Friday, January 30, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Report - January 30, 2015

·        Ceiling Repairs at Fire Substation: Public Safety personnel began making repairs to the celling at the Fuller Fire Substation this week with the goal of replacing the ceiling surfaces in the living quarters to improve energy efficiency and officer safety.
·        Welcome New Employees: Several new employees have joined our ranks recently. Whitney Clark has joined the Department of Administrative Services as a Customer Service Representative. Kelvin Hubert has joined the Department of Public Works as a Heavy Equipment Operator. Elbert Chapman has joined the Department of Public Works as a Water Treatment Plant Operator.
·        Equal Pay Errors: The Equal Pay utility calculation errors that were caused by a software update have been resolved. The utility billing staff were calculating all equal pay bills by hand due to a software error caused by a routine annual update by the software supplier. Now that this issue has been resolved, future bills will be issued by the utility billing system.
·        Procurement: The city will be purchasing an ATV and trailer using I&I funds to assist in getting sewer repair crews into areas along the right of ways that are currently not accessible. Also, a new police car, a 2015 Dodge Charger was delivered this week.
·        January Purchase Power Cost Adjustment: The PPCA for January has been calculated to be $0.006.
·        Davidson Street Shirt Plant: The owner of the Davidson Street Shirt Plant has applied to the city for a permit to demolish the derelict factory on Davidson Street.
·        New Businesses and Business Expansions: Hayes Ambulance Service has announced that they are relocating their business form Torrington Road to a location inside the city. Java Jo’s Diner has opened. Dempsey’s Pizza, Matt Davis Insurance, the Dialysis Center, and Laurens County Disabilities and Special Needs Board are all either constructing new facilities or expanding existing facilities inside the city.

Friday, January 23, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Update - Janaury 23, 2015

·        Smoke Detector Blitz: Teams of volunteers from the Department of Public Safety and the American Red Cross visited houses inside the City of Clinton and inside the City of Clinton Rural Fire District along Helen Street, Gumby Street, Hill Street, West Bluford Street, West Bluford Street Extension, East Bluford Street, and North Sloan Street Extension on Saturday, January 17th as part of the City’s first Smoke Alarm Blitz. Red Cross personnel and DPS personnel visited with residents, provided them with information on what to do in case of a fire, and tested residential smoke detectors. If a resident did not have a detector, or if they did not have enough detectors, personnel installed new ones. A total of 104 Smoke Detectors were installed.

·        Utility Scam: City personnel received word this week that some residents had been contacted by a person claiming to be a city employee. The residents were called over the phone and instructed to wire money to an address or they would be disconnected form utility service. The City does not require wires for utility payments, and promptly began an investigation. Local and regional media outlets were notified in an effort to warn our citizens to watch out for this utility scam.

·        Firefighter Training Program: The firefighter training program being conducted in partnership between the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Clinton High School continues to be a big success. Our city facebook page features 55 pictures of the students participating in various training exercise as part of the program.

·        Equal Pay Billing Challenges: A scheduled update to by the software manufacturer to our current utility billing system, known as QS/1, failed to allow for the proper calculation of equal pay bills. Customers on the equal pay program received incorrect balance amounts. We are not the only utility affected, as other QS/1 users are reporting or anticipating similar problems. QS/1 is working on a fix, but in the meantime all equal pay bills are being calculated by hand by the Office of Utility Billing staff. All impacted customers have been notified of the problem. The QS/1 system will no longer be in use after the new utility billing software program is implemented in the latter part of 2015.

·        Utility Billing Conversion Pre-Kickoff: City staff are preparing for the upcoming conversion to the new Utility Billing Software Program by reviewing a lengthy list of required data and preparing answers to detailed questions form the new software vendor. The official project kickoff is scheduled for February 3rd, 2015.

·        Clinton Focus Newsletter: The next issue of Clinton Focus will begin to be distributed to all residents and customers next week. It features an article on the new Customer Service System and the last article in the “Meet Your Council Member” series.

