Starting his City Utilities career crawling through mud rehabbing Fulbright Spring, Gary Gibson now hopes to improve the customer experience through a better metering system and smartphone app, among other projects.
Gibson was named the new general manager of City Utilities and its 940 employees in October 2019, and will oversee nearly $175 million in tech projects over the next five years for its 125,000 customers.
“We hope at some point midsummer next year to have an app and a new customer engagement platform,” he says.
The app would be able to send users notifications via email, phone or text message about power usage, outages and restorations. It can even compare usage to neighbors or those with similar-sized homes.
CU partnered with Irvine, California-based Smart Energy Water to develop the app.
“They can profile their usage and get some recommendations on how they can save some bucks,” Gibson says.
The app, and a new customer portal online, carries a $2.7 million cost.
New electric meters are also on Gibson’s radar. The meters will communicate with each other to find an access point, then communicate usage data back to CU.
“Your information may hop from your meter to your neighbor’s meter to your neighbor’s meter until it finally gets there,” he says, adding water and gas meters communicate with electric meters for data transfers.
He says a benefit of the new electric meters is quicker knowledge of power outages and when power is restored. CU staff also will be able to see hourly usage, diagnose problems and answer billing questions. The meters also can diagnose water leaks and send proactive messages to customers.
He says 98,362 electric meters have been installed, as of Dec. 1, out of 119,000 total. Water and gas meters are about 35% completed, and Gibson says the $50 million project should wrap up in 2023.
Gibson has spent three decades with CU, and now after succeeding GM Scott Miller, he’s responsible for the $588.7 million budget in 2020.
Other forward-thinking projects are the $120 million fiber network expansion through SpringNet to make Springfield a gigabit city and a pilot project for two all-electric buses in the CU fleet. The electric bus project is 80% funded through a $1.5 million Federal Transit Administration grant with the buses scheduled to be in operation in late 2020.
This year, for the 38th season, the Springfield Ballet Inc. will perform “The Nutcracker” on the proscenium stage of the Landers Theatre, with six performances set Dec. 15-18.