Hope Water & Light Commission Receives Project Updates at March Meeting

The Hope Water & Light Commission held their March meeting on Wednesday, March 17 at 7:30 am. Chairman Dr. Lester Sitzes called for adjournment of the regular meeting to an executive session of the Commission at 7:34 am to discuss personnel matters. The regular session reconvened at 8:01 am. A motion was made by Commissioner Dr. LaDell Douglas made a motion to change the title of Charlotte Bradley to General Manager of Administrative Services and Russell Cornelius to General Manager of Operational Services. The motion was made to approve and seconded. Commissioner Dennis Ramsey asked if they would still be Co-Managers and the Commission Officers stated that they would. There was no additional discussion and the Commission voted to approve the motion.

Charlotte Bradley presented the income statements for December, January and February on water, electric and broadband.

December after accruals show that since this is pre-pay and it is after accruals, the numbers changed in the operating revenue. The numbers are not as much in January due to pre-pay, but they are different. The February statement shows expenses that occurred in January, but billed in February in the amount of $647.64.

Revenue for January 2020 was up compared to last year, purchase power and transmission expenses were down and total expenses were down by approximately $466,000. For 2019, there was a negative revenue of approximately $16,800 and 2020 $81,500. For February, operating revenue was down approximately $831,000, purchase power and transmission expenses were down. Distribution, maintenance and customer accounts were up a little. The difference in expenses is around $600,000, with over $200,000 in revenue compared to 2019. The current revenue for January is around $186,000, and around $267,000 year to date.

For January, revenue was up by about $6,000 and expenses were down by around $4,000 for a total of $10,000 more than 2020, which is negative. For February, operating revenue is up by about $19,000 and total expenses are down by around $8,500, bringing the total revenue to $47,255, for the month of February, which is very good for water.

Russell Cornelius discussed a vehicle purchase for the water distribution department. The truck they are currently using is a 2009 Ford 1 ton truck with 67,000 miles and it has some issues with the engine cam shaft and engine computer. The water distribution department would like to purchase a new 1 ton truck and a new bed. The new truck will be a dually, which will handle the load better and a new bed is needed since the one they have now came off of a truck prior to the 2009. Through the state procurement program, the cost of the truck will be $28,395 and the cost of the bed, made through Dealers Truck Equipment, will be $11,115, for a total of $39,510, with is below the $40,000 budget set aside for this purchase. Commissioner Douglas made a motion to approve the purchase and the commission voted to approve the purchase of the new truck and bed.

Last month, the commission authorized to move forward with an RFQ to find an engineer to do a design for the fiber to the home system. Russell Cornelius reached out to Jon Lester from Clarksville Light and Water for recommendations on a company for the RFQ and was directed to CCG Consulting. Cornelius, Bradley and Jeff Campbell reached out to CCG and asked for a quote to prepare the RFQ as well as a quote to prepare a business case. CCG offered 3 options; A financial analysis in the amount of $7,000, a 15-20 page report on the results for $2,000 and assistance with the RFQ process in the amount of $4,000. Cornelius asked the Commission to approve all 3 options. Commissioner Douglas made a motion to accept the proposal for all 3 options in the amount of $13,000 and the commission approved the proposal. Cornelius stated that it will take at least 2 months to find an engineer after the RFQ is approved.

Charlotte Bradley responded to questions from last month’s meeting on the kiosk. She stated that if the kiosk is down, it will not notify anyone, so staff will not know it is not working until they check it each day. Commissioner Douglas asked if there was a sign posted with a number to call in the event the kiosk went down and Bradley stated that she would see if the screen displayed information on who to call. There was also a question raised in last month’s meeting about paying multiple accounts with one payment on the kiosk and after researching, Bradley discovered that the system does not allow that option. Bradley stated that the kiosk is looking to be very beneficial to customers and staff. Since the kiosk was installed in January, numbers have increased quite a bit. There were 83 payments in February compared to 54 in January and there have already been 57 payments as of March 16.

