by Danny Wade
After months of remodeling, the newly renovated lobby at Humboldt Utilities is set to open this week. General Manager Alex Smith is excited to have the front lobby back open for business.
Smith said the renovations took place for two main reasons, security and upgrading for computers.
The lobby was closed in September of last year when construction began. The community room in the back of the building was transformed into the customer service department for payments, requests to have utilities turned on or off, and for answering customers’ questions.
This is the second renovation the building has seen, according to Smith.
“This building was built in 1956 and was the Humboldt Electric Department,” Smith said. “The water, sewer and gas department building was located at the corner of Osborne St. and 14th Ave. and were managed separately.”
Smith said in the early 80s the two merged and in 1986, 30 years after the building was built, all the utility departments moved into the current building. After the merge but prior to the renovation, there was an appliance showroom where the lobby is today. It had stoves, grills, water heaters, lights and other equipment for sale. In 1986, the showroom was converted into the customer service department.
Now, 30 more years later, the building has seen it’s second renovation project. The lobby was the only construction of the project although the offices and hallways got a fresh coat of paint and new carpet.
“In 1956 there weren’t computers and in 1986 they were just coming into the work place,” Smith explained as one of the needs for the upgrades. “The customer service department needed new AC outlets, phone lines and network cables for computers and printers.”
When customers enter the newly renovated lobby, they will notice the same basic layout but they will see a fresh, modern look with a retro feel as well. There are new payment stations with large glass windows. The new accounts area and the collection accounts area are now enclosed with doors. Smith said this is important to have privacy when discussing sensitive information.
The renovation includes a new cash register system that immediately posts to the customer’s account as soon as the transaction takes place.
There is now a door between the lobby and the office area with a keypad locking system for security and well as surveillance cameras.
Something new is the payment kiosk in the foyer. Smith said customers can make payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week using cash, check or debit/credit card. Customers will need their account number to make payments.
Smith said this works very well for the 450 “Pay Your Way” customers. Pay You Way is a system where customers have a payment fund and can add to that fund at any time. Customers will receive a text message showing a balance in their fund as well as the amount of utilities used each day. They receive an alert when their account is running low of funds. The alerts are also delivered by email and phone message.
Smith said this is another service offered by Humboldt Utilities to make it easier for customers to pay their bills. For those customers who work odd hours, late shift, or whatever may be the case, the kiosk is always open to accept payments.
Even with spending thousands of dollars, Smith said Humboldt Utilities rates will not increase due to this renovation project. Smith said with a fiscal approach and planning, Humboldt Utilities offers some of the lowest rates for electric, gas, water and sewer in West Tennessee.