It’s good, but it can be better

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Washington Electric Utilities customers likely will scoff at a report that, for the most part, gives WEU better-than-average marks in operational areas.

Those customers will say that WEU’s electric rates are too high. City officials, including the mayor and City Council members, continue to address those concerns. They realize there are concerns about WEU’s electric rates, so much so that last spring they held a series of meetings to educate WEU’s customers about WEU.

We urge city officials to continue to find ways to keep electric rates as low as possible, if not, by some miracle, find ways to decrease them. That said, let’s address the report on WEU’s operations.

The review, conducted by Hometown Connections, was requested by Keith Hardt, WEU’s director. Hometown Connections is a subsidiary of the American Public Power Association. Hardt asked for the review to look at WEU’s operations and identify areas that are working well and areas that need improvement.

The report assigned a rating, based on four stars being the highest rating, to 12 WEU operational areas.

The three areas receiving four-star ratings were utility programs, power supply and administration (including accounting and finance).

The areas receiving three and a half stars were customer service, consumer outreach and communications, distribution operations, employee safety, governance, rates, technology and human resources.

The area of strategic planning, which received two stars, was the lowest-rated operational area.

“Hometown Connections found a number of areas that Washington is doing well and for which they should be commended,” reads the report’s executive summary.

“Hometown Connections also has made some recommendations that will address areas of concern or weakness,” reads the summary.

“The community is well-served by the utility,” it continues.

Even with the report’s notation that WEU is serving the community well, there does remain room for improvement.

While carefully reviewing the report, the City Council should make sure its recommendations are sound and affordable. If they are sound and affordable, the council should make sure they are implemented.

We commend Hardt for requesting the review. We commend the city for turning that request into a reality.

There’s no doubt the report is good news for the city and WEU, but the city and WEU should do what’s necessary to address those concerns and weaknesses outlined in the report so that the next report is a better one.

Meanwhile, city officials should keep working to find ways to keep WEU’s rates as low as possible. The current City Council has shown it’s trying to do just that.

Perhaps putting in place the report’s recommendations will help that effort. It’s worth a try.