LONG BEACH - A local business owner has teamed up with a Vancouver advocate to look into what they allege are improprieties at Pacific County Public Utility District No. 2 (PUD). Together the two held a meeting Monday night at the Super 8 Hotel to discuss the matter and also to try to drum up more support for looking into PUD's business practices.

According to Jonathan Woodward, who owns Video Plus and Internet To! in Long Beach, he became concerned about PUD practices shortly after he opened his business this summer. As a result of these concerns, he then contacted Arlene Mullin, a patient advocate in the Vancouver area, to work with him.

Mullin, who has had experience fighting for rights of kidney dialysis patients, said she has looked at Woodward's billing and deposit history. She said she has also talked to a number of other PUD customers, and her conclusion is that there is something improper going on at PUD, particularly with its deposit policies.

She said she was also planning to look into other policies at PUD, such as those concerning shut-offs during the wintertime. Another policy she said she wants to clarify is whether PUD is providing accounting information when its customers request it.

"They are totally out of line and need to be accountable to the public," said Mullin. "This is abuse of power and I think people are tired of it. There is a question whether PUD is acting legally - in accordance with federal regulations."

Woodward said he also has grave concerns that PUD's newer meters are not recording electric consumption properly. He said he has had his residential meter looked at by an expert outside PUD, whose conclusion was that the meter was not calibrated properly.

"I tell people that the Peninsula is a paradise except for PUD," said Woodward.

Calls were made by the Chinook Observer to PUD General Manager Doug Miller and PUD Commercial Manager Ben Villarreal to discuss comments made by Woodward and Mullin, but as of Tuesday morning they were not returned. Mullin said she has not had any of her calls returned either. There were no PUD officials at Monday's meeting.

According to Woodward, another meeting is being planned to discuss PUD practices, which he said he hopes will bring people out who have also had problems with the utility company.

One thing apparent at Monday's meeting was lack of attendance, with fewer than 10 people present. Signs announcing the meeting were repeatedly torn off local post office walls and windows. According to postal workers at the Long Beach and Ilwaco post offices, they were unaware who was taking the signs down, and added that it was not postal workers taking them down.

Pacific County's PUD No. 2 is a customer-owned utility providing electricity and water service in Pacific County to a population of more than 22,000 residents. As of December 2001, PUD's combined water and electric system assets exceeded $55.7 million.

• To continue trying to garner information and support to look into PUD business practices, another meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 16 at 6:30 at the Super 8 Motel conference room. More meetings are planned to follow.

• Woodward and Mullin urge any PUD customers who have had problems with the utility or want more information to call either (800) 726-6488 or 642-2022.

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