LCUB Responds to Knox County Commission at Large Seat 10’s Proposed Unfunded Mandate Resolution and Ordinance

Tony Aikens, Lenoir City Mayor and LCUB (Lenoir City Utility Board) Chairman of the Board sent a letter to Knox County Commission on January 16, 2024. However, seat 10 Knox County Commissioner on March 18 presented a Resolution and Ordinance to the Commission Work Session and at the March 25 Commission meeting.

Dear Commissioner,

I am writing to communicate the opposition by the Lenoir City Utilities Board (LCUB) to your proposed ordinance amending Section 66-2 Utilities. LCUB was formed in 1938 by contract with Lenoir City and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). By the early 1940’s, LCUB had expanded its service area well into west Knox County and has been making significant investments and providing service to Knox County citizens and businesses for 80 years. Today, LCUB has more than 78,000 electric meters/customers in a four-county service region.

LCUB has a history of outstanding service, exceptional reliability, and reasonably low rates. It strives to maintain reasonable rates for its customers. An example of this effort is LCUB’s recent entrance into broadband service done without any rate increase to customers. This proposed ordinance that specifies unacceptable penalties for failure to comply with unreasonable timelines is in direct conflict with LCUB’s vigorous attempts to protect ratepayers.

The proposed ordinance addresses dangerous, damaged, and double poles. LCUB has a “safety first” operational approach. The Knox County Engineering and Public Works Department can verify that LCUB addresses all dangerous poles with immediate priority, often within a matter of hours.

In addressing damaged poles, LCUB responds to visibly damaged poles within five days, assuming no imminent danger exists. Furthermore, LCUB conducts structured bore testing of 10% of its poles annually. (It has two fulltime crews replacing poles daily on an ongoing five days per week basis.)

In considering double poles, LCUB proposes working with Knox County Engineering Department to develop a reasonable time frame to remove these poles that can be accomplished without a significant financial impact to ratepayers. It must be noted that LCUB has public Board Meetings monthly, same as your Commission. LCUB also has a link on its website for customers to report issues (or register complaints). Not one time has a customer or ratepayer expressed any concern over double poles, nor has a customer or ratepayer complained about a lack of responsiveness concerning damaged or dangerous poles.

Ironically, LCUB has not heard from a single Knox County Commissioner about utility pole issues at any of its monthly Board Meetings. In fact, LCUB learned about your proposed ordinance from another utility provider.

Also, just as a reminder, electrical right-of-way use has a long history of litigation. The state has codified many aspects of right-of-way use, and LCUB is regulated by TVA regarding joint use pole attachments.

In closing, I want to remind you that electric rates in the aggregate for all LCUB ratepayers in our four-county service area. Therefore, any financial penalties imposed by Knox County will also be paid by ratepayers in Loudon County, Roane County, Anderson County, and the Town of Farragut, none of which will receive any benefit from actions specified in this proposed ordinance.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments and LCUB’s position on this proposed ordinance. Let me add, you are invited to attend any LCUB monthly Board Meeting to present your concerns regarding any utility pole issues.

Respectfully,

Tony R. Aikens

Chairmen of Board

Lenoir City Mayor


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