meetings for three and a half years, over the years, I’ve acquired a pretty extensive information concerning the PUD. I think it needs some direction. If we could get a couple commissioners working together the public might feel a little better about their PUD. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of people that are perfectly happy, but there’s a lot of people that talk to me all the time.
I just think the time I’ve spent and the knowledge I’ve acquired has to be an asset. And I’ll guarantee you none of the others have been willing to do that.
I just knew one thing, I wasn’t going to let the younger generation down by not pursuing what we’ve prophesied for a long time — these young people almost have to take a loan out for their utilities. I used to know what the transformers cost and in a period of just a couple years they’ve gone up 50 percent. I’d like to see an invoice on what it cost.
To me, it’s just the idea that the rate payers, they’re the key, they’re the owners. It would be nice if they had a little more say in some things. That’s why I think an evening meeting on occasion would be appropriate.
We first interviewed you over a month ago — before allegations surfaced claiming you violated campaign finance rules — Would you like to respond to those allegations here, or add anything else?
There’s nothing really against me. It’s just dealing with the local Harbor Herald. There’s nothing there. That’s just one of the things the group that doesn’t want me in there just keeps trying to bring up. They don’t have anything better to come up with against me. If there was an interest from the Public Disclosure Commission, they probably would have made some contact at this point. So I’m not really worried about it. It’s just a example of some dirty politics. I just don’t see it as an issue, period. The union is in total support of me. I’m just pleased the way everything is going.