·        Work Ready Region: The Upper Savannah Council of Governments announced in their newsletter that every county in the region has now achieved Work Ready status. This makes us part of the first Work Ready Region! The Work Ready program is a program that requires communities to meet certain workforce development benchmarks. Companies looking to relocate will see that we are “Work Ready” and know that our workforce is up to the task.

·        A Type Meter Conversion: The City has almost completed the A Type meter conversion portion of the full meter conversion plan. Approximately three dozen houses still had old direct wire “A Type” utility meters. These meter bases are so old that modern meters cannot be used without an adapter. The city provided adapters and has completed all but a handful of these conversions.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Report - January 16, 2015

·        City Office Closure / Sanitation Route Changes: The City of Clinton offices will be closed on Monday, January 19th, in honor the Martin Luther King Holiday. There will be no sanitation service that day, and those customers who are scheduled for Monday sanitation service will receive service on Tuesday, January 20th.

·        Project SWITCH: The City Manager kicked off Project SWITCH (Stop Working In The City Hall) this week by working in the fleet maintenance shop assisting personnel in servicing city vehicles. Each month in 2015, the City Manager will join a different employee and assist them for a few hours with their work. This allows front line employees and the city manager to interact and share information on how to improve city services for residents.

·        Radio Systems: A team of employees including the CITO, DPS personnel, DPW personnel, and OCM personnel are all working on improving radio communications between departments to help city employees respond better to a disaster and to improve daily communication. The first step will be to test a new communications system in the Electrical Division of the Department of Public Works. Personnel reviewed two possible solutions this week and will continue to work towards selecting, implementing, and testing a new radio system.

·        Sewer Consent Order: The City continues to work in response to the SCDHEC consent order regarding our sewer system and excess sanitary sewer overflows. The first step is to work with our consulting engineers, URS/AECOM to conduct a comprehensive audit of the system, including all records related to personnel, finance, management, maintenance, policies, procedures, work orders, and response plans. City personnel have two weeks to pull together five years worth of records in 106 different operational areas for the first audit review.

·        Economic Development Plan: Work continues on the economic development strategic plan. A review meeting between the staff and the consultant was held this week and strategic objectives and goals were reviewed by the team. The plan should be ready for public comment sometime in late March or April.

·        Residential Development: Community and Economic Development personnel are working closely with two developers seeking to build market rate apartments in the city. As these projects continue to develop, more information will be made available.

·        Customer Service Portal: We began a “soft roll out” of the customer service management system at the beginning of January. A soft roll out occurs when a new system is tested, but its availability is not heavily marketed so that personnel can test the system and its effectiveness. However, 34 citizens have already found and began to utilize the system at The system has already shown us that the average time between customer request and the time the order is completed is 2.2 days. This type of data will be critical in helping us better manage our customer response.

·        Budget Process: City staff are now well into the preparation process for the FY 15-16 budget. All department heads have received their capital planning worksheets and their O&M instructions. Those involved in budget preparation will be utilizing the new MUNIS software system to prepare their budget. This will be the first year using the MUNIS system to prepare the city’s annual budget.

Friday, January 9, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Report - Janaury 9, 2015

·        Cold Snap: Record low temperatures hit the city this week, and the DPS facility on North Broad Street was opened as an emergency warming station where citizens could get out of the weather, have a warm and safe place to rest, and get a warm drink. The facility has been open each day this week with a handful of citizens making use of the facility.

·        Interstate Accident: DPS was involved in the response and investigation of a severe collision and fire on I-26 involving two semi trucks early on January 9th. The accident resulted in the interstate being closed to traffic for approximately four hours and one fatality.

·        Law Enforcement Appreciation: Law Enforcement Appreciation Day was celebrated this week. DPW personnel cooked lunch for DPS personnel on Friday, and the students at Clinton Elementary School shared their appreciation for our DPS personnel through special drawings and artwork.  

·        Chamber Annual Dinner: The Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner is scheduled for January 15, and the City Manager met with Chairman Jeff Field and CEO Greg Alexander to review the plans for the dinner and meeting.

