Former Lassen County Supervisor Jim Chapman, who also served as the treasurer for the community effort to purchase the utility from CP National back in the 1980s, said the idea way back then was to get out from under practices and policies of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company that didn’t serve local residents. He urged the Lassen Municipal Utility District Board of Directors to complete that task. Photo by Sam Williams

LMUD customers say they’ll pay more for reliable service; directors call for more public participation

In May, the Lassen Municipal Utility District’s Board of Directors put a 60-day pause on the Skedaddle Substation/NV Energy project when it learned construction costs had risen to more than $50 million.

A number of customers spoke during the July 27 board meeting, urging the board to approve the project despite the cost in order to provide more reliable service than the publicly owned utility district receives through Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Caribou Transmission line.

The customers said they were willing to pay more for reliable service.

The board listened to the customers and then unanimously voted to direct Pat Holley, general manager, to move forward with the project.

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Director Jess Urionaguena thanked the members of the public for attending the meeting.

“Someone said we don’t get any input,” Urionaguena said. “This is it. Once a month. Come talk to us. Do you know how often we sweat bullets up here because we don’t know what you’re thinking until you corner us somewhere?”

“This is the topic of the day, for sure,” Holley said. “This project is very important to us … A great deal of effort has been put into this project.”

Holley said the current cost estimates are considerably higher than the estimates were in 2020 due to materials and labor costs. He said the district would be entering “a new era” by issuing the large bonds necessary to fund the project. The current cost estimate is $51,288,218.

“When we get bids in, that’s when the rubber hits the road,” Holley said.

He also noted with the opening from the COVID pandemic, all the contractors are busy, and they’re not likely to bid on a project in the middle of nowhere unless they “put a lot of fat in it. Once the contractors need work, the bids will get more realistic.”

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Director Bud Bowden noted since the board began consideration the project 12 years ago the costs have increase fivefold.

The LMUD board of directors meets at 5:30 p.m. every fourth Tuesday of the month in the LMUD boardroom located at 65 S. Roop Street. The public is invited to attend and public comment is always welcome.