Coming retirement, declining use cited
The Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) is considering closing its Twisp office because customer use has declined and Customer Service Representative Karen Williams is retiring on June 1, after 16 years on the job.
The office in the Methow Valley Community Center will remain open Mondays and Wednesdays through the end of May for Williams to serve customers, gather input about the need for in-person services in Twisp, and educate customers about other means of payment, Customer Service Supervisor Mindy Morris said at the PUD’s board meeting on Monday (Feb. 28).
The Twisp office processes about 300 payments a month, 55 by credit card; and just under 400 orders a year for new service, Morris said. There are 2,011 customers in the service territory covered by the Twisp office. Before Williams joined the PUD to run the full-time office, staff at the community center helped take payments.
Use of the office has declined because customers can pay their bill by mail, over the phone, or online. PUD technicians no longer need to go to the office to pick up service orders because they access them via portable computers, Morris said.
Closing the office would help with overall staffing needs and workflow, Morris said. With Williams’ retirement and the resignation of an Okanogan-based employee, the PUD has four open positions for customer service representatives.
Those changes have prompted the PUD to consider reorganization, including hiring a second full-time representative for the Brewster office, which handles a high volume of cash, Morris said. The PUD wants to have two employees in each office for safety and security.
The change in Brewster would also allow that location to handle write-offs of unpaid bills, which Williams has handled for the entire district, except for Twisp. Having two people process write-offs is recommended by auditors, Morris said.
The PUD would also hire a full-time representative for Okanogan, which is busy handling moves and requests for service. They’re not looking to fill the other two jobs now, PUD Public Relations Coordinator Sheila Corson said.
The commissioners also discussed the option of keeping a drop box in Twisp. They would need to find a location where the box would be secure, PUD Commissioner Bill Colyar said. He noted that there have been security concerns at the community center, including the theft of the Senior Center security cameras — while they were filming.
The PUD has full-service offices in Okanogan, Oroville, Tonasket and Brewster. The utility closed the Omak office last year, but there is a drop box there for payments.