·        Monthly Munis Update: The MUNIS project team briefed the City Manager this week on the status of the software system conversion project. The General Ledger portion is complete, and the Payroll and HR system is now in use. The first use of the payroll system went well, except for a slight challenge making sure the correct tax tables were entered for employees.

·        Communications Contracts: The City of Clinton shifted the majority of its city issued cell phones to a new provider this week. The switch will reduce costs by $7,200 next year and by $37,000 over the next five years. In addition, the city has opened proposals and is reviewing the submitted proposals for two additional communications projects. One project would provide wi-fi access to parts of the central business district / downtown, and the second proposal will upgrade the radio system used by the Electric Distribution Division of the Department of Public Works.

·        Audit Committee Meeting: Every four years the City issues requests for proposals for independent auditing firms. The Audit Committee of City Council met this week and authorized the City Manager to issue the RFP.

·        Council Meeting: City Council met this week and:

o   Recognized Spirit of Christmas and Christmas Parade Award Winners

o   Received a report regarding the annual audit and approved a resolution accepting the audit and the report.

o   Approved the 2015 City of Clinton City Council Safety Statement, a Resolution endorsing the MASC Legislative Agenda, the annual City of Clinton City Council Meeting Calendar, and the 2015 budget calendar.

o   Authorized the procurement of a new in car camera system, body camera system, and fire engine for DPS, and approved a contract with Midlands Tech to create an entrepreneurial training program.

·        New Customer Interface: The City rolled out a new customer interface this month on its website. The City of Clinton Citizen Action Center allows citizens to get answers to questions and request service for everything from a streetlight replacement to much larger service requests. It also allows citizens to track their requests from the date it is made to the date it is completed. This “soft rollout” will be followed up by a marketing campaign to get the citizens to use the new system once we are sure all of the portions of the system have been found to be working correctly in a real world environment.

·        Business Licenses: Office of Finance and Budget staff began the annual business license process this month by mailing out renewal notifications to local businesses of record.
·        Budget Process: City staff are now well into the preparation process for the FY 15-16 budget. All department heads have received their capital planning worksheets and the Office of Finance and Budget is preparing O&M worksheets. Those involved in budget preparation will be utilizing the new MUNIS software system to prepare their budget. This will be the first year using the MUNIS system to prepare the city’s annual budget.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

PPCA: A Positive Change to How We Manage Your Utility

Did we spill alphabet soup on your utility bill?

I attended a meeting recently regarding the electric utility industry in which I was provided a booklet of acronyms to help me decipher the discussion. In case you have forgotten, acronyms are short phrases or letters that are used to abbreviate a much longer phrase or name. An example of an acronym would be FBI, which we all know stands for Federal Bureau of Investigation. Utilities and government agencies seem to be particularly found of making up a string of letters to use instead of calling a something by its given name. If you don’t know the lingo, acronyms can be a real pain.
And now your fair city is introducing a new acronym in the mix, and it is one that it is important that you understand. It’s called PPCA, which stands for Purchase Power Cost Adjustment, and starting this month, you will see it on your utility bill.

Purchase Power Cost Adjustment, or PPCA, is simply a factor applied to your electric utility charges based on what the city pays for electricity. Since we procure electricity from a variety of sources each month, the average cost of single kilowatt hour fluctuates from month to month. The city receives energy from nuclear, hydroelectric, and fossil fuel generating facilities, and each facility costs a different amount to operate and therefore the energy that those facilities sell is priced differently.
In some months, the average cost for the city to purchase electricity is higher than the portion of your bill that covers the cost of purchasing electricity, and in those months the PPCA will adjust each customer’s bill accordingly slightly to cover those costs. In other months, the cost of purchasing electricity is lower than the portion of the bill that covers the cost of purchasing electricity and in those months the PPCA will lower you bill. Yes, I said it will lower your bill. Don’t get too excited, we are talking pennies here and pennies there, but the PPCA creates a much fairer rate structure for you.
Look at it this way. If you went to the gas station to fill up your car and gas costs $3.00 per gallon, you would not expect to only pay $2.75 because that wouldn’t cover the cost the gas station owner had to pay a big oil company to buy the gas to sell to you. Likewise, if it was $2.75 and you were asked to pay $3.00 because that is the annual price, then that wouldn’t be fair either. You would want and rightly deserve the lower price. Furthermore, if you are a part owner in the business, which you are a part owner in your publicly owned utility, then you wouldn’t want to be charged more than what was fair.
PPCA increases fairness in the system. It has also been said that it is the single most important thing a utility can do to stabilize its finances. The majority of public and private utilities are already using PPCA to improve their services to the citizens, and it is time we joined the pack. Stabilizing our financial picture is important because it means we can plan our expenditures better and do a better job of looking for ways to lower our costs of providing service to you. And in my view, that is what you want us to do –find better ways to spend the money you already give us without having to come back to you for more unless it is absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, the price of energy is expected to rise across the United States over the coming years.  Economic growth around the globe is increasing demand for energy and the cost of buying fuel to run power plants is rising. Proposed government regulations that are outside your city’s control will also have an impact on rates in the future. I wish I could paint a better picture for you in regards to the future of electric rates, but the reality of our current world is that these pressures will cause rates to rise for everyone, City of Clinton customer owners, and customers of other systems.

