City parts ways with Progress Energy

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By Alice Du Pont

It had been a long and sometimes rocky relationship between the City of Quincy and utilities provider Progress Energy. Progress Energy, for the past 50 years, has been the sole supplier of energy to the city. And, the city was at times, as much as $2 million in the red with its own utility payment to the company. At one point the company threatened to cut the city's utilities off and suggested city officials call the governor for help to pay the utility bill.
    All of that came to an end March 9 when in a ceremony reminiscent of a church mortgage burning, the flames enveloped the last invoice from Progress Energy.
    The final $691,000 payment was made early, Feb. 28.
    "This has been a joint effort by the commission, the employees and the citizens," McLean said.
    He said two years ago the commission approved the concept of rightsizing the number of employees and some employees were laid off. He added that the remaining employees worked harder which enabled the city to pay its debt down.
    Two years ago we cut the budget by 40 percent and we cut staff by 33 percent
    Customer Service Director Ann Sherman thanked the citizens because she said, without out them honoring their commitment to make their payments on time it would have taken much longer to reduced the debt. The collection rate for utilities has been as low as 85 percent in the past. Now, Sherman said, the rate of collection is close to 97 or 98 percent.
    "It was a team effort and the real winners are our citizens," McLean said.
    McLean said Progress Energy and the city have parted on a good business note and the company said it would be back in five years to bid for the city's business again.