MEUW Weekly :: Oct. 9, 2018

Happy Public Power Week!  Our industry’s annual celebration to help raise awareness of the benefits of public power is happening this week! Hopefully, your utility is already busy “tooting its own horn” and celebrating the week with great style.

Please let us know what you did to recognize Public Power Week by contacting MEUW Communication Specialist Karen Whitmer. We will include all of your stories in the November issue of Live Lines.

We at MEUW are using the occasion to launch our Twitter page to help share the public power message with a broader audience.  If you’re on Twitter, please “follow” us @MuniElecWis to stay connected.

PSC changes Remainder/Advance Assessment calculation:  Every year, municipal utilities pay their Remainder/Advance Assessment to the PSC at the end of October. But this year, you may have noticed an unexpected change on your bill, which is due Oct. 31.

“It’s always good to double check your bill for errors and inconsistencies,” cautions Nancy Johnson, office manager at Algoma Utilities and chair of MEUW’s Accounting and Customer Service Committee. Nancy went on to explain that when the numbers on her bill just didn’t add up, she called the PSC for clarification. She learned there were no calculation errors on her invoice, but instead the PSC used a different formula to determine this year’s bills for Wisconsin’s municipal utilities. According to the PSC, this new calculation is more comprehensive, as it now takes into account one more year of revenue.

Historically, bills have always been calculated using revenues from only the prior year (for example, in 2017, only revenues from 2016 were used). However, this year, bills were calculated using revenues from the previous two years (both 2016 and 2017), or what is referred to as a  “true-up” in the accounting world. This ensures a direct comparison of the prior year advance assessment and the associated actual costs, according to the PSC.

Unfortunately, this new calculation was not communicated to utilities, but instead just used on the most recent invoices you should have received last week. If you have questions on your bill or the new calculation, please contact the PSC’s Accounts Receivable Department at (608) 267-7709.

Cumberland Utilities seeks opinions: Many utilities are now considering a wide array of new technology options to help them better serve their customers while containing costs. Cumberland Municipal Utility is currently researching Hosted Voice Service, and is looking for some feedback from other member utilities.

If you have already switched your phones over to a Hosted Voice Service, please share your experiences with Lori Nyhus at Cumberland Municipal Utility. She especially would like to know what challenges you’ve faced, and if you’ve had phone outages due to internet service being down.  She would also like to hear from any utilities that have specifically worked with Granite and what the experience has been like. Please contact Lori with any feedback you’re willing to share.

Hurricane Michael continues to gain strength: Hurricane Michael is now rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico, and weather officials are forecasting it will become a “monstrous,” Category 3 hurricane by the time it reaches the Florida Panhandle tomorrow.  Torrential rain, heavy winds and dangerous storm surges are expected. According to representatives of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, Tallahassee is in the impact zone and has 125 linemen staging today, with another 300 crews arriving on Thursday.

MEUW is participating in the American Public Power Association’s mutual aid working group conference calls and will coordinate Wisconsin’s response, if called on.  If your utility is willing and able to release crews, please contact Lonnie Pichler (Kaukauna), chair of MEUW’s Safety and Education Committee.  Lonnie plans to accompany the crews if Wisconsin is asked to send workers to Florida.  If you have questions, please contact Lonnie directly at (920) 475-4736 or by email.

ESTC training scheduling approach: In the past, we published our calendar for Electrical Utility Safety and Training sessions (formerly JT&S) on a quarterly or even a semi-annual basis. However, there were many changes and conflicts, and the schedule quickly became out of date, confusing and difficult to manage.

In response, our new ESTCs will create our training calendar on a quarterly basis, but we will publish each month individually. More specifically, we will publish one month of activity and then wait one week to accommodate changes and scheduling conflicts. When we are confident the month’s schedule is accurate and complete – we’ll move forward and publish the next month’s training activities. In general, each quarter, we will wait one week after releasing a monthly training calendar before releasing the next month’s schedule.

While our goal is to give utilities advance notice, we also realize it is more important to release accurate schedules than to provide early, incomplete information that is likely to change.

We appreciate your assistance in making this new process work. Please review each monthly calendar as soon as it is released, so we can update it within a week and then publish the next month’s activities. Please contact Randy or Mark with questions and scheduling changes.

What’s the most common mascot for public power communities? One part of MEUW’s mission is to celebrate what municipal electric utilities have in common.  As we look for those connections, we wondered which mascot is used most often among the public and private high schools in Wisconsin’s 81 public power communities.  Do more high schools in our public power communities connect themselves to lions, tigers or bears … or maybe they fashion themselves as panthers or rockets or birds? We’ve researched the answer and we want to know your best guess.

To take part in this contest, simply send us an email with your guess about which mascot is most prevalent among Wisconsin’s municipal electric power communities. Send your guess – along with your name and phone number – to no later than Friday, Oct. 19. The winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. The correct answer will be revealed in the Oct. 23 edition of MEUW Weekly.

Executive Committee Meeting Notes:  MEUW’s Executive Committee held a meeting on Oct. 3.  The notes from the meeting can be accessed here.

Special edition of Live Lines coming soon:  Be sure to watch your email in-box next week for an all-new and expanded edition of Live Lines commemorating the 90th anniversary of MEUW’s founding.  Inside this special issue, you’ll find all sorts of tidbits about the history of public power in Wisconsin and the important role MEUW has played as the common voice for community-owned utilities.