BEC, NWE taking precautions so the “Lights Stay On”

By 
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, March 26, 2020

These are different times, perhaps different than any generation has gone through in their lifetimes. We asked our essential services of heat and electric services what precautions they are taking to ensure continued service. 

Kevin Owens, General Manager of Beartooth Electric Cooperative (BEC) says that they have taken immediate steps as of March 16, to ensure safety conditions in the workplace. They have locked their front office door. They are closed to walk-ins. 

Although Owens doesn’t want to predict what will happen to our community with Corona Virus or CORVID-19, he does assay they are taking the steps necessary to do their best to ensure “the lights stay on and we’re getting the bills out.” 

They have four linemen in Columbus and four in Red Lodge,” said Owens. “It only takes a two man crew so we’ll see how it goes.” In any case, he assures the public, “That’s why we have mutual aid agreements with other cooperatives. We put the precautions in place today because we don’t want to be a hub (for contamination).”

They feel supported in this decision in that “we haven’t had any blowback on stuff from town.”

It is a proactive way to do it, says Owen. Oregon and Washington have done that. “I have a nephew who is a doctor in Washington (State) and he had a chat with a doctor from the emergency hospital that was ground zero for the first case. They triaged the ER and ICU. No one’s written a book on it.”

In the unlikely case all 8 highly trained and certified journeymen crew members become ill or need to be quarantined, “we’d draw from other utilities.”

NWE press statement confirmed that all “Customer Service Centers are temporarily closed and personnel who serve walk-in customers are assigned other duties." 

Other steps are as follows:

“NorthWestern Energy voluntarily suspended service disconnections for non-payment, effective immediately, to help customers who may be financially impacted as the result of this outbreak. This suspension will apply primarily to residential customers and will remain in effect until further notice. As members of our communities self-isolate and work from home, we are ready around the clock to answer questions about your energy service and are here to help if you are having difficulty paying your bill. Montana customers can call 888-467-2669 and South Dakota and Nebraska customers can call 800-245-6977 to speak with a Customer Service Representative.” 

They are encouraging customers to activate their My Energy Account at northwesternenergy.com to pay bills and manage accounts online. Customers can also make one-time payments at northwesternenergy.com with their 8-digit account number. Click on “Pay My Bill.” 

Payment drop boxes are available outside NorthWestern Energy Customer Service Centers. However the centers are closed to walk-in traffic. NorthWestern Energy employees who have traveled to areas impacted by coronavirus cases are notifying their supervisors. 

NorthWestern Energy is splitting works groups, instituting work from home practices and assigning separate shifts to prevent spreading any virus or other communicable disease through the entire group in the event of an exposure.  

NorthWestern Energy is in direct and continuous contact with local health officials, and state emergency task forces in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Customers can follow them on FB or on Twitter (@NWEinfo) for updates.”

 

Category:

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 970, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Phone: 406-446-2222

Fax: 406-446-2225

Toll-Free: 800-735-8843

Open: Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.