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Utility district's quarterly survey shows mixed, mostly positive reviews from more than 1,000 ratepayers

Customers of Columbia River People's Utility District are confident in the electrical district's reliability and customer service, but they are slightly less confident in areas of fiscal responsibility and transparency, a survey shows.

The PUD's 2017 residential survey of ratepayers yielded 1,025 responses, marking the largest and most accurate response rate ever captured by the survey, which is conducted roughly every four years for the PUD.

This year's residential survey was conducted by Acti-Dyne, a Columbia County-based survey research company.

Ratepayers were called at home by phone, as has been done in the past, but this year, they could also respond at their convenience online, or with written survey submissions.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Bruce Shoemaker of Acti-Dyne presents findings from a 2017 residential customer survey of PUD ratepayers. The surveys are conducted roughly every four years.Inviting multiple channels for response allowed surveyers to capture a wider demographic, Bruce Shoemaker, owner of Acti-Dyne, told

PUD directors Tuesday, June 20.

"I consider it to be a very accurate portrayal," Shoemaker told PUD directors and staff.

When asked about overall performance in serving customers' electric utility needs, nearly 61 percent of respondents rated the PUD a 10, while nearly 20 percent gave the district a 9, using a scale of 1 to 10.

The PUD also got high marks for "prompt and effective response" to power outages, the survey showed.

Ratings declined when survey respondents were asked about questions pertaining to finances, community programs and input, and environmental responsibility.

"Some of that is because we didn't allow people to give 'I don't know' as an answer

this year," Libby Calnon, the PUD's community and public relations supervisor, explained after Tuesday's meeting.

Shoemaker and Calnon note that customers are more likely to answer affirmatively on areas relating to customer service, but they aren't as likely to be informed about political and financial dealings of the publicly-owned utility provider.

"Some are very passionate, and some are paying no attention whatsoever," Shoemaker said.

When asked whether the PUD "operates in a financially responsible manner" 34 percent responded with a '10', 13 percent responded with a '9', 14 percent of respondents gave an '8' and 19 percent answered with a '5.' That could indicate the some aren't sure, and opted for a neutral number somewhere in the middle, Calnon said.

The district ranked highest for providing "clear, easy to understand bills," but ranked lowest when customers were asked about whether the PUD seeks community input on important issues. Nearly 24 percent of customers asked gave the district a '5', while 30 percent answered with a '10.'

"The overalls results are just excellent, as far as I can see," Director Rob Mathers said.

Acti-Dyne also solicited open-ended feedback from customers on behalf of the PUD. The PUD will receive those responses at a later date.

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