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SSJID plans to hire 68 workers for retail electric

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POSTED August 13, 2009 2:45 a.m.
The South San Joaquin County Irrigation District will create 68 jobs when it enters the retail electric business.

Hiring plans along with other outlines of how the century-old public agency will provide electricity to customers within 72,000 acres in and around Manteca, Ripon and Escalon are part of an upcoming application for permission to proceed that is being made to the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission.

The  SSJID has contracted with the Modesto Irrigation District for specific support services during the initial start-up period. The SSJID, as an example, may have MID administer the public benefits program to allow the timely implementation of efficiency and renewable investments in the community. The SSJID also intends to become a member of the California Utilities Emergency Association. Members provide mutual  assistance during periods of emergencies.

The SSJID also has 50 years of administrative experience between SSJID General Manager and Power Systems Manager Jeff Shields in managing retail electric service. Shields has headed up two public agencies providing retail power including the Trinity Public Utilities District he helped carve out of PG&E territory in a bid to protect jobs and the local economy. Battles has worked for PG&E and oversaw a public utility as well.

The SSJID will have its operations and administration offices in district. That means customers will be able to have face-to-face contact with the people who make decisions and not have to call an 800 number or contact a call center in Florida.

“Local control makes a big difference,” Shields said. “If something is going wrong you can talk to a director in the store or at his home. You can’t do that with PG&E.

Shields noted that when Nick DeGroot – a local businessman who ran into numerous roadblocks trying to get PG&E to do a simple construction project that held up his North Main Street development for months – had no way to turn other than working the phones and corresponding by mail.

“If there was a delay of any type (with SSJID running the system), you can bet he would have gone by a director’s place like Dave Kamper and stopped here on the way out there to give us a piece of his mind,” Shields said.

He pointed to numerous delays the city has experienced particularly with the power pole project relocation on Union Road by The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

“You can believe I’d been out there as a flagman to do whatever was needed to get the job done,” Shields said.

The SSJID plan lays out how it will provide quicker response times plus upgrade equipment to reduce power servcie interruptions.

As an assurance that SSJID will be more responsive  than PG&E, Shields notes retail customers with SSJID will have the power to do one thing that they can’t under PG&E – vote the directors out of office at election time if they believe they aren’t doing the best job possible.

Other parts of the plan to provide retail power servcie that are outlined in detail include:

•purchasing the existing PG&E electrical distribution system within SSJID’s territory.

•construction of facilities necessary to separate the distribution system to be operated by SSJID from PG&E remaining system.

•construction of additional facilities to provide reliable service to all customers.

•sale of taxable and nontaxable debt to finance the purchase and all necessary capital costs.

•contracting for necessary power supplies.

•reducing electrical rates by 15 percent.

•expanding the customer benefit program currently offered to PG&E customers.

The SSJID board will have a hearing on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 9 a.m. on its plan to seek approval from the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission to enter the retail power business.

The Sept. 3 meeting takes place at the district headquarters, 11001 E. Highway 120.
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