After 15 months at the helm of
the Vanceburg Electric Plant Board, Superintendent Eric Bloomfield has accepted
a position with a regional bank and Plant Board members are seeking a
replacement to the local utility company’s top position.
“I’ve really enjoyed my
time here,” Bloomfield said last week after the announcement became public. He
praised the Plant Board and utility employees for making his job easier and
cited the workers for creating a welcoming environment at the utility company.
Denver Moore, who is a
Vanceburg City Council Member, serves at the council’s representative on the
Plant Board. During the regular meeting of council last week, he made the
announcement that Bloomfield had resigned effective May 31. Bloomfield has been
the Plant Board Superintendent since January 1, 2009.
Bloomfield presented his
letter of resignation to the Plant Board during a closed session on March 30.
The board entered into closed session to discuss personnel matters and took no
action after returning to open session.
Bloomfield said he received a
telephone call “out of the blue” to see if he would be interested in taking
a job as controller for American Savings Bank in Portsmouth, Ohio. “I wasn’t
looking for a job,” he said. “I have a wife and three children who count on
me to make the right decisions to provide for them,” Bloomfield added.
He said the banking position
fits well with his background as a CPA and businessman.
Plant Board members are
looking for a replacement and an announcement could be made as early as this
week when the board meets in regular session.
Bloomfield said the board
aggressively advertised for candidates after former Superintendent Phil Kennedy
announced his plans to retire. He said several candidates were interviewed at
that time who are qualified to fill the position. Bloomfield was hired at that
time based on his experience and interview score.
Bloomfield said the timing
wasn’t optimal for coming in as the head of the utility company due to the
recession. “It impacted us (the utility company) just like any other
company,” he said. “Even more so in some cases.”
He said the poor economy
caused local businesses to reduce production resulting in reduced consumption of
utilities. Some commercial electric customers closed altogether, including two
large sawmills, he said.
The poor economy also resulted
in several more customers not able to pay their utility bills on time.
In April 2009, four months
after he was named superintendent, the electric supplier increased rates charged
to the utility company by 37 percent. He said to help offset the increased cost,
the company was forced to increase rates to customers by 25 percent.
The company was also hit with
a “true-up” by AEP to the tune of about $467,000, up from about $60,000 the
The auditor reported to the
board last month that the company had a net operating loss of $426,680 for the
year ending June 30, 2009. Primarily, he said, due to the true-up.
The Plant Board also followed
the recommendation of the auditor, Greg Caudill with Caudill and Associates CPAs
in Portsmouth, Ohio, to cease annual payments-in-lieu of taxes to the City of
Vanceburg each year and to begin charging the city for utilities it consumes.
Caudill cited Kentucky statutes in the recommendations outlined in the audit
The payments to the city
totaled nearly $290,000 for fiscal 2008-09 and the monthly utility bills the
city now pays to the utility company come to about $7,000 a month.
Caudill, whose firm also
performed the city audit, was scheduled to present the city’s audit to
Vanceburg City Council during regular session last week but requested a
delay and was scheduled to present it to council on Monday evening.
Bloomfield said a project
to replace the city’s outdated sewer lines has also been a time and energy
consuming project, and his biggest challenge. A court order, brought on by
the EPA, has mandated the project and will cost an estimated $6.5 million.
“We’ve been going
after every available dollar to put toward this project,” Bloomfield said.
He explained that the sewer system only has 747 customers and to pay for the
project without significantly increasing sewer rates has required the
utility company to apply for funding at every turn.
“We have $4.5 million
pending in state and federal grant applications,” he said. He added about
$4 million has been sought through Kentucky House Bill appropriations. “We
should know about those by April 14,” he said.
Bloomfield said he would
like to spend about 30 days with the incoming superintendent to make a
smooth transition and added he is willing to help the new superintendent
well past his departure date of May 31. “I told the board I would be
willing to stay through June,” he said.
“I will miss working in
the town I grew up in,” Bloomfield said last week.
“The employees here are
great and the board is extremely good to work with,” he said. “They are
interested in the community and committed to serving their customers.”
“The employees here have
made my job a pleasure. They really run an efficient operation,” he said.
Bloomfield said there are
17 employees of the utility company, 13 fewer than 15 years earlier and with
30 percent more customers.
“To do what they do
really requires teamwork. The workers in each of the departments help each
other out,” Bloomfield said. “If there is a problem with the water
system, workers from the electric department jump in and help out until the
problem is fixed.”
Bloomfield is also
impressed with the average response time it takes for employees to respond
to problem calls from customers; about 50 minutes for a water line problem
and about 20 minutes for a gas line problem. Workers are on call to respond
to problems around-the-clock.
Bloomfield also pointed
out that there was not a single system-wide electric outage over the winter.
He credited that to preventive maintenance measures taken by the utility
company over the past several years.
Bloomfield said one of the
joys of the job has been to help people get utility service where it
wasn’t available before.
He said efforts to reduce
non- and late-paying accounts have also paid off with a reduction of nearly
70 percent in delinquencies over the past year.
“The utility rates here
are among the lowest in the area,” he said last week. “That makes the
Vanceburg area an attractive place to live and is a great incentive for
industry to locate here.”
Bloomfield said the job
comes with a certain amount of stress, but it hasn’t been something he
isn’t used to. “I’ve worked in the restaurant business and as a CPA
for some 20 years,” he said. “It’s not bad stress, I’ve handled it
fine,” he added.
said he had hoped to get in a little fishing and have a few days of free
time to do some work around his property before heading off to his new job
at the first of July. “I just received an e-mail,” he said from his
office last week. “They want me to organize and head-up an important
conference in June. How can you say ‘no’ to your new boss?”