MLGW board addresses high overtime costs

At a board meeting Thursday, MLGW officials discussed an internal investigation conducted to find out why the utility spent $55 million in overtime over a two year period.  In the end, officials said, it came down to staffing issues.

"There is a perception out there among the public that overtime was being driven, I hate to say it, by lack of productivity," said MLGW board member William Taylor.

A team of MLGW analysts found that most of the utility's overtime pay went to construction and maintenance, as well as customer care.  Linemen, foremen, and general foremen made the most money.

Officials pinpointed one construction lineman with an annual pay of $52,000 who made $134,000 when overtime was included.  Why?

"A lot of that had to do with absenteeism situations," said MLGW analyst Cliff DeBerry, adding the lineman was a hard worker who filled in for people on sick leave, vacation, and other unexpected events.

"He was fulfilling positions that other people were not fulfilling, so I don't think he abused any situation," DeBerry said.

According to the analyst's report, while overtime pay was in the red, labor costs came in under budget overall.

"Maybe the picture is not as bleak as what it was thought to be at first," said interim MLGW President Jerry Collins.  "But, there's still a lot of improvement that can be made in the issue of overtime."

Now, the MLGW team will draw up a list of recommendations to address staffing and keep overtime costs at a minimum.