Columbus Light & Water General Manager Todd Gale split his time as guest speaker at the Columbus Rotary Club on Tuesday between updating the audience on the utility company’s projects and fielding questions from the audience.
Gale, now in his eight year as GM, said CL&W expects roughly $1 million in revenue loss compared to last year, which he attributed to loss of industry and the cost of $300,000 in right-of-way work.
“We’d like the revenue to be higher, of course, but we feel like this is a temporary thing and expect our revenues to pick up again next year,” he said.
Gale also encouraged residents to take part in a home energy survey.
“There are three ways you can do that,” he said. “First, you can go online and take the survey, which takes about 15 minutes. Second, you can schedule an audit, which costs $75. The third way is, if you know you are going to changing your system, you can call us for a list of certified vendors and they’ll do an assessment.”
Other CL&W projects are moving on schedule or near completion, he said, including a project to convert wood power polls to more durable steel polls, which he said will take 18 months to complete, implementation of the utility’s automatic meter reading system now that it has completed its project that replaced more than 1,000 meters and updating the company’s billing system.
It was that last point that generated most of the discussions during the Q&A session that followed.
Several members reported that bills arrived either near the deadline or, in some cases, after the deadline had passed.
Gale said he could not address specific incidents, he suggested that there might be a number of reasons for the delay, including slow payment from banks or mail delivery.
“I really can’t explain why that would be happening,” Gale said. “What I do know is that we read the meter one day and do the billing the next. Beyond that, I really don’t have an answer.”
While billing was the biggest source of frustration, other members had more favorable comments about the CL&W service.
“I can tell you that your workers are as good as any I’ve seen anywhere,” said member Tango Moore. “I remember well one you your crews being out there at 2 in the morning, in a 30-foot-hole in cold, cold weather, getting the job done. That’s impressive.”
Other members noted the quick response during power outages and the quality of overall service.
“I’m not saying you don’t do good work, because you do,” said James Brooks. “But the billing is a problem. Somehow, you have a delivery problem that needs to be addressed.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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