I recently had the opportunity to meet the man behind the chatter, the head of Claremore Power & Light, Larry Hughes. A local boy raised in Oologah, a Mustang graduate in the class of 1992, Larry has worked for the city of Claremore for nearly 15 years. He’s got three beautiful daughters who attend Sequoyah High and Rogers State University. His heart and soul live in Rogers County.
That’s why it’s difficult for him to hear folks talking poorly about the city of Claremore. He started in the utilities department as a meter reader, and has worked his way up to department head. He’s attended numerous schools and earned plenty of certificates in the areas of electricity, meters and substations. Larry makes it a point to learn something new every day. Also, if he’s questioned about something that he doesn’t know the answer to, he’ll find out.
So let’s get to what people want to know about: the changes in the city’s billing system.
Here’s how the process works: the city of Claremore purchases electricity from GRDA at a wholesale price, then sells it to the citizens at retail. Claremore is in a 30-year contract; approximately 65% of revenue is returned to GRDA. The city is operated as a business in order to keep costs low for the people. Please note that the state of Oklahoma is ranked as having one of the lowest energy rates in the country. The City of Claremore, even at .11 per kilowatt hour, is not the highest in the state; we should be thankful for that!
Claremore is currently in the process of installing new AMI smart meters. There are still some meters in town that were installed in the 1950s, and they’re starting to show their age in lack of accuracy. About 3,000 households self-read their meters, which leaves room for errors. By the time all of the new meters are installed, everything should be correct and self-reading will be a thing of the past.
Last fall, people were in a bit of a tizzy over rising utility costs. Claremore implemented some new software, which did account for some glitches, which were rectified. After that, people started paying attention, which is a great thing. Whether a rise in costs is due to outdated meters or incorrect self-reading or mistakes, the AMI smart meters will fix the issues. Out of the 10,000 electric meters that have been installed so far, only two instances were discovered of a bill actually increasing. The new meters are scheduled to be installed across the board by the end of April.
I’ve heard some people complain about the monthly “customer charge” on the city bills. Let me explain that to you. Claremore customers pay a monthly fee of $8.50, whereas our neighboring company, VVEC, charges $25 per month. The customer charge goes into the general fund to help support multiple departments with in the city. Claremore Police Department and Claremore Fire do a pretty darn good job, and we are blessed with some wonderful parks, and all of those are helped by the customer charge.
Another issue I’ve read about are frequent “blinks” in power. A blink is a momentary power loss, not an increase like a power surge.Larry works with his staff of just 14 on dealing with issues just like that. It’s no secret that Claremore’s infrastructure is behind the times; there are still poles in the ground from 1947. There are 700-plus miles of overhead electric line, 200 miles of underground line and 10,000 poles in the system supporting 12,000 customers. When there is a call about a “blink,” the Power & Light crew heads out to help, concentrating their efforts on the areas with the most complaints. With the new AMI, they will have reports waiting on them in the morning, not just calls. It may ease your mind to know that two crew members are on call 24/7, and Claremore has an excellent response time in case of power outages, at just 30-45 minutes. In fact, all of the employees are required to live in a 25-mile radius of Claremore, which contributes to speedy responses.
The Power & Light guys can often be seen at community events, like Zipper-Q and the Bluegrass & Chili Festival. They use the money from selling scrap metal and wiring from outdated equipment that has been replaced to fund projects like those, as well as for building upgrades, so it does not come from the city coffers. Don’t worry, Claremore, you aren’t paying for their chili cook-off entry fees! The team is also active in safety fairs and safety days at local schools, as well as other charitable events.
Larry said, “I am fully aware that we work for the citizens in our community as a public servant, and I’ve loved it for the past 15 years. My whole life, I’ve been taught to work hard, solve problems, and do what I can to make things better.”
And if he can’t, Larry will take a weekend off to escape to the woods and relax in nature. Perhaps he’ll even catch some fish.
But most of the time, Larry can be reached Monday – Friday from 8a – 4p. While he’s often out with his crew, he’s officially located at 724 Ramm Road.
-MCM Staffer Ashley,
who hopes that this helps clear the air