Utility’s workers praised by CEO
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Mar 31, 2014 | 854 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Like his longtime predecessor Tom Wheeler, Cleveland Utilities’ first-year president and CEO Ken Webb doesn’t hesitate to praise the performance of his 188-strong workforce.

Two examples came in a recent formal session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities, a lengthy gathering in the training center whose primary focus was budget outlook for Fiscal Year 2015, and nine years beyond.

First, Webb credited the volunteerism and work ethic of seven line workers who spent most of a week in Memphis helping to restore power service to about 30,000 customers of Memphis Light, Gas and Water following an ice storm in early March that coated the Bluff City — and its roads, trees and power lines — with about 3 inches of ice and compacted snow. Workers who headed to the west end of the state on a Monday and returned the following Saturday were Bill Raulston, Nathan Davis, Josh Day, Steve Kiser, Anthony Hicks, Mike Isham and John McClain.

Second, the veteran CU administrator — who spent about 26 years developing complicated utility budgets prior to the promotion to CEO — told board members at the outset of the afternoon session that he wanted to “brag about” some employees. Webb’s report came during the “Manager’s Update & Announcements” segment on the agenda.

Webb pointed out he had attended a luncheon on March 6 that honored 75 workers with “Perfect Attendance and Service Awards.”

Those honored with perfect attendance ranged from one to 28 years, he said. And, 34 CU workers were recognized with Service Awards for length of time with the public utility. The numbers of those honored, and their longevity with Cleveland Utilities, included: Five Years, two employees; 10 Years, nine; 15 Years, 11; 20 Years, four; 25 Years, two; 30 Years, one; and 35 Years, four. And, one employee was recognized for 40 years of service with Cleveland Utilities: Connie Cooke, administrative assistant to the president and utility board secretary.

Webb’s remarks came at the beginning of the board session that was dedicated to reviewing the FY 2015 budget document that is headed for the Cleveland City Council’s annual budget retreat set for April 28. The budget, which includes a 3.5 percent merit pay increase for eligible employees who pass a performance evaluation, was approved by board members on a unanimous 5-0 vote.

Although the budget proposal does not include an accompanying cost-of-living allowance as part of the salary increase request, it does recommend the merit award.

“We have some dedicated, loyal employees who deserve this 3.5 percent raise in salary,” Webb told the board.

Of the 188-strong workforce, 83 are in the Electric Division, 60 in the Water Division and 45 in the Wastewater Division. CU’s employee base has actually declined since 2011 when the worker total was 194. In four years time, it has been reduced by six. Much is due to automation. For example, the utility’s recent conversion of its electric meters systemwide to automated meters (recognized as AMRs or AMIs in the industry) led to the elimination of most of the meter-reading routes and positions.

In some cases, employees were transfered to other positions when possible.

In FY 2014, the CU payroll was $12,018,168. If approved by the Cleveland City Council, it will be hiked to $12,431,729, an increase of $413,561, in FY 2015.

In other developments during the board session:

- Webb confirmed the date for a board tour of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, which is coming at the invitation of TVA. The trip is scheduled for Tuesday, May 13, for those who plan to attend.

- Webb pointed out the CU offices will be closed on Friday, April 18, in observance of Good Friday.

- Approved a change order for a building renovation plan for a facility at 685 Freewill Road that will be used as a warehouse for CU materials and equipment. The cost change totals $4,326.

- Approved a staff recommendation to again utilize Arnett, Kirksey, Kimsey, Sullivan, Lay & Hall PLLC as the CU auditor.

- Heard a series of project updates by Craig Mullinax, vice president of the Water Division.

- Heard a series of project updates by Bart Borden, vice president of the Electric Division.

- Heard a series of traffic lighting updates, also by Borden. Updates included a report that CU engineers are working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to secure a contractor to coordinate the relocation of the city’s ITS fiber to accommodate the relocation of lines for the Interstate 75 Exit 20 construction project.

- Borden also reported CU engineers are working with TDOT on construction plans for new traffic signals at I-75 Exit 33. Construction letting for these signals is set for August.

- Borden reported as well on continued tweaking of the 25th Street Corridor traffic signal timing plans. He said a split plan to the coordination programming was added at the intersection of 25th Street and Peerless Road. This affects the northbound lanes and the eastbound lanes on Wednesday nights and midday Sunday to accommodate increased church-related traffic. A similar split plan was added at 25th Street and Keith Street that will affect church-related traffic at midday Sundays in the eastbound lanes.