GONZALES — With an outdated fleet, worn equipment, and a budget that wouldn't allow for repairs, the city had put out a search for a company to come in and provide day-to-day maintenance and services for their electrical department. Only one bid had been returned for those services — by Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC) — and council had the option of accepting or rejecting the proposal.
During their regular meeting, council expressed their ease at moving into the agreement after GVEC CEO Darren Schauer explained that the changeover should be painless and his workers would be quick to fix anything that may come up, with their close proximity to town and their trained linemen. He also said he thought that costs will go down for the city while services will remain exemplary.
Schauer brought relief to council when he said that GVEC will hire up to four employees from the city's electric department at the same pay rate, as requested in the city's contract. Currently there are five employees on that staff.
City Manager Tim Patek stated later that the city is looking to keep on two workers to act as a superintendent liaison and meter reader. When GVEC hires the other three, that means that no one will be out of a job.
District 3 Councilman Bobby O'Neal stated that change is difficult but he believes that services will be good. District 1 Councilman Tommy Schurig said that he came into the discussion with doubts, but those were calmed after Schauer's reassurances. Mayor Connie Kacir applauded GVEC for their time invested to offer employment to the city workers. The motion passed unanimously.
The takeaway is that city electric customers should not see any changes, officials said. Billing will still come from city hall and residents will still call the same number to report outages and problems. The changes should not cause electric bills to increase either. Over time, the city will evaluate the impact of the costs savings from this arrangement and will determine how those savings should be used to support the electric system and ratepayers.
Questions had been asked regarding deposits paid by customers. The deposits retained by the City of Gonzales will continue to be held in accordance with its existing policy. The city continues to be responsible for the collections of payments which those deposits are meant to secure.
GVEC said that it has numerous qualified linemen and support staff located in Gonzales that will be dedicated to supporting the efforts of operating and maintaining the electric system. GVEC is committed at a minimum to the same level of response time that the citizens of Gonzales experienced when the operations and maintenance services were provided by the City of Gonzales. Citizens should not see an increase in the response time.