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Utility district offices will switch to four-day week with earlier business hours

Beginning Jan. 2, Columbia River People's Utility District customers will notice new office hours at the electric district's office in Deer Island.

The PUD's board of directors voted Tuesday, Sept. 19, to adopt new office hours beginning next year.

Starting in January, the office and its customer service phone lines will be available from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with the office closed on Fridays.

PUD officials say the change was prompted by customer feedback from a survey administered earlier this year. Customers said they preferred longer business hours at the PUD, rather than the current 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, which doesn't accommodate most customers who work during those hours, the survey indicates.

Nguyen"Many of the customers surveyed wanted to be able to do business with us outside of their own work hours," John Nguyen, general manager of the PUD, stated in a news release. "This change makes that possible, so it gives us the chance to meet the needs of more of our customers."

According to the district, the most recent customer survey indicated a four-day week with longer business hours would better serve 86 percent of the PUD's customers, versus the 74 percent of customers the schedule accommodates now.

Nguyen said many other utilities in the region use a four-day week, noting, "every utility we talked to encouraged us to do it."

This is the first time the PUD has changed its business hours.

"We know that 75-80 percent of county residents commute outside of the county for work, and it's common for our customers to be working or commuting between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.," Libby Calnon, the PUD's community and public relations supervisor, noted via email.

Calnon said she expects more early morning call volume once the new schedule takes effect, as customers try to handle their business before they start their workday.

The schedule won't reduce the availability of the PUD's line crews, tasked with responding to downed power lines and conducting infrastructure maintenance. Line crews will still respond to outages around the clock, as they do now.

The PUD says it anticipates greater operational efficiency with the new four-day schedule, which will allow line crews to stay on a job site longer each day.

"For bigger jobs, this change will mean more time on the job and less time driving each week," Eli Crape, operations supervisor, stated in the release. "That helps us work more efficiently."

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