HU Recognizes Employees for Years of Service

HU recently held its annual Employee Milestone Service Recognition dinner to honor employees who achieved five-year anniversaries during 2019. Congratulations to these employees; we thank you for your hard work and dedication.

5, 10 & 15 years of service
Top photo, from left: Bob Sittason, General Manager, 15 years; Alton Armistead, Equipment Operator, 10 years; Blake McNutt, Locate Technician, 10 years; Wade Sims, Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager, 5 years.

 

2019 Outage Report Shows Off Electric System Reliability

Hartselle Utilities provides approximately 8,760 hours of electricity in 2019 to Hartselle residents. Throughout the year, there were 44 outages with a combined total of 34.5 hours of outages, according Hartselle Utilities General Manager Bob Sittason.

Mention a power outage, and most residents will think back to major storms that caused memorable power outages. But last year, there were only 10 weather-related power outages.

The number one cause of outages? Animals, typically squirrels, raccoons, possums and birds. Of the 44 outages last year, 23 of them were caused by animals.

Equipment failures caused five outages, trees caused two, and the final two were either miscellaneous or unknown.

Last year’s 44 outages were a significant drop from 71 in 2018, and 86 in 2017. However, cautions Sittason, while the utility does everything it can to prevent power outages with preventative maintenance, it’s not yet time to pat themselves on the back.

“We control what we can,” Sittason says. “Otherwise, we’re at the mercy of nature.”

Eww, Gross! Prevent Costly & Hazardous Sewer Backups

No one wants to think about sewage backups, but if sewage is entering your home, the sooner it’s fixed, the better off you’ll be. Water of any kind flooding into your home will cause damage, but sewage can be much worse, causing both structural problems and posing a health risk to you and your family.

Hartselle Utilities is often the first call a homeowner will make for a suspected sewage problem. If the problem happens on our portion of the lines, Hartselle Utilities is responsible for fixing the problem. However, if the problem happens between the connection point and your house, or inside your home, that’s the homeowner’s responsibility. (Fortunately, damage caused by sewage backups is generally covered by homeowners insurance.)

How do you know the difference between a clogged toilet and a sewer line problem? Sewage backups typically show first in the lowest drains in your home. Unless you have a half-bath in your basement or first floor with no other drains on that level, typically your ‘lowest drain’ is not going to be a toilet. So if you have a single toilet that’s backing up on the top floor of your house and the showers, bathtubs and laundry drains on lower levers are working just fine, your problem isn’t in your sewage drain.

On the flip side, if every time you flush, water or sewage backs up into a bathtub or shower, you most likely have a problem. If you suspect the problem is on Hartselle Utilities’ side of the system, call us as soon as possible. If the problem lies within your system, you may need to call a professional plumber.

Of course, preventing a clog or other problem is always cheaper than repairing one. Here are several things you can do to take care of the drains in your home:

Install and maintain a sewer clean-out.

Most modern homes have a sewer clean-out – a capped pipe located on or near your connection to Hartselle’s main sewer line; some homes have multiple clean-outs throughout the system. Having a sewer clean-out helps you keep lines clear, and drain water if a backup occurs.

Don’t use your toilet as a trash can.

Don’t flush facial tissues, napkins, feminine products or diapers down the toilet. Even ‘flushable’ wipes can cause problems in a sewer line; it’s much better to dispose of these in the trash.

Properly dispose of fats, oils and grease in the kitchen.

After it cools, pour cooking oil into a heat-resistant container and put it in the trash. Washing grease down the drain with hot water doesn’t work – once the grease cools, it becomes solid again.

Don’t overload your garbage disposal.

If you put large quantities of anything down your garbage disposal, it can become lodged in your sewer line.

Check your tree roots.

Tree roots can grow into sewer pipes, causing holes and blockages, or they can wrap around a line, crushing it.

Update your sewer pipes.

In older homes, sewer pipes were often built using cast iron and clay. Over time, these will break, crack and collapse, and are susceptible to damage from tree roots. Plastic pipes, which are now standard in new home building, are much less likely to become damaged.

Rate changes effective October 1

There will be an increase in HU’s Electric rates effective October 1, 2019.  HU’s residential customer charge will increase by $1.00 per month and the energy charge will increase by $.00043 per kWh.  The monthly increase for our average residential customer, who uses 1,256 kWh per month, will be $1.54.

Please Don’t Block Transformers and Meters

Vegetation around transformers and meters can become overgrown without a homeowner realizing it. When this happens, HU crews have difficulty reading meters – or worse, could be unable to reach a transformer during a power failure.

This is a safety issue, explains Customer Service Manager Terri Harris. “We understand that a pad-mounted transformer looks like an ugly green box in your front yard. However, our crews need a minimum area of six feet to work on most electric equipment, and workers cannot safely work through bushes.”

Customers can hide equipment from the street view with landscaping, Harris says, as long as utility crews are able to access the equipment from the side or back.

Customers with shrubs or other vegetation blocking access are notified by letter, asking them to remove the vegetation or obstruction.

“While we try to avoid it, we can charge a restricted access fee,” Harris says.

Contractor Starting Pole Inspections

Osmose crews will inspect and treat 1,200 utility poles from October through December.

From mid-October through December, crews from Osmose will inspect utility poles on the Hartselle Utilities system in the area from Nance Ford Road N to Rhodes Street, starting at Highway 31 to Tunsel Road.

During this time, notes Electric Superintendent Jonathan Hampton, customers may see crews in your yard as they inspect and treat poles.

Over time, decay and wood-destroying insects can cause wooden utility poles to lose their strength. Hartselle contractors inspect and treat every pole within the system every 8-10 years.

This helps identify bad poles before they break, Hampton explains, and by treating every pole that isn’t bad, it prolongs their expected life span. Crews will inspect and treat approximately 1,200 poles this year.

Based on the last round of inspections and information gathered from this inspection, Hartselle Utilities is creating a rating system to predict when a utility pole is getting weaker. This will help both with future budgeting and emergency pole replacements.

New Face at Customer Service Window

Ashley Wright
Cashier Ashley Wright

At your next visit to Hartselle Utilities you may notice a brand new smiling face to greet you as you pay your bill. Ashley Wright joined Hartselle Utilities’ customer service department in July. Ashley is a native of Hartselle and alumna of Hartselle High School. She brings with her an extensive background in customer service with over nine years of banking experience. We are excited to have Ashley join our Hartselle Utilities family.