Cleveland Utilities-funded 'Project Roundup' exceeds expectations

Cleveland Utilities-funded 'Project Roundup' exceeds expectations

April 27th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

The Cleveland Utilities headquarters is in Cleveland, Tenn.

Photo by Harrison Keely/Times Free Press.

Ken Webb

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - "Project Round Up," a community assistance initiative funded by Cleveland Utilities customers, may more than double its expected contributions to The Caring Place by December.

The program already has provided $57,782 to help families seeking help through The Caring Place's "Neighbors in Need" program, said Ken Webb, vice president of Cleveland Utilities' financial division. At that rate, he said, Project Round Up will contribute $207,000 to The Caring Place by the end of its first year -- an amount originally projected to be $100,000.

"We could possibly assist 663 families with utilities and 148 families with rent and other types of needs over the year," said Webb, based on early figures indicating needy families each had received between $250 and $280, on average, in Project Round Up funds.

At least 80 percent of Project Round Up money must be used for utility bills, Webb said. Up to 20 percent of the contributed dollars may be used to help with medical, housing and other expenses.

Webb said Project Round Up is supported by 88 percent of Cleveland Utilities' 30,000 customers, which he called "tremendous."

The program rounds up participating customers' bills to the next dollar and allocates the additional money to The Caring Place through a mechanism set up by United Way.

On average, said Webb, customers have contributed 50 cents per billing cycle. Customers may opt out of the program at any time.

In other utility business, the traffic signal group is about to launch a comprehensive study intended to improve vehicle flow along 25th Street, one of Cleveland's major corridors and part of state Highway 60. The signal timing changes will be comparable in scope to changes made along Paul Huff Parkway and portions of Keith Street two years ago.

The project will encompass 11 intersections between Candies Lane and the Spring Creek development, said Bart Borden, vice president of the electric division.

He said Cleveland Utilities will provide its own traffic count data for the project using a new automated Miovision camera system. The traffic study's cost will be reduced from $47,000 to $29,000 because of the utility's ability to quickly gather traffic counts in-house, he said.

Progress also has been made in regard to traffic flow at the intersection of Ocoee and 17th streets, which is heavily affected by student dropoffs and pickups at nearby Ocoee Middle School, Borden said.

Significant backups caused by traffic turning onto 17th Street from Ocoee Street have been reduced by implementing longer green-light times for eastbound and westbound traffic on Ocoee, he said. The longer green times allow for more turn time.

"It appears to have resolved the problem in that area," Borden said.

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