Power to the people

CUB’s approach to providing utilities is often studied, but never repeated

Clinton Utility Board serves 30,000-plus customers with 1,550 miles of high voltage power lines and 12 electric substations, and serves parts of six counties.

It has been recognized by TVA for its innovations.

That’s the power side.

CUB’s water and sewer system have won awards, have never been cited for violations, and operates debt free.

And CUB has done this without much fanfare outside of the utility industry.

Most people don’t include conversation about utilities when they sit down to dinner.

Most people don’t talk much about utilities until something goes wrong — like an outage.

“What we find most of our folks want is high reliability, low rates, and great service,” CUB General Manager Greg Fay said.

CUB has made establishing those three things and transferring them to rate payers and customers into an art form.

“It’s an open secret,” CUB General Manager Greg Fay said about CUB’s system.

He said other utilities are welcome to visit CUB — and they have — take notes, learn the CUB process, whatever.

“We’re a public utility,” Fay said. “As a public utility we’ll help anyone who asks, and we’ve had numerous utilities visit to see how we do things.”

East Tennessee Development District (ETDD) lists 2021 residential rates survey of 32 water and sewer utilities in its district.

The survey is telling — based on an average of 5,000 gallons a month — in that CUB has the lowest rate at $53.62. That’s less than half of the average system.

Fay said the formula for keeping water and sewer rates low is simple, maintain a great system and keep debt to a minimum.

“Minimum” for CUB is zero.

Fay said the CUB system has won numerous awards and has never had a violation with its sewer and CUB has kept its rates low in the process.

“Debt affects your rates,” Fay said.

“We have zero debt in the sewer department. That’s one the great things about our rates,” he said.

“We have no debt in our water and sewer. We have the lowest rates in the region. Period.”

You have to represent the rate payers, Fay said. CUB bases its rates on what it takes to maintain the system. “And then maintain the system,” he said.