PUD Board Approves Settlement with General Manager Kevin Owens, Appoints Steve Hursh Interim General Manager, Approves 2015 Budget

Interim General Manager Steve Hursh

December 17, 2014 – At its December 16 meeting, the Columbia River People’s Utility District Board of Directors approved a separation agreement for General Manager Kevin Owens and appointed Steve Hursh as Interim General Manager. The Board also approved a $33.6 million operating & capital budget for 2015 and called for a special board workshop on January 6th.

Separation Agreement with Owens Approved
Under the terms of the separation agreement, and release, Owens will remain on paid administrative leave through January 2, and then receive a settlement that includes 6 months of pay and a contribution in lieu of benefits.

“We were advised by counsel that this agreement was the most prudent and cost-effective option, and would be in the best interests of our customers,” said PUD Board Vice President Dave Baker. “I am looking forward to working with the new board members to keep the PUD focused on providing excellent service to customers at affordable rates.”

Hursh announced the changes to employees at an all-employee meeting on Wednesday morning, and read a statement from outgoing manager Owens, who praised them for their dedication to customers.

“I have enjoyed an incredible 11 years at Columbia River PUD and had the privilege of working with an incredibly talented group of management staff and employees that truly understand the value and importance of working for a consumer-owned utility, and the delicate balance required to meet the needs of all customers, the community and the employees,” it said.

Interim General Manager Appointed

The Board of Directors selected Steve Hursh to serve as Interim General Manager. Hursh has served as the PUD’s Engineering and Operations Manager since 2002. He has over 34 years of electric utility experience and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Oregon State University.

“It’s my intention to help keep the PUD moving forward during this time of change,” Hursh told employees. “I will hold frequent employee meetings to keep you informed of the changes that take place, and I’m interested in hearing your ideas about how the PUD can improve.”

2015 Budget Approved

The Board approved the 2015 operating & capital budget based on the proposal presented at the November meeting. The 2015 budget holds rates steady and draws down cash reserves to $8.2 million at year-end. A Cost of Service Analysis will be completed in the summer of 2015 to review current rate structures and proposed rates for the next 5 years.

“This budget maintains our focus on providing safe, reliable, and affordable electric service,” said Hursh.

January 6 Special Board Workshop

Board President Carol Everman called for special board workshop on January 6th to allow the new board to quickly begin working on some of the more pressing issues facing the utility.

“The new Board of Directors will have a full plate, including selecting a permanent General Manager, selecting a permanent General Counsel, and negotiating a new contract with IBEW 125 for represented workers, among other issues,” said Hursh. “The January 6th meeting will give them a chance to set priorities and direct staff on how they would like to proceed.”

Interim General Counsel Appointed

The Board of Directors appointed Portland attorney Akin Blitz of the firm Bullard Law as Interim General Counsel. Blitz has 30 years experience representing public sector employers. He replaces Kirk Gibson of McDowell Rackner & Gibson, who notified the board in November of his decision to resign as General Counsel.