Our advice to you is be as efficient as possible. Be reasonable with your thermostat temperature, make sure your hot water heater is maintained correctly, repair caulking around windows and doors, look for energy tips in the monthly utility newsletter, and visit our website and select the energy depot link for more information on how to reduce that energy bill.

And please know that you city employees, your city manager, and you Mayor and Council understand the impact that energy costs have on our citizens, businesses, and industries. After all, your Mayor and Council, your City Manager, and many of our employees live in the City of Clinton and just like you, must pay the same monthly bills you do. We want you to know we are in this together. After all, your are owners of the public utility system in Clinton and it is our job to work in your best interests.


Friday, January 2, 2015

City Manager's Weekly Update - Janaury 5, 2015

·        Strategic Planning Meeting: Senior Staff conducted their annual budget kickoff meeting on December 29th during which each Senior Staff member presented a report on accomplishments, proposed future goals and objectives, and challenges that their department faces. The same data will be presented publicly at the January 5th, 2015, City Council workshop.
·        Audit Update: The auditor will present their findings to City Council on January 5th. The city has also prepared to the release a Request for Proposals for future auditing services, which will be released if approved by the Audit Committee of Council, which will meet on January 5th at 1 PM to review it.
·        City Council Meeting: City Council will meet at 6 PM on Monday, January 5th, to review and consider the following items:
o   Proclaiming January as Blood Donor Month and Birth Defect Prevention Month
o   Presenting the Annual Christmas Parade Awards and the Annual Spirit of Christmas Awards.
o   Reviewing the annual City of Clinton Employee Safety Statement
o   Reviewing and accepting the Annual Audit / CAFR
o   Setting the FY 15-16 Budget Calendar and the 2015 City Council Calendar
o   Reviewing procurement proposals for a new in car camera system and a new fire engine for DPS, as well as a proposed agreement between the City of Clinton and Midlands Technical College regarding training programs for small businesses.
·        City Council Strategic Planning Meeting: City Council will hold their annual strategic plan review meeting on January 5th at 2 PM during which they will hear reports from each city department, an update on the major goals and projects from FY 15 and a discussion of proposed initiatives for FY 16, a review of the AMR project, and a discussion of the results of the customer satisfaction survey.
·        Customer Service Survey Information: The entire results of the customer satisfaction survey, as well as the city’s “C.P.R.” plan to improve the customer experience will be presented to council for consideration on January 5th.
·        Election: Filing for the March municipal elections has closed. The following individuals filed to run:

·        Bob McLean
·        Danny Cook
Ward 2
·        Shirley Jenkins
Ward 4
·        Eddie McGee
·        Gary Kuykendall
Ward 6
·        Jeff Smith
·        Jimmy Young

·        Grant News: DPS has applied for several grants lately, including additional personnel, new LiveScan computer systems, and new SCBA gear, a fire engine, and a cascade system.
·        MUNIS Update: The payroll portion of the Munis system goes live on January 5th. The Munis team has done an outstanding job managing this project.