Lights back on at Yampa Valley Electric Association’s Craig customer service center
CRAIG — Customers in both the largest towns in the Yampa Valley Electric Association service area have customer services centers for the first time since April 2017.
“After some needed renovations, we have re-opened the Craig office for customer service on Nov.1,” said Member Services Manager Kathy Bertrand. “Re-establishing full services within our current Craig facilities will allow us to continue to evaluate and explore options for the long term.”
The Craig Service Center was closed for customer service in November 2015. YVEA opened a temporary office within Yampa Valley Bank, but that was closed in April 2017.
“We located a temporary office at Yampa Valley Bank in Craig last year, but have continued to search for a permanent solution. We have received feedback from our members that the bank location has not accommodated them in the way we had hoped,” YVEA said in an April 2017 news release.
While lineman, as well as warehouse, vehicle maintenance, and field personnel, have continued to use the facility east of Craig since April 2017, customers unable to travel to YVEA’s corporate offices in Steamboat Springs conducted business via mail, telephone, and the website. Cash payments were, and continue to be, accepted at City Market’s customer service desk, and check payments dropped off at a drop box also located there, as well as at the Hayden Mercantile.
Moffat County residents were displeased with the closure of the Craig office, particularly in light of YVEA’s $9.7 million purchase of the new headquarters — the older TIC campus — in Steamboat.
More than $5 million offset by profits was made on the sale of several properties recently sold or under contract, said former YVEA CEO Diane Johnson in a June 2017 interview with the Craig Press. These properties include the old building in downtown Steamboat, a parking lot, and two properties that had been purchased before her tenure as possible build sites.
“A lot of people like to go sign up, do their connects, their disconnects — they like to do that in person,” said Moffat County resident Burt Clements at a YVEA community meeting in early June 2017. “They just don’t have a sense of security to try to do it by machine or by calling Steamboat. They want to go in and talk to someone.”
He added that the situation was especially inconvenient for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, the disabled, and low-income customers.
Johnson wrote in an Aug. 3, 2017 letter to the editor of the Craig Press that the closure and renovation were needed “to manage significant drainage issues, along with challenges we face with the height of our garage and our lobby.”
Current CEO Steven Johnson, who is not related to former Diane Johnson, said the remodel created an alternate exit for employees and also included laying fiber to the location to allow for IT network connection, installation of security cameras, new paint, and the addition of new furniture, blinds, and computer equipment.
About $160,000 was spent on the renovations. In 2017, YVEA board member Dean Brosious, representing District 4 (Craig), said, “YVEA has $810,000 in its budget for upgrades and repairs to the Craig building.”
Soon after Steven Johnson was appointed as YVEA’s CEO, he began a process to re-examine YVEA’s plans and said the money set aside had not been spent. Instead, he said, the association will create a new Craig master plan.
“Our intention is to have facilities in Craig and Steamboat without duplication of services, so we are working to determine what that looks like for Craig,” Steven Johnson said.
The new plan is due out in 2019. The planning process will help determine the scope, funding, and timing of additional improvements for the Craig facility.
For now, customers are once again able to conduct business in person at YVEA’s facility on the east side of Craig. To mark the reopening for customers, an open house was held Nov. 12 during regular business hours — 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Bertrand said about 25 members attended.
Between four and seven YVEA staff living in Hayden and Craig are now serving in the newly reopened office to provide member services, accounting, payroll/benefits, engineering, safety, and facilities services. A supervisor is available daily, and a manager is on site twice per week.
“All member needs can be handled at this office now,” Bertrand said. “YVEA is very excited to be back at the Craig service center and is enjoying the positive feedback from our members.”
The member-owned electrical association also recently announced plans to begin offering high-speed fiber broadband internet service within the city limits of Craig and pockets of Steamboat Springs.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.