CU’s total assessed damage from the unprecedented storms was about $2.7 million, and the eligible amount submitted to FEMA for reimbursement totaled $2.3 million, according to Ken Webb, manager of CU’s Accounting Division.
In a detailed report Tuesday to the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities at the Mountain View Inn, Webb said CU is expected to be reimbursed at 75 percent as a minimum and 87.5 percent as a maximum.
“On the lowest end, the reimbursement would be approximately $1.7 million and it will approach $2 million on the high end,” Webb said. “Just last week we were notified by the state public assistance office that our project work sheets have been approved.”
The next step will be the contracts for reimbursement and additional paperwork for which Webb offered no timetable.
“It is a lengthy process,” Webb told board members. “I can’t tell you when to expect the money to be received, but given the magnitude of the disasters that we’ve had in our state the last two years and the limited staff at the state level that’s dealing with this, it’s completely understandable that it has taken the time that it is taking.”
In spite of the spring’s deadly storms that robbed about 17,000 CU electric customers of power while taking nine lives in Bradley County, destroying almost 300 homes and badly damaging hundreds of others, Webb said CU feels fortunate to have been able to make a full recovery in such a short time.
Within 11 days of the tornado outbreak, with the assistance of as many as 30 Tennessee and out-of-state electric crews from Georgia, Florida and Kentucky, full power had been restored to all impacted CU power customers.
“We feel very fortunate,” Webb told the board. “For one reason, we had reserves to cover the cost of these storms without going to the borrowing market or to the bond market. And two, we are very fortunate there is a program that recognizes the magnitude of these disasters and provides partial reimbursement for these costs.”
Webb said the projected FEMA reimbursements will be only partially reflected in the 2010-11 audit report whose ending date is June 30, 2011. Additional amounts will be included in the utility audit for 2011-12, he explained.
“We’re pretty confident we will receive 75 percent of [our costs] back from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency),” Webb noted. “But the possibility does exist that we’ll receive back up to 87.5 percent.”
In other board action:
- The board approved a resolution, and presented a plaque of appreciation, recognizing the dedicated service of Dennis Daniel, a 39-year employee who is retiring as manager of the Electric Division.
- Approved a final change order with Chastain Construction for an increase in the contract amount by $3,849 for the Candies Creek Ridge Road Water Main Update Project. The increase raises the contract amount from $120,854 to $124,703. The increase was due to additional work items such as the repair of a retaining wall, killing of water service lines, compacting of a ditch and installation of straw matting, replacement of a broken valve, relocating a fire hydrant and adjustments due to materials installed.
- Approved a final change order with Roy Joe Angel Construction for an increase in the contract amount by $11,388 for the Harrison Pike Pump Station Improvements Project. The increase raises the contract amount from $295,310 to $306,698. The increase was due to additional work items such as the modification of the control canopy and panel, installation of a still-well pipe, guardrail, float switches and air release valves.
- Wheeler submitted a brief report on the new SCOPE 10 Sewer Rehabilitation Project whose focus will also include some 16 points of wastewater backup into residential homes. He said the SCOPE 10 will remedy the backup issues, but will not eliminate the flooding. The SCOPE 10, which will be highlighted in a later series of articles by the Cleveland Daily Banner, encompasses an array of rehabilitation-related initiatives currently under way by Cleveland Utilities. Several have been discussed in past sessions of the CU board and have been featured in the Banner.
- It received the 2011 Audit Report by Mark Lay representing Arnett, Kirksey, Kimsey, Sullivan & Lay PLLC. The audit, which found no significant deficiencies or noncompliance materials, determined the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities to be a low-risk auditee.
- Approved the development and installation of a Meter Data Management external portal and MDM content management module for $55,000. The MDM portal will allow CU customers to view their kilowatt hour usage prior to receiving CU monthly bills. The portal will track customers’ power usage, and will eventually do the same for water usage, in an effort to help customers better understand their utilities use.
“The beauty of this is we have never had a way to do this,” CU General Manager Tom Wheeler said. “We’ve never been able to offer this to our customers.”
He compared it to a car owner’s gas gauge which monitors usage and availability. Customer participation in the portal is strictly voluntary, he said.
The portal will offer another significant feature. It will serve as a communications tool between CU and customers, especially during emergency situations and power outages. “This will be a great way to feed back information to our customers,” Wheeler said.
The MDM external portal technology is being made possible by CU’s ongoing installation of the new AMR (Automated Meter Readers, also known as SmartMeters).
A motion authorizing CU to pursue the system was made by board member Eddie Cartwright and seconded by Chari Buckner. The board’s vote was unanimous. Board chairman Aubrey Ector, a computer programmer at the local Olin Chlor-Alkali plant, called the new system “... great customer relations stuff.” Additional information about the MDM external portal will be made available at a later date.
- Approved a contract agreement for engineering services with Consolidated Technologies Inc. (CTI Engineers) in the amount of $61,100 for the rehabilitation and repainting of the 3-million gallon Weeks Drive Water Storage Tank. CTI will provide the design, bidding assistance, construction administration, and part-time quality assurance and construction observation. The project is budgeted for FY 2012-13.
- Received a report from Wheeler that Cleveland Utilities has again been awarded a Better Business Bureau Complaint-Free Certificate. Wheeler said the recognition means that CU acts quickly to resolve issues that lead to customer complaints. He stressed it does not mean the utility doesn’t receive complaints.
- The CU board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be Thursday, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m. in the Tom Wheeler Training Center.