The front desk staff will continue to work 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with the extra hour each day being covered by other members of the City staff. It is estimated that closing on Friday afternoon will save $4,576 per year in salary costs.
The new schedule will begin on January 1 and will be re-evaluated by the council after six months to determine if the new hours are a positive change. The council hopes the extended hours during the week will be helpful to citizens, as they will be able to access the city office before or after their work day.
Neil Stevens, Empire Electric General Manager, presented the results of a survey of customers recently taken by Empire Electric. In all, 300 households and 250 businesses were surveyed. Those surveyed were randomly selected and received a $10 credit for their participation.
He reported that among members contacted there was a 95 percent satisfaction rating. While the lowest rating was in cost of power, 95 percent of the customers state they would not switch service providers for a 5-15 percent savings in cost.
Stevens reported that due to a Colorado state mandate, Empire must use a certain amount of renewable energy each year.
Currently the mandate is one percent of the total kilowatt hours, and will go to ten percent over time. Members were asked if Empire should do more than the mandate. In the 2008 survey, 56 percent said yes, and in the 2010 survey, 93 percent felt they should do more to use renewable electricity.
Stevens reports there is more cost involved in providing renewable energy and only six percent of those surveyed supported a rate increase. The report showed 75 percent of those surveyed support a nuclear power plant. He expressed surprise that 44 percent of the members served are retired and only three percent are farmers or ranchers.
Stevens praised Monticello City Manager Kelly Pehrson for his help in connecting Empire with the Monticello Foundation. He said they have been looking for a resource in the Monticello area to give a donation to help people who are struggling to pay their utility bills.
The Foundation agreed to run the program and Empire has sent a $2,000 initial donation to the program. Pehrson said they will try to use the money for matching funds in writing grants to try and collect more money to help the program.
In a report on the solar program, Doug Sparks, Empire Member Services Director, told the council there is a rate that allows customers to put in solar systems and rebates for doing so.
Currently two users in Utah are using the program. They are also working on a “solar farm” where people who cannot afford an entire solar system, which can cost around $30,000, can buy solar panels at around $1,500 and receive credits on their bill for participation based on the proportional production of the panels the customer purchases.
It was reported that there will not be a rate increase for Empire Electric customers this year. Mayor Doug Allen praised Empire Electric for their improved reliability over the past ten years to keep customer power on as much as possible through improvements to the delivery system.
Glen Noble, Empire Engineering Manager, reported there was a $1.3 million upgrade to the Monticello system in the past few years to make it more efficient. He added that the transmission line feeding the area is being upgraded currently.
Councilman Craig Leavitt asked about the availablility of a more efficient bulb for street lights and was told they are being developed at this time. The council was told the city of Ouray, CO is testing LED lighting at this time.
It was reported that it is an expensive transition and new technology, so it is being tested at this time.
Some reports from Ouray say it is almost too bright with the LED lighting, which may lead to being able to use less lights to provide a sufficient amount of night coverage. The council also thanked Empire for their sponsorship and support of local programs as well as the good service provided by the local employees.
Assistant City Manager Greg Westfall told the council that in reviewing the city fee schedule, they found that the fee for turning water off for non-payment costs significantly more than the $25 fee that is being charged.
Westfall suggested that a $50 fee would be needed to cover the salary cost. Mayor Allen asked what the process is prior to shut-off. Westfall stated that if an account goes 60 days past due, then a letter is sent.
Following the letter, they have seven days to pay the account at which point they are “yellow tagged”, and the water is shut off 24 hours later. Allen felt that it was a justifiable increase.
Councilman Scott Frost questioned if the fee would be increased for all shut-offs or just for those that require a call-out of off duty staff.
Westfall suggested the possibility of a smaller fee increase for all shut-offs and an additional fee if it is a call-out situation. The council asked that a proposal be put together, including a comparison of fees for other utilities in shut-off situations.
A citizen request was made for the City to evaluate procedures relating to building codes. The citizen told the council he was cited and fined for building a deck on the rear of his home.
He reported that he made numerous attempts to contact the County Building Inspector as part of the process, both by email and telephone, but the inspection was never done.
It was asked that the City review the process to ensure that citizens are able to meet the requirements related to building.
A citizen request was also made regarding the speed limit sign at the top of Clay Hill Drive. It was pointed out that the sign showing a 30 MPH limit has been knocked over.
Mayor Doug Allen said he would talk to the police department about the speed limit on the hill and work on getting the sign put back up.