An interview with William Bissette and Sharon Strain


Texas Roadshow changes

Sharon Strain and William

William Bissette, Sharon Strain and David Glenewinkel

Please tell us something about your careers.

WB: I have done electric work in one way or other for 26 years full time, working my way up from a Groundman to Utility Distribution Manager. I have been with the City of Seguin since 2002, first as the Electric Superintendent and then promoted to Utility Distribution Manager in 2004. Before this I worked at Bryan Texas Utilities; I started with them in 1985.

SS: I started with the City of Seguin in 1985 as a cashier in the utility billing department; this was my first involvement with the utility industry. I was promoted to supervisor in 1987.

And please give a brief history of your utility.

WB: We are a city-owned municipal utility that answers to an Assistant City Manager, City Manager, Mayor, and eight council members. We interact with a lot of other departments such as police, fire, streets, brush, and parks. In the electric department there are a total of 19 employees who deal with everything from reading the meters to restoring power during a storm. The water/sewer maintenance department has 11 employees dealing with everything from reading the meters to repairing broken lines.

SS: The City of Seguin provides electric, water, sewer and garbage services to its customers, as well as other services that cities normally provide their citizens such as street improvement. It is unique in that aspect, but this has both good and bad sides. Customer relations are important to all companies, but in a municipality it can become political. On the plus side, you have other departments that are available to help if needed to ensure customer satisfaction.

Currently the City of Seguin has 6,703 residential electric customers and 1304 commercial electric customers. The water customer count is slightly lower because of master water meters to apartment complexes.

How has deregulation impacted your utility and your customers?

WB: Other than seeing ads and asking a few questions our customers have not changed in any way. As a municipal we are not required to deregulate yet.

What are some of the key challenges your utility faces?

WB: Keeping up with new technologies, load growth and meeting the needs of the growing customer base.

SS: Technology is a challenge, because it is continually changing, and the cost involved frequently puts it out of reach. Also the city is growing, which is a good thing. But it also challenges staff to keep up.

Please give us a short overview of the metering operations.

SS: The city has one meter technician who tests, organizes and numbers all of our meters, three meter readers, their supervisor, and a serviceman who does the reconnects, disconnects and rereads for customer accounts. Meters are read monthly. Customer account numbers and meter numbers are downloaded to handheld meter reading devices, then after reading they are uploaded to an AS400. The billing software is H.T.E. Sungard.

  • Type of meters in the field (electromechanical, electronic, smart meters etc)?
    We have all types of meters in the field electromechanical, electronic, and smart meters. We also use turbine and combine meters for the water.
  • Stats on above (i.e. number of meters in the field etc)
    Most of the meters being purchased now are electronic. We have approximately 14 smart meters on our system at present. I would say 80% of our meters are electromechanical at this time but we are continuing to change these out to electronic as they fail, need to be upgraded or at a customers request.
  • Vendors that supply the meters?
    Hughes, Priester Supply, Wesco, Texas Metering Device for electric meters. We use Hughes, ACT, Ferguson Municipal, and Morrison for the water meters
  • How do you disconnect them if necessary?
    The electric meters are disconnected by installing a plastic device that plugs into the top and bottom lugs of the meter can, which allows you to turn the meter 1/4 turn and plug the meter back into the plastic device without contacting any energized parts.
    The water meter are disconnected by simply turning off the curb stop at the meter.

How are meters read and please give an overview of this process (i.e. if using AMR, which systems, no of installations etc).

Walking and entering into hand helds. See David Glenewinkel’s for a more accurate description.

What procedures do you follow when doing upgrades/replacements, and what are the key factors you consider when reviewing different meters? (e.g. local vs. imported)

Everything thing is based on the customers load and requested voltage. The different types of meters are chosen based on the capabilities, cost, and quality.

What is the potential for AMR and more advanced technologies such as smart metering at your utility?

Very good were are presently looking at different types of AMR solutions and hope to have one installed for water and electric meters within the next two years.

How does your utility manage customers who do not pay their accounts? Is there a legal process?

See Sharon Strains.

Do you outsource any business processes or operations (such as meter reading, billing etc?)
Not on meter reading but see Sharon’s for billing.

Please give us a short overview of your billing operations and some of your customer management / service initiatives

  • How do you distribute bills and how many are produced a month?
  • Are customers billed monthly?
  • Do you offer online bill payments, IVR systems etc – please mention the vendors involved).

See Sharon Strain’s for all of 11.

Where do you see metering and billing operations going at you utility in the future

Hopefully we continue to improve on different technologies and continue to grow.

What (if any) R&D activities are being undertaken by your utility? (does not have to only be metering and or billing related)

Not sure what R&D activities are?

What is your vision for your utility?

To continue to maintain, and distribute electricity through the utility delivery system in a safe, economical and efficient manner and distribute a safe, economical, and adequate supply of water in an efficient manner as well as provide quality service for all of the City of Seguin Customers.