Utility protecting customers

Friday, October 10, 2008

Marshall County's Board of Public Utilities on Wednesday took steps to protect its customers from identity theft and made personnel decisions.

New computer software has been obtained by the MCBPU to be in compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations that took effect on Jan. 1 for utilities, the utility's office manager, Gayle Shaneyfelt, said.

The utility uses anti-virus programming and software to protect its backup records, Shaneyfelt said.

"And when someone calls in, we get the name on the account and ask questions that only the customer would know," she said. "Plus, we shred everything. We throw nothing away."

MCBPU Commissioner Mike Waggoner moved to have the utility adopts the federally required practices and the board unanimously agreed.

Several months ago, the utility changed assignments for personnel, including Shaneyfelt who then became the utility's spokeswoman and assistant office manager through a plan that she succeeded Judy Crowson, the system's office manager.

Crowson has been focusing on billing from and paying to contractors involved in the system's water line extension project, System Manager Tommy Whaley said. he recommended that the board proceed with the plan to make Shaneyfelt office manager.

Crowson endorsed the plan, saying that in recent months, she's been responsible for decisions made by Shaneyfelt who's ready for all the responsibility. Crowson is to remain available to "back up" Shaneyfelt, Whaley said.

"We all need a little backup every one in a while," MCBPU Chairman Rocky bowden said.

Whaley recommended the change with a $35,000 salary for Shaneyfelt, but Commissioner Mary Ann Neill asked for job descriptions that hadn't been prepared.

It wasn't the only question Neill raised.

"I don't have a problem with the job... but I have a problem with the pay increase," she said, noting the raise would be $5,000.

Crowson noted Shaneyfelt joined the utility after working in the county's Office of Accounts and Budgets and transferred with the idea that she'd be in training for utility management.

Accounting practices have changed and responsibilities have been delegated, she said.

Neill noted raises were granted with the previous realignment, but that "We didn't give our guys out there in the rain and the ditch anything."

Utility Commissioner Bill Blalock said he thought the raise would be $2,000 and while Bowden indicated he was under the impressions that it would be $5,000, Neill endorsed the smaller raise And, ultimately, the board agreed.

"It leaves you room for evaluation and a job description," said Neill, who sits on the utility board because she is the chairwoman of the County Commission.

Crowson's compensation was unchanged.