McMinn County was one of the areas hit hardest by tornadoes last November. Clean up is an on-going process not only for residents, but for the Athens Utility Board (AUB). The company's communication tower was destroyed.
The replacement tower was being erected Friday. Assistant General Manager, Wayne Scarbrough says it was ordered before the tornado, intended to be used as a backup. Now it's in the "number one" slot.
"So we were able to bring that tower that we already had ordered and had on the ground, we've brought it to Athens, right here close to our headquarters," says Scarbrough.
In the meantime they've been using a pole purchased from TVA. The tower, which is the heart and soul of AUB's communications, helps dispatch keep crews safe while in the field.
AUB purchased another tower so they can still have a backup. The cost of one tower will be covered by insurance, but the other tower, as well as other damages from the storm, will be the company's responsibility.
"Poles, parts of the poles like cross arms, pole top insulators, lightning arresters," adds Scarbrough, will be covered by the operating budget and capital reserves. These reserves, today totaling around six million dollars, have been amassed over the past 15 years from flat fees payed each month by customers, regardless of how much energy they used.
"Our Power Division had ample reserves so that we can absorb the six to seven hundred thousand hit and it is not going to deeply impact our budget or our ability to react to another storm," explains Scarbrough. "AUB is not funded by any tax dollars. AUB is funded 100% by our rate payers' dollars."
Scarbrough says the backup tower will be installed about five miles from AUB headquarters and should be up and running by around early March.