Snohomish PUD is moving ahead with plans to consolidate the Stanwood and Arlington offices into a new facility near the Arlington airport.
“Stanwood and Camano customers shouldn’t see too much of an impact,” said Doug Wilson, a senior project manager with the utility.
That’s because when the new North County office opens in 2023, utility officials said they plan to keep a handful of customer service representatives in Stanwood as well as the payment dropbox and two one-person crews.
“We expect the amount of walk-in customers is going to continue to drop,” Wilson said. “But we see ourselves in Stanwood for some time after the North County office opens.”
The PUD opted for the consolidation option because of the high costs of building two new facilities in each community.
“It will save the utility $32 million,” said Wilson, citing the estimated 25-year savings between building a consolidated location and new facilities in Stanwood and Arlington.
The aging Stanwood location has flood and seismic concerns for the utility, Wilson said. In addition, the city is working with the PUD to acquire part of the site for a street — Viking Way — to connect 88th and 92nd avenues.
Stanwood City Manager Jennifer Ferguson said she agrees with the PUD's plans to maintain a presence in town after the new building opens.
"I think it's a good thing," she said. "And it certainly helps the city transportation projects we want to do."
While the PUD has not decided what to do with the existing Stanwood building, a few workers will remain in the area.
“We will keep two servicemen in the Stanwood area — they are first responders and 80-plus-percent of the outages are restored by these servicemen,” utility’s GM/CEO John Haarlow told PUD commissioners during the Jan. 7 commission meeting.
Additionally, new lines, technologies and other improvements should help boost reliability in the Stanwood-Camano area, Haarlow said. The utility also is considering a small location on Camano Island to store equipment, he said.
With just two crews currently in Stanwood, during outages after hours, on weekends and on holidays, it can be challenging to quickly assemble a full crew of four to six workers, Haarlow said.
“So then they have to go to the sister office (for crews),” he said. “The likelihood of being able to get a crew out of that (consolidated) facility will be greater” and improve response times.
The new North County office is expected to host six different crews when it opens, but is built to accommodate up to 10 crews in the future. The design and development phase starts in February, and construction should begin on the $43.5 million facility in summer 2021.
The office is next to the utility’s new community solar power plant. The site will also soon host a microgrid, which can use solar energy to independently power the office during a major emergency.
“When we did targeted outreach to Stanwood-Camano customers the general consensus is that they’d like us in Stanwood, but they understand the fiscal responsibility we’re going after,” Wilson said.