BY SARAH R. GREGORY
Work to expand a storage area for transformers and other materials used by the Greeneville Light & Power System (GL&PS) should soon get underway following approval by the utility's board of directors.
A bid for the project was approved during the board's regular monthly meeting Monday morning.
There were few other items of business for directors to consider; however, a number of regular reports were heard and approved.
GL&PS Purchasing Director Mike French told the board that the expansion was needed to address storage concerns at the utility's transformer shop, located at the Operations and Engineering Center on Wren Avenue.
That facility is used to house transformers and other equipment, but due to size limitations, French said, some materials are kept outdoors.
French said that the main warehouse was overcrowded.
"Plus, we have some things outside in the weather that we'd like to get inside," he said.
"We should get everything protected [with the expansion]. That's the reason we're doing it," French explained.
With very little discussion, directors unanimously approved a bid award to GMA Contractors, of Greeneville.
The company, GL&PS General Manager Bill Carroll said, is a customer of the utility.
Directors noted that they prefer to approve bids from local companies and GL&PS customers whenever possible.
The total project cost approved by the board Monday was $201,200.
However, French noted that the cost could be reduced if the utility is able to purchase steel needed for the project -- which would be tax-exempt.
French said it would likely take approximately six weeks to receive the products and supply necessary, with construction beginning soon after, weather-permitting.
Under the "old business," directors approved a recommendation to change carriers for the utility's liability insurance.
At a previous meeting, directors had approved entering a contract for the umbrella liability insurance from a company called Navigator.
However, Carroll said, in the time since the last meeting, the utility's insurance provider was able to find and negotiate a better rate with a different company, called Crum & Forster.
In the first year, the coverage is expected to cost $155,880, Carroll said.
Savings will be realized in the second year when the cost drops to $69,484, he told directors.
The total two-year cost will be $225,364, as opposed to the previously approved provider's two-year cost, which was $248,109.
Board members approved the change unanimously with little discussion.
At the meeting's start, directors heard regular monthly reports concerning operations, engineering, and financial statements for the month of September.
Office Manager and Customer Service Director Jim Glaze reported that the number of customers using electronic payment methods has continued to increase.
He noted a particular decrease in the amount of individuals leaving payments in the utility's night depository.
He said he expects that to be further reduced with the installation of an electronic payment kiosk at the GL&PS building, which will accept various forms of payments, including cash.
Glaze told directors that more than 100 customers are using a new pre-pay option.
Many customers are opting to use the method to avoid paying large deposits due to issues with credit, Glaze said.
More payment options will likely be added as the utility is considering a "smart hub" application, which would allow customers to look at their balances, pay bills, and receive notifications on their mobile devices, he said.
That system is not yet in place, but is being considered.
Directors unanimously approved the September financial statement as presented by Controller Paige Mengel.
Mengel reported that more electricity was sold during September than in previous months.
Total operating revenue for the month was reported as $7,819,578.
Of that amount, power purchased from the Tennessee Valley Authority totaled $6,194,292 -- leaving a gross margin of $1,625,286.
After maintenance and operations expenses, Mengel reported the net margin for the month as $142,244.
US NITROGEN UPDATE
In the engineering update, Superintendent of Engineering and Operations Chuck Bowlin reported that progress on the utility's new Seven Springs substation is progressing.
Bowlin said the project is "going very well" and the substation's structure is up and in place.
Bowlin said he is expecting regulators and breakers for the substation to be delivered in the next couple of weeks.
Bowlin said the project is "well ahead of where we need to be to meet US Nitrogen's needs."