Bangor Hydro may move customer service positions to Presque Isle

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 29, 2011, at 6:49 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Though there are no plans to reduce staffing, the Canadian corporation that owns Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co. is eyeing areas in which it can blend operations as a way of maintaining a strong presence in both territories.

One of the areas being eyed for integration is customer service, Bangor Hydro spokeswoman Susan Faloon confirmed Tuesday.

Emera Inc., based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has owned Bangor Hydro since 2001 and late last year it acquired Maine Public Service Co.

Since then, Emera and its electric utilities in Maine have been looking at ways to consolidate operations in a way that maximizes efficiency while maintaining the current quality of service and rates, Faloon said.

“That analysis did consider customer service operations and there is a proposal to eventually move the Customer Service Center in Bangor to Presque Isle over time, once current customer service employees have voluntarily left the company due to retirement or other reasons,” she said.

As customer service representatives leave the company, the positions would be filled in Presque Isle instead, with all positions ultimately being housed in Presque Isle, she said.

Bangor Hydro’s customer service staff consists of 34 employees, two supervisors and one manager at its facility on Telcom Drive in Bangor. Meanwhile, Maine Public Service has eight customer service representatives, one manager and an assistant manager working out of its headquarters on Carmichael Street in Presque Isle, Faloon said.

Though Bangor Hydro employees are unionized and their Maine Public Service counterparts are not, Faloon said Tuesday that was not a factor in the company’s long-term plans.

“Customer service is a position that would work well in either service area, whereas it makes more sense to move other positions to Bangor,” she said, adding that there are no plans to reduce staff at either center and no plans to ask Bangor-based workers to relocate to Presque Isle.

“We will continue to maintain two service centers at this point in time,” she said.

Faloon said the consolidation effort is not driven by any budget constraints or a need to cut costs. “Rather, we are always looking to operate our business as efficiently as possible,” she said.

“Growing the Customer Service Center in Presque Isle is intended to balance the number of overall positions in the two service areas in an effort to continue to maintain a strong presence in the northern service territory and excellent service to all customers,” she said, adding that the utility’s long-term vision for consolidation also calls for moving some positions that are not related to customer service from Presque Isle to Bangor.

She noted, however, that the vision is not carved in stone and is subject to regulatory approval, difficult-to-predict changes in the business over the next few years, as well as collective bargaining activities that need to occur before changes can be made.

“Bangor Hydro and MPS will continue to work through a number of proposals, which are expected when integrating two companies, to find a sustainable business model that delivers excellent customer service, stabilizes or lowers rates to customers, and is respectful to employees,” she said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/29/business/emera-eyeing-consolidations-at-maine-utilities/ printed on September 20, 2014