Cov­ing­ton thanks util­ity work­ers

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - JACKIE GUTKNECHT [email protected]­

The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil rec­og­nized it util­ity work­ers that worked through Trop­i­cal Storm Irma dur­ing Mon­day night’s city coun­cil meet­ing.

City Man­ager Leigh Anne Knight per­son­ally thanked ev­ery util­ity worker for their hard work to re­store power to city res­i­dents.

With an es­ti­mated 4,000 cus­tomers with­out power last week in the city, a to­tal of 900 hours of over­time was logged, with 655 of those hours go­ing to elec­tric depart­ment staff work­ing to re­store power.

Knight said 26 util­ity poles were ei­ther bro­ken, snapped or down due to the dam­age from Trop­i­cal Storm Irma.

In to­tal, Cov­ing­ton City Hall cus­tomer ser­vice staff an­swered 1,460 calls on Mon­day alone. That is com­pared to the pre­vi­ous week where they an­swered only 854 to­tal. The call vol­ume for Mon­day through Thurs­day to­taled 3,367, whereas the to­tal call vol­ume for the month of Au­gust to­taled 5,508 calls. That does not in­clude the nearly 2,000 calls taken by the 911 Cen­ter, she said.

Out­side help was pro­vided from Ma­ri­etta, Bam­berg, South Carolina and Hun­tersville, Kings Moun­tain and Statesville, North Carolina.

“To the best of our knowl­edge, this is the first time the City of Cov­ing­ton has had to ask for ex­ter­nal help from other elec­tric agen­cies to help re­store power,” she said.

Knight said city em­ploy­ees worked to­gether to help as many cus­tomers as pos­si­ble.

“Th­ese em­ploy­ees knew they were fac­ing mass out­ages and count­less downed trees, but kept work­ing to keep roads clear and re­store power,” she said. “As day turned to night the Elec­tric depart­ment con­tin­ued to work, check­ing lines, re­mov­ing limbs and mak­ing dam­age as­sess­ments

work to be­gin in the bucket trucks as soon as Tues­day came and the winds died down.”

As the power out­ages con­tin­ued, Knight said she saw at­ti­tudes change.

“As peo­ple started to re­al­ize they may be faced with long-term power out­ages, I watched and lis­tened as cus­tomers be­came ag­gres­sive and some used lan­guage their mother would not be proud of to­ward our cus­tomer ser­vice staff and even­tu­ally our elec­tric staff,” she said. “What cus­tomers didn’t see was the work be­ing done and the de­sire of our en­tire staff to re­store power as quickly as pos­si­ble.

“This was an un­usual storm for us and our typ­i­cal time for power restora­tion af­ter an out­age was far greater dur­ing this storm, but the heart of this staff never gave up. They con­tin­ued to an­swer calls and spent long hours restor­ing power. The Elec­tric Depart­ment worked into the night for days to re­con­nect the ser­vice our cus­tomers expect.”

Knight said she was heart­bro­ken to hear of the things that were be­ing said and done to­wards line­men in the city.

“Apart from the hard work put in by the staff of the City, I did get to see the best and worst of mankind. You have prob­a­bly seen the story in the news about one of our line­men get­ting a drink thrown in his face by a cit­i­zen that didn’t have their power re­stored yet. My heart was bro­ken when I heard about this in­ci­dent,» she said. «I just can’t fathom how peo­ple could be so cruel when line­men were giv­ing their all to pro­vide ser­vice to them.

“As a city, we made the de­ci­sion not to pub­li­cize the event, but word trav­els in our small town and even­tu­ally, the me­dia found out and I am ac­tu­ally glad they did. It al­lowed peo­ple to show their sym­pa­thy. The out­reach to that line­man and the ap­pre­ci­a­tion shown to all of our line­men from our com­mu­nity has been in­cred­i­ble and it sort of re­stored my faith in peo­ple.”

Knight said she was proud to see her staff take on the role of “public ser­vants,” and give of them­selves while giv- ing up sleep and food to en­sure oth­ers were taken care of.

“I am hon­ored to be a part of such an out­stand­ing team,” she said.

Knight per­son­ally thanked each mem­ber of the Cov­ing­ton util­ity de­part­ments.

“You guys have shown true char­ac­ter, de­ter­mi­na­tion and the heart of a ser­vant,” she said. “Again, I want to tell you how hon­ored I am to work with each of you.”

Photos by Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News

Left: Cov­ing­ton City Man­ager Leigh Anne Knight rec­og­nizes Cov­ing­ton util­ity work­ers for their hard work dur­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Irma. Right: Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston per­son­ally thanks work­ers for their ef­forts.

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