BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Participants in the Operation Roundup program will continue to see their electric bills rounded up to the nearest dollar (unless they choose to opt out of the program) following the Greeneville Light & Power System's Board of Director's approval on Monday.
The voluntary program was initially approved five years ago as a partnership for GL&PS and the Greeneville Parks & Recreation Department.
After the program expired in September, Parks & Recreation Director Butch Patterson requested the Greene County Commission and the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen to approve the program's continuation.
Both bodies did so earlier this month, prompting the GL&PS Board to give the final approval on Monday.
Operation Roundup has so far funded numerous projects for lighting on athletic fields across the county. Chuckey-Doak High School and South Greene High School are next on the list to benefit from the program.
In other business on Monday, controller Paige Mengel reported that it may still be some time before the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides the remainder of the system's reimbursements for the April 2011 tornadoes.
The utility estimated having spent $1.1 million in relation to the tornado damage. FEMA reimburses up to 85 percent of the total spent.
General Manager Bill Carroll noted that FEMA has already reimbursed the system with 75 percent of this amount.
Carroll also informed the board on two matters that the board agreed to take action on in the future, when more information is available.
First, he noted that the Tennessee Valley Authority is questioning if any utilities may be interested in again participating in TVA's pre-paid power options.
The utility first participated in the program 10 years ago, pre-purchasing $3 million worth of power for the course of the 10 years and receiving an additional $915,000 in credit.
Last time, the option came in $1 million blocks, but TVA has not announced such information for any future pre-paid options, Carroll noted.
"One time it worked, and who knows about the next one," he said.
In addition, Carroll told the board that the utility is updating policies and would like to consider alternatives to the TVA's Enhanced Security Deposit Program.
The program served as insurance for commercial and industrial customers and was very popular within the GL&PS system, he said.
There are still 44 customers participating, "but the wheels have come off that program," Carroll told the board.
Anyone with the least bit of financial trouble, which must be reported to TVA annually, has been thrown off the program, leaving the program highly ineffective for the utility, he noted.
In addition, TVA no longer pays the premium, and GL&PS is having to do so instead, he added.
"That program is pretty much full of holes," Carroll said.
Ronnie Waddell, a rates and contracts engineer for the system, presented a potential alternative in which the utility would form a point system.
A late bill result in very few points, for example, but a bad check might result in many more, Waddell explained.
Once a customer accumulated so many points, the customer would need to begin paying toward a deposit that would lessen the risk to GL&PS.
"Your very action [in requiring the deposit] may trigger their failure," board member Sam Miller cautioned, suggesting instead a shorter payment cycle.
Carroll agreed that it would be beneficial if TVA allowed for shorter cycles and said the utility would continue to research alternatives.
"We need to protect other customers from paying the bill," he said.