published Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Cleveland Utilities surpasses 30,000 customers

The Cleveland Utilities headquarters is in Cleveland, Tenn.
The Cleveland Utilities headquarters is in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Harrison Keely /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland Utilities achieved a number of benchmarks with its electric and water divisions in September.

At a recent meeting, utility officials announced the electric division surpassed servicing 30,000 customers for the first time and finished deploying its wireless meter program for those customers.

Meanwhile, the water division's 10-year plan to reduce sewer overflows is about to launch its first major rehabilitation work.

Ken Webb, vice president of the financial division, called the push to 30,000 electricity customers a "milestone." The official count at the end of August was 30,017 customers, up from July's total of 29,673.

A few customers have expressed concern over the automated, or "smart," meters, but those numbers have fallen since CU offered to allow them to pay $10 a month for manual inspections, officials said.

Utility officials said the meters are safe and do not give the utility remote control of household devices, contrary to some customers' fears.

"Of the 43 customers who refused AMI [automated, or smart] meters, as of today eight have chosen to have an AMI meter after the opt-out letters were sent to them," said Bart Borden, vice president of the electric division.

Water division Vice President Craig Mullinax told the board that after a year of detection work in southern Bradley County, CU is about to begin comprehensive repairs and replacements to stem the worst leaks into the wastewater system.

Such leaks — referred to as inflow and infiltration — potentially can overwhelm the sewer system's capacity and possibly result in environmental releases. At a minimum, the unwanted water causes wear and tear on wastewater processing equipment, officials said.

The repair schedule is expected to start in early October and work likely will last a number of months, said Greg Clark, manager of the sewer rehabilitation program. The cost is estimated at $5.2 million.

The contractor will use a process called cured-in-place piping, which avoids the necessity of excavating existing pipe that needs replacing, Clark said.

In other business, utility officials said they hope they have seen evidence of an economic upturn for Cleveland.

A number of preliminary townhome development plats have been reviewed by the electric division, Borden said.

Plans are in the works for a Publix grocery store at Mouse Creek Crossing and a Longhorn Steakhouse on Holiday Inn Express Way, both located off Paul Huff Parkway; a McDonald's at exit 20 on Interstate 75; and another restaurant in the Spring Creek development, he said.

"Of course, these are preliminary plats, and that doesn't mean that ground work has actually started yet, but that is promising and that looks good," Borden said.

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