Sevier County Electric board approves phone upgrade

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 12:05 AM

Customers can look forward to fewer busy signals when they call Sevier County Electric System. When the SCES Power Board met Tuesday, it approved an upgrade of the service's telephone system, which dates to 1998. The new system costs $102,638.

"The existing phone system is out of date," superintendent Rick Harrell told the board. He noted that it is no longer supported by its vendor, Avaya.

Last July's lethal storm caused power outages, and customers got busy signals when they called. The new system will add 24 lines. "I hesitate to say they'll eliminate busy signals, but they'll greatly reduce them," said Harrell.

The new system will provide screen-pop functionality, meaning that when customers call, their information will automatically appear on SCES representatives' computer screens.

The system also will allow conversations to be recorded. "That may keep people from saying things they probably shouldn't to our employees," said Harrell.

The board also heard a report from Chris Mitchell, who consults about rates and finances for utility companies. He said that SCES, which buys power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, is enjoying reduced costs under a new TVA pricing structure.

Responding to the report, Harrell said SCES will not increase rates "in the foreseeable future."

The board also heard from Robert Cross of USI Consulting Group about the utility's retirement plan. It is in excellent shape, he said.

In other business, the board approved:

The purchase of supplies and equipment including conductor, meters, modules, uniforms and fiber-optic cable

The extension of a contract with Service Electric

Bids for tree trimming and vegetation management