Springfield, MO

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by John R. Twitty

Electricity. Public power. Electric utility deregulation. Natural gas.

Let's admit it for most of you, these are things that don't get a lot of attention. And we at City Utilities work hard to keep it that way by providing safe, reliable service at low prices. If you're not thinking a lot about us, that means we're probably doing what we're supposed to.

But every year, City Utilities takes time in October to observe Public Energy Week, an annual celebration of community ownership and local control of your electric and natural gas utility. From Oct. 4 through 10, along with 2,000 other public utility systems across the country, we are celebrating the benefits that public ownership provides to our community.

You may already know that the electric utility industry is in the process of restructuring. The major change being proposed is to provide customer choice for generation of electricity.

That means that, just like with long-distance telephone service, residential and business customers will be able to choose the electric utility from which they buy power. The hope is that, by injecting competition into the retail market, all customers will benefit from lower costs.

As your local electricity distributor, City Utilities would still move your power from the transmission lines to homes and businesses, send your bill, and provide you with customer service assistance.

Legislation has not been enacted in Missouri or at the federal level. While there has been significant debate in Congress more than two dozen proposals would place certain mandates on electric utilities nothing has been decided at this point. As your electric utility, we have been following these debates in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., with a great deal of interest.

The word most often used to describe the process of change that's under way is "deregulation," but it's likely that the word "restructuring" more accurately reflects what is taking place. After all the changes are made, I expect that we will find that the electric utility industry will still be regulated.

It may take many years before a final structure is in place. But it may not take long before you are bombarded with all sorts of offers from electricity salespeople and telemarketers. So it's important that you know about the benefits you already enjoy by being served by a public utility system like CU.

You may be asking yourself "Benefits? What difference does it make what kind of utility we have?"

But there are benefits.

Because we're a community-owned enterprise, our first and only business is to provide utility service to Springfield at reasonable prices that benefit all local citizens and that promote community-wide economic development.

We also provide more than $17.5 million in cash payments and free services to the city of Springfield in lieu of taxes. Additionally, our community dividend exceeds $42 million. This community dividend is the difference between our retail prices and the average prices of the investor-owned utilities in Missouri. That means that there is $42 million more for our customers to spend in Springfield than if they were paying average investor-owned-utility prices.

We can keep our prices reasonable because, as a publicly owned utility, we don't have to pay dividends to stockholders around the world. That means our low prices benefit you, the citizens.

Since you may have the opportunity to make a choice about your electricity provider, there are some things you should keep in mind when those out-of-town offers start filling your mailbox.

As you evaluate your options, I believe you will want to continue to buy your power from City Utilities for these reasons:

First, we are a hometown public utility, and you can count on us. We've been around since 1945, and we have a solid reputation for service, reliability, and low prices.

We're not some upstart, get-rich-quick, fly-by-night, short-term-promise business created just to jump in and out of a volatile marketplace. We've provided service to Springfield for generations, and we plan to do so in the future, so you can depend on us to fulfill our promises.

Second, because we're your hometown utility, you know where to find us when you need us. We're not a "1-800" call. We're right here in Springfield, just down the street from you, and you know where to turn if you have questions or comments.

And since we're a publicly owned utility, decisions about our service aren't made in a distant board room behind closed doors. Since citizens own our utility, you have a voice in how it serves the community. Our Board of Public Utilities, which sets policy for our utility, meets regularly at City Utilities' general office. The public is always welcome to attend.

Lastly, I think you'll want to remain our customers because of our low costs. We pledge to do our very best to ensure that our community's utility is operated in a productive and efficient manner, and that our prices will always be competitive.

(John R. Twitty is deputy general manager at City Utilities of Springfield.)

City Utilities of Springfield

Public Energy Week

activities open to public


Monday, Oct. 5, 1998

Location: Developer Services TecHouse, 2655 S. Blackman Road, open 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

?Solar demonstrations between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., including solar bike, solar car, and photovoltaic unit demonstrations.

Friday, Oct. 9, 1998

Location: CU general office, 301 E. Central, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

?Tours of the Electric Dispatch Center and informative displays.

Saturday, Oct. 10, 1998

Location: Southwest Power Station, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

?Tour the Power Station, and view natural gas and energy information displays.

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