By BRIAN McGILLIVARY email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Utility officials won’t use surveys to determine the opinions of Traverse City Light and Power customers, a decision officials think will cut more than $20,000 from its strategic planning process.
The city-owned utility’s board initially passed on a no-bid, $60,000-plus contract solicited by executive Director Tim Arends to help map the utility’s future. Boardmembers expressed concern about the price and an open-ended bill for all travel and lodging expenses. The utility board will consider the reworked, $39,600 proposal from consultant Hometown Connections that caps travel and lodging expenses at $7,000 when it meets today at 5:15 p.m. in the Governmental Center.
“I think that Tim did a good job addressing some of the board’s concerns about the contract,” said Pat McGuire, utility board chairman. “He reduced the costs and also checked on their references.”
Mcguire said the board decided not to seek bids because Hometown Connections just completed a $95,000 management and efficiency review of the utility and knows it well.
“I kind of look at this as an extension of the management review they already performed,” McGuire said. “They were already vetted and compared to other groups in a competitive bid process at that time.”
Arends said he dropped public surveys from the proposal because TCL&P already surveys its customers. He instead recommends the board wait until it gets more involved in the four-month process to determine what questions it wants to put before customers. The planning process will still include focus group meetings with customers, Arends said.
The new proposal also eliminates one meeting between Hometown Connections and staff to work on implementing plan results. McGuire said implementation pressures need to fall to the board.
The planning process will help board members decide if they will invest in some form of power generation or whether the utility will only be a power purchaser. It also will have to address the utility’s renewable energy and conservation goals, multi-million dollar decisions that will impact ratepayers for the next 20 years, Arends said.