This is a tale of woe that began last summer, involving two households, a failed shared well and Puget Sound Energy.
When our well gave out, we knew that we would need help from PSE to get our water back on, just like we did 15 years ago.
Our well-house is located directly below the power line that brings power to our two houses. Getting equipment closer than 10 feet to the line is unsafe. But this did not worry us, as PSE had been very accommodating last time. Recognizing the urgency, they came to our aid quickly and there was no charge.
This time after asking for help we received a standard email from PSE, naming the project manager, saying we would hear from him very soon with details about the job, materials needed, associated costs, etc.
We never got that information. This seemed right per our earlier experience as all we needed was to have the power turned off, and then back on, 30-40 minutes of work, requiring only the lineman and his truck. Obviously this was a safety issue, and there would be no charge.
My husband initiated contact with the project manager, coordinating the day and time to coincide with the well contractor’s schedule. All was set up for the last week in June, 2018.
The lineman came and quickly turned off the power, followed by the well contractor who began replacing the pump. During the course of the day, the well contractor had an equipment failure so that the well work could not be completed. Another lineman returned later to turn the power back on. We set up another appointment with PSE and the well contractor for the following week.
At no time during these conversations/emails with the project manager to set up the first and second appointments for turning off and turning on the power was there mention of any charge for this safety measure.
The well pump was successfully replaced and again we had our power restored at the end of the day on July 6. On each occasion, we found the lineman to be very relaxed and friendly, not in a hurry, willing to chat.
Three months later on Oct. 16, we were stunned to receive a bill from PSE for $2,338.21. The amount was so outrageous we naturally assumed that it was a mistake.
No itemization was included in the bill, only a very terse description of the work done: “disconnect/reconnect on June 29, 2018 and July 6, 2018.”
Initial contacts with PSE were equally unhelpful. Eventually we learned that the linemen are actually “on the clock” and that we were not only being charged for the actual time that they were on the job here but also for their travel time to get here and perhaps to get to their next job.
Our questions went unanswered; we found the PSE employees to be more interested in defending themselves than in answering questions as to how this monstrous bill had been calculated.
Ultimately we filed a complaint with the Utilities and Transportation Commission and both households sent letters to the president of PSE. Contacting the UTC proved helpful in part.
Ultimately we managed to get some answers to questions and a significant reduction in the bill, but still over $1,300. To date there has been no response from the president.
Our experience points to a decidedly corporate look adopted by Puget Sound Energy today. Although PSE needs the approval of the Utilities and Transportation Commission when setting rates, it really is a monopoly and proceeds as it would like.
We were told that in our situation the UTC could not order PSE to change its ways. Perhaps what bothered us the most besides the enormity of the bill was the opacity of Puget Sound Energy.