Bradley also updated the Commission on pre-pay. She stated that as of this week, there are 56 active accounts. 4 accounts closed out last month and all were issued credits and 3 accounts requested to come off of pre-pay for various reasons. Based on data, pre-pay seems to be a positive trend for Hope Water & Light and is already helping with bad debt expense since customers are leaving without owing any money.

Commissioner Judy Davis asked how Hope Water & Light would be handling delinquent accounts and shut offs during COVID-19. Bradley stated that she has instructed the Customer Service Department to handle each account on a case by case basis until they can see how things progress in Hempstead County. Mayor Steve Montgomery stated that in just a few short days, this has already affected some businesses and asked if Hope Water & Light would publicize a statement noting that they understand the situation and will take a look at each case individually.

Bradley updated the Commission on the salary survey that the AMPA human resources is conducting. She contacted them on March 5 and was informed that the survey is taking longer than they originally expected and will not be completed before March 18 as previously stated.

Russell Cornelius updated the Commission on several projects. He stated that he received an email yesterday on the AMI system and that Honeywell has put together a team to start addressing the KPI’s that did not pass. They should be answering all of the issues addressed in the document.

There was a call scheduled this week on the transmission project and that, as well as a meeting with SWEPCO, AEP and SPP that was to be held on next Monday, have both been cancelled due to illness. Cornelius stated that it will more than likely be the end of April, first of May before the call and meeting can be rescheduled and that will push back the presentation from SWEPCO until at least May. Cornelius stated that he will update as it progresses.

Cornelius presented a slide on fiber to the home noting current customers as well as those that have requested service and the ones that are currently being added. He stated that they have plowed fiber to the home for 4 or 5 customers in Oak Creek Drive and service drops are being installed on the remaining. The 48 count fiber has to be installed on Oak Creek Drive before service can be provided. Cornelius said they have had no complaints on this service and several customers and non-customers have requested this service.

Les Patterson discussed the Water Treatment Plant, presenting pictures of work in progress to the Commission. He stated that there are COVID-19 concerns and the engineers are working from home at this time, but everything is still moving forward. Contractors have been working as weather permits.

Charlotte Bradley announced that Hope Water and Light won the American Power Association Safety Award for Excellence in Operating Practices for 2019.

Russell Cornelius announced that Hope Water & Light won the AWW/WEA Southwest District drinking water contest held for the southwest district. The contest was held in Nashville in February and they will be taking a sample to the State Competition in November.

Cornelius and Bradley discussed net metering. Bradley stated that she spoke with the company doing the rate analysis to determine the avoided costs and that they wanted an additional $6,000 to develop a solar tariff. She said that they cannot tell her why the cost is so high for one tariff, so she is hesitant. She is in the process of trying to negotiate down and waiting on an answer.

Cornelius stated that the Economic Development Corporation has asked Hope Water & Light to develop a tariff for a customer that is two times bigger than their largest customer. They asked for flexibility to go forward with contacting companies for a rate design without coming before the board due to time restrictions. The Board agreed that it would be in the best interest of the company and Hope Water & Light to get the rate studies back as soon as possible and gave the okay to go ahead to make those contacts

City Manager Catherine Cook requested assistance from Hope Water & Light to help the City find out what is wrong with the City Pool at the Fair Park. She stated that they had to close it last year due to the pool pulling in dirt that is not sand filter dirt, which would then go to the bottom of the pool making the water cloudy. This presents a safety issue and they need to decide if they are going to be able to put it into use this year. The Board agreed to assist the City with the project.

The Hope Water & Light Commission will next meet on April 29, 2020 at 7:30 am in the upstairs conference room.

UPDATE: On March 19, after the Hope Water & Light Commission meeting, Hope Water & Light distributed a press release announcing the closing of their lobby due to COVID-19. For more information on temporary policies and procedures, you may view their press release here:

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