Pacific Power cuts staff; 4 laid off in Walla Walla

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WALLA WALLA -- Pacific Power is reducing its Northwest staffing in response to decreasing demand for power, an official with the Portland-based utility said.

About 70 Northwest employees, including four from the Walla Walla service territory, are part of the cutbacks, said utility spokesman Bob Gravely.

He said the Walla Walla employees -- three estimators and a service coordinator -- were told about the June staffing reductions. He said affected employees will receive severance packages based on their length of service and terms of their positions. Gravely said Pacific Power employs about 50 people in the Walla Walla area. He said laid-off workers could be rehired in available positions.

"You hate to obviously have to let anyone go, but we have been working hard to do it as much as possible through attrition and vacancies," Gravely said.

PacifiCorp, which employs about 6,500 people through its three businesses -- Pacific Power, PacifiCorp Energy and Rocky Mountain Power -- is focusing the staffing reductions in Oregon, Washington and California, where Pacific Power delivers electricity to customers, Gravely said.

He said waning demand for electricity in the service territory is to blame for the change. Industrial use in the utility's coverage area has reduced by about one-third, he said. The change is likely due to the economy and decrease in demand for products. Combined with fewer homes being built and possible cutbacks by businesses and residents in an effort to save money, the utility has seen a noticeable drop in use, he said.

They layoffs may also help Pacific Power reduce the size and frequency of future rate increases passed on to customers, he said.

"I think when (the decrease) first happened there was hope it would rebound when and if the economy turns around," he said. "But you can't really turn on a dime with systems like this."

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