FPU receives national industry recognition

Fayetteville Public Utilities was recently featured in the Fall 2009 issue of Energy Today, a utility magazine that is circulated in North America energy markets. Through the magazine's feature articles and corporate spotlights, it provides practical information on management best practices, technology trends, regulatory matters, vendor relations, safety and other human resource issues.

Energy Today coverEnergy Today featured Fayetteville Public Utilities in its latest issue to highlight what the local utility is doing to keep communication channels open with employees and it customers to continue providing quality service to Fayetteville and Lincoln County.

The article entitled, "A Very Public Utility," details the utility's customer assistance programs, customer account management, work plans for each department and its consumer communication outlets used to keep local residents informed.

FPU is composed of five departments: water and wastewater, gas, telecommunications, administration, and electric. The city consolidated its electric, gas, and water utilities in 2002, creating a unified and more efficient administration division to oversee all three. Like so many big changes for FPU in recent years, Britt Dye, CEO and General Manager of Fayetteville Public Utilities, says that consolidation was made to better serve the customer.

"The departments still operate mostly independently from one another and, in accordance with the law, all our financial statements are separate, but now we can offer residents a one-stop shop for their utility needs," said Dye.

Although each department operates independently, in order to benefit their customers most, Dye says there is a lot of safety and emergency cross-training for all personnel, resulting in a number of employees who can cover shifts in any department if the need arises. That's helped Dye and the utility's department supervisor teams reduce costs across the board and provide quicker, more efficient emergency response during outages.

When Energy Today asked Dye how he and his utility have managed to operate during the economic downfall he replied, "We maintain a lean staff and have made significant cuts wherever we can, and if things get worse, we have a contingency plan that lists specific items we can cut in the future," Dye said. "Our goal is to stay financially secure without sacrificing on service for our customers."

"The industry is moving at a breakneck pace, so it's tough for a small utility to keep up sometimes. We're doing everything we can to provide the most up-to-date and highest quality service," Dye said.

In reviewing his plans for the next few years, Dye said his priorities include improving the reliability of the FPU system. That includes building or updating substations to handle load fluctuations in the electric system. Dye said he and his team are currently weighing the merits of switching to a time-of-use electric billing system and will spend $17 million in system upgrades, particularly changing conductors. He and the utility's board of directors and system management continue to focus on updating FPU's water and wastewater infrastructure to keep up with changing state regulations. The organization recently installed remote-read ERT meters for its water/wastewater system and is moving into phase two of its water upgrade plan, which includes a $4 million investment in its treatment plant.

With all that the utility is involved in, Dye states that Fayetteville Public Utilities does all it can to keep consumers and employees informed using various media and print outlets. The organizations' Web site, Channel 6 local access cable TV broadcasts, monthly radio program, newspaper articles and The Tennessee Magazine issues work together to keep utility customers informed about rates, billing changes, construction work plans, conservation and youth programs.

"Keeping our customers informed is very important to us," says Dye. "Our customers are the sole reason we exist, and we want to do all in our power to give them the best service possible for the products and services we offer. They deserve our best - and we are pleased that what we are doing here is recognized and spotlighted by others in the utility industry across the country."

(some information was reprinted from Energy Today magazine.)

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