Pacific Power announced today, Thursday, it will close its Sunnyside operations center by next April.
All nine of the employees at the plant here on Fourth Street will be offered similar positions at similar pay in Yakima, said Clark Satre, a regional community manager for the utility in the Yakima Valley.
Satre noted that three lineman representatives will continue to work from their homes in the Lower Valley as "first responders" in this area during power outages.
"Some 75 to 80 percent of the time, they can make needed repairs by themselves," Satre said of the home-based linemen. "If severe outages occur, their initial troubleshooting helps get the right equipment and additional crew on site."
He said Pacific Power may hire a fourth home-based lineman in the Lower Valley after the Sunnyside plant closes next spring.
In an exclusive interview at the Daily Sun News, Satre said closing the Sunnyside operations center to consolidate with the Yakima operations center will save Pacific Power an estimated $100,000 each year in lease and utility costs.
"We're doing more as efficiently as possible," he said.
"We're looking to reduce our costs and avoid layoffs," added Pacific Power spokesperson Jan Mitchell.
In addition, having its Yakima Valley crews all based in Yakima instead of split between two locations gives Pacific Power a central location to respond to emergencies, Satre says.
"It gives us more flexibility to meet customer needs and customer schedules," he said. "It gives us a bigger pool of workers to respond to large emergencies."
Satre said there will be no changes in how Sunnyside-area customers report power outages. He said they can still be reported via the web at www.pacificpower.net or by calling 1-877-508-5088.
"We're confident this change will benefit customers by reducing expenses, benefit employees by retaining jobs and benefit the community by maintaining involvement and reliable service," Satre said.
He added, "Our customers will not notice a change in service. We have customer service guarantees and commitments that hold us accountable for reliability measures, and we will continue to uphold those commitments."