published Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Cleveland Utilities customers helping others

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Project Round Up, a customer-funded community assistance initiative created by Cleveland Utilities, may double its projected annual contribution to needy people of $100,000 for its first year.

In a recent meeting it was reported that Project Round Up, launched in December 2012, had channeled $174,597 to The Caring Place's "Neighbors In Need" program as of October.

"The success of this program is not Cleveland Utilities' success, it's the customers who have done it," said Ken Webb, president and CEO of Cleveland Utilities. "I would personally like to thank the customers who are participating in it."

Disbursement of funds amounted to $126,703 for utility assistance to 629 families and $26,185 for rent assistance to 98 families as of Nov. 27, he said.

Webb said the program now is supported by 81 percent of Cleveland Utilities' 30,000 customers, who contribute an average 50.6 cents per month.

Project Round Up works by rounding customer billing up to the next dollar, with the difference contributed to the program. For instance, a $25.01 bill and a $25.99 bill would both round up to $26, under an example on the Cleveland Utilities website.

Customer participation in Project Round Up is completely voluntary and customers may opt out any time, Webb said.

In other business, Cleveland Utilities has received high marks for its technological security.

Cleveland Utilities' technical staff maintains a high level of security awareness, said auditor Steven Dyer, chief technology officer for the Central Service Association, which provides information technology and customer service to member utilities.

"They have [security awareness] right at the edge," he said. "So any time new technology is brought forth, the security questions are some of the first questions that are asked."

Cleveland Utilities scored a less than 1 percent criticality rate during the auditor's recent attempts to access sensitive systems from within the utility's offices, Dyer said. That score is "exceptional," he said, stating that scores typically fell between 8 percent and 10 percent.

Overall, Cleveland Utilities ranked in the top 10 out of 225 utilities in regard to technological security audits he has performed, Dyer said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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