Cookeville City Council will vote Thursday night to create a new Department of Energy by merging the city’s Gas and Electric Departments.
City Manager James Mills told the Council during a Monday work session that the new department would operate under one Director with Operational Superintendents for the separate divisions of electric and gas.
“For all intents and purposes, they’ll continue to be conducted as separate enterprises, as far as possible, except, we will provide, and we intend to have joint operations for as much as possible in terms of equipment and personnel,” Mills said.
Mills said the departments can save money for rate-payers by sharing administrative and IT personnel.
“There also, we believe, will be opportunities for savings in terms of the use of equipment and also potentially sharing on large jobs where one department can help the other,” Mills said.
Mills said the gas department may have trenching capabilities that would be useful when installing underground electrical hardware. With a joint department, they can cooperate to cut costs on those projects.
“In the case of a large storm where we have a lot of trees down, we’ll have a larger crew to go in and help and repair to get us back into operation,” Mills said. “Again, I think this is a major change for the city, but I also think it’s a significantly positive change for the city. We don’t take this lightly.”
Mills said both utilities will continue to have separate financial records, budgets, and annual reports. Mills said the city is doing site research to find a campus to house the two facilities in the next few years. Mills said cutting down on administrative costs would allow the city to focus on the employees physically doing the work for the department.
Mills said if approved, he would announce his choice for the Department of Energy Director whom he has chosen through extensive research.
“We do have the lowest rates and we want to continue to be able to do that,” Mills said.