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When the lights go out ...

PRINCETON – The Princeton City Council is considering its options when it comes to handling Princeton’s utility service emergency calls.

At Monday’s council meeting, Commissioner Joel Quiram brought up the discussion, saying the city has staff on-site 24/7 at the current water treatment plant to handle any emergency service calls from residents regarding electric outages or other emergency utility situations. However, the new water treatment plant will be automated, and manning the new plant 24/7 will not be needed, Quiram said.

As an option to handle those emergency service calls, Quiram presented proposals from the CRC (Call Response Center) company in Minnesota and the local BuEComm office.

Quiram said the proposals show CRC was the less expensive option. The average annual cost for the BuEComm service was $20,764 over a three-year period, compared to an annual average three-year cost of $12,972 for CRC. Though based in Minnesota, CRC would still have a local number, which would then be routed to Minnesota. The chances of that call being answered by a live person was 98 percent, Quiram said.

One of his concerns with using BuEComm is that BuEComm is geared toward emergency calls — not dealing with utilities, which is what Princeton would primarily be considering, Quiram said.

In looking at another option, Quiram said the city could look into manning the city’s electric plant 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which was done a few years ago. However, that would require planning for a third shift and for weekends, he said.

Superintendent Jason Bird said that option would require three additional staff to handle the additional 88 hours of a third shift and weekends.

Addressing the CRC option, Mayor Keith Cain said he was concerned about using an out-of-town call service. He knows what it’s like to have a phone line go down and have to talk to someone who doesn’t know the affected area, or to have to talk with someone who is not easily understood.

“I know it (CRC) is a lot cheaper, but I don’t know that cheaper is the answer on this situation,” Cain said.

As far as the possible manning of the electric plant 24/7, Commissioner Bob Warren said the council discontinued that 24/7 manning because of the upgraded automation and monitoring equipment in the plant.

After further discussion, the mayor directed Princeton City Manager Jeff Clawson to do more research and gather more information on the city’s options; the discussion is to be put back on the Dec. 2 council meeting agenda.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council tabled action on a 10-year utility service contract dealing with the maintenance of the 1.5 million gallon water tank at the new water treatment plant.

Clawson said he had some concerns about the proposed contract as presented.

Since working with the company, the company has reduced the overall cost from $1,006,613 to $798,692 and has changed the time for painting the tank from Year 4/5 to Year 8/9, which he thought was more reasonable, Clawson said. Also, the city can now cancel the contract after Year 7 with no additional costs. However, language changes are still being addressed concerning a performance guarantee by the company, Clawson said.

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