|New LCUB facility ready
Lenoir City Utilities Board by the end of the month will become fully operational in its new facility off Creekwood Park Boulevard.
LCUB General Manager Shannon Littleton said most of administration has made the move to the new location, while customer service and crews in gas, water, sewer and electric will relocate within two or three weeks.
The payment center will close at 5 p.m. Friday for normal business, according to a sign posted outside the downtown building.
“The downtown office drive-through will remain open for more than likely up to six months,” Littleton said. “We’re working on an agreement with Athens Federal (Community) Bank in downtown Lenoir City that they’ll also be taking payments for us, so we’re not going to vacate downtown and leave our customers stranded in that area that like to do business from the downtown perspective.”
The bank partnership will go into effect in 30-45 days, Littleton said.
“We wanted to have somewhat of a presence downtown and be able to allow people to pay their bills, and we have people who do this already,” Eddie Simpson, LCUB vice chairman, said. “You can pay your bills at SunTrust (Bank), you can pay them at ... United Community (Bank).”
Residents can also pay bills at the new facility when customer service becomes operational Monday, Littleton said.
Littleton believes the new facility will greatly enhance the customer experience.
“The relationship they have with our call center is going to allow customers to be more informed about their services, how to adequately utilize their services and conserve their services,” he said. “We’ll have these meeting rooms that you see here to meet with customers on a one-on-one basis.
“Also, just the proximity of this building’s going to get us in many cases 15-20 minutes better response time to customers for outages and serve those needs,” he added. “... All the equipment and I guess the applications that we’ve been working on for so many years now, they’re now going to be utilized now in this building from our fiber that we’ve got deployed from this building, to the software that’s been installed in this building.”
The new center will allow LCUB representatives to see every circuit in real time through a large map placed on the control center wall. Littleton said the center can “drill down into the mapping” for outages.
“If we had an outage going on, it’ll tell us the pole number, the location,” Littleton said. “It’ll predict what’s happened, what device has been affected. So it pinpoints the issue immediately and our crew ... is going to have this same information in their vehicles.”
Relocating equipment since August has gone rather smoothly, but Littleton said the effort still had challenges.
“We’ve been planning 12 months for this move,” Littleton said. “It just didn’t happen in the last 60 days. So now we’ve executed our plan. Yeah, it’s been tough, but it’s gone flawlessly at this point.”
Construction on the $42 million facility has been underway for two years.
“I am elated actually with how the building has turned out,” Simpson said. “The technology and such is bringing us finally into the 21st century. It should have been done years ago, but we’ve saved money and put back money and paid everything off so when we started building that building we were totally debt-free, and that’s a fact. Our utilities were debt-free.”
A grand opening is scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 26 at 7698 Creekwood Park Blvd.
Old building use?
City officials will need to determine what to do with the old LCUB building once the move is complete. Littleton said LCUB has been in talks with the city for further use.
“We’ll probably work together on it. I’ve actually been in contact with (Tennessee Valley Authority) on disposal of that building,” Littleton said. “Disposal from TVA’s side, we’ve just got to protect our ratepayers’ investment because obviously the ratepayers have money invested in that building. ... I think the mayor has got some plans for redevelopment. I don’t know the details of those, obviously, but he’s not going to let it remain vacant, I promise you that.”
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens said hopes are to make a move on the property within the next 90 days after LCUB completely relocates.
“They were supposed to have finished moving this week and so I’m hoping — but I can tell you that I do have somebody that I’m talking to,” Aikens said.