At a time when staying connected is more important than ever, the Grays Harbor PUD is teaming together with cities, schools and a large group of state and independent agencies to provide free access to the PUD fiber network. Using mobile hotspots, free Wi-Fi access will be provided at strategic points around Grays Harbor County. Users can simply drive-up or walk-up to the sites and immediately have online access for business, school and a host of other needs.
“Today more than ever, internet access is a critical part of our lives and a way to keep connected to family, schools and businesses. However not everyone has the same level of access, especially in rural Washington. Mobile sites like these will help to change that,” said PUD Core Services Director Rob Hanny, whose office oversees the PUD Telecommunications Department.
As of today, six drive-up sites have been agreed upon in Grays Harbor: McCleary City Hall, the Wishkah Valley School, and the Satsop School were the first, installed at the outset of the pandemic. The PUD has added sites to the Lake Quinault School District building in Amanda Park, the Oakville School District and most recently Olympic Stadium in Hoquiam. Equipment for the sites has been provided to the utility free of charge by the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, a private, industry funded disaster relief organization.
The local access is part of a larger, statewide effort to provide free Wi-Fi access to Washington residents. Partners in the state’s drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots project include: Washington State University; Washington State Library, part of the Washington Office of the Secretary of State; members of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association (WPUDA) and affiliated nonprofit Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet); the Washington State Broadband Office; Washington Independent Telecommunications Association (WITA); Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech); and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
TWell over 100 of the new drive-in hotspots are operational, in addition to 301 existing Washington State Library hotspots identified across the state. All told, some 600 public hotspots will soon be available to keep Washington communities connected.
For complete information and a map of locations, visit www.driveinwifi.wa.gov. The map will be updated as more sites come online.
Citing its important role in irrigation, navigation, recreation and energy production, the Grays Harbor PUD has submitted its comments on the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement to the Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration. Authored by those three agencies at the end of February, the EIS supports the Lower Snake River Dams and recommends additional water spill over the dams and increased mitigation efforts to assist salmon run recovery.
Scammers are at it again making calls to Grays Harbor PUD customers, again using PUD numbers to make the calls appear legitimate.
In the last week, multiple PUD customers have reported that they had received a phone call from a number that looks to be from the PUD. Once on the line, the callers demand immediate payment on an account they claim to be overdue and threaten to shutoff power unless a payment is made.
“This scam is very similar to ones attempted in the past, but given the current climate caused by the COVID-19 response, tensions are running higher than normal and scammers are pushing people to make a rash decision. Given that fact, it’s even more important that you do not volunteer your personal information," says Communications Director Ian Cope. "If you get an email or phone call threatening to shut off your power or containing account information you think is suspicious, call the PUD Customer Service office to report the scams and to check on your account status.”
Recipients of such fraudulent phone calls should under no circumstances agree to send money or give bank account, credit card or other personal information. Rather, customers are advised to immediately contact PUD Customer Service at 360-532-4220 to verify the claim.
Just over three weeks after the Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the utility is making adjustments to assist customers impacted by the virus.
On Wednesday, the board met in emergency session to pass a resolution which will give General Manager Dave Ward the authority to expand the use of the PUD’s existing assistance programs and practices. Thus far, they have included the waiving of late fees, the use of donated Project Help dollars to assist customers and delaying the disconnection of power on delinquent accounts. In addition the utility has chosen to delay a projected 2% rate increase that was to have gone into effect on May 1st.
“This resolution opens more avenues for our Customer Service staff to help customers who have been impacted by COVID-19,” said Board President Russ Skolrood. “If you are having trouble paying your monthly bill related to the COVID-19 pandemic, please call the PUD immediately.”
As part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, an addition $900-million has been appropriated for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP. The resolution adopted by the utility is designed to help bridge the gap between now and the enactment of the federal assistance programs.
“The weight of the circumstances facing some of our customers is becoming heavier and heavier,” said Ward. “If you take the time to contact the PUD, programs are there to lessen the load.”
The PUD Customer Service office can be reached at (360) 532-4220. Account information can also be found online at ghpud.org or on the SmartHub mobile app. Customers who wish to donate to Project Help may do so by filling out the donation section found on the left side of their monthly return invoice, offering a donation of $1.00, $5.00 or “other” where customers may write in the amount they wish to donate.
In response to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order put in place by Governor Jay Inslee, the PUD has embraced social distancing by setting up remote work stations for employees, both at home and throughout PUD facilities. In this way the PUD is able to maintain the critical services they provide to the Grays Harbor community while ensuring a safe and healthy working environment for utility staff.
In a time of crisis, the willingness of a community to lend a hand is never more important. As the Grays Harbor PUD helps customers in need cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reminding its customers of an opportunity to help those struggling to pay their monthly power bill.
“For several years, the PUD’s customers have made donations to the Project Help program to help their neighbors and community members during difficult financial times. It is times like these that this assistance can really make a difference in our customer’s lives” said Customer Service Director Katy Moore. “We want our customers to know how they may make donations so we can continue to help those in need.”
Customers who wish to donate to Project Help may do so by filling out the donation section found on the left side of their monthly return invoice, offering a donation of $1.00, $5.00 or “other” where customers may write in the amount they wish to donate. Donations may also be made by contacting PUD Customer Service at (360) 532-4220.
As customers adapt to the struggles caused by the COVID-19, the PUD is providing some relief by eliminating late charges on accounts that become delinquent in March and April, postponing a 2% rate increase and continuing to urge customers who are struggling to pay monthly power bills to contact Customer Service at (360) 532-4220.