Company addresses council’s concerns

By Winyan Soo Hoo

Representatives of the world’s third-largest water company, RWE Thames Water, visited the Champaign City Council Tuesday night to respond to questions and concerns about its recent purchase of Illinois-American Water Company and its parent, the American Water Company.

Terry Gloriod, president of the Illinois-American Water Company, said the company had made “organizational changes” that should not have a detrimental effect on Champaign. Some of these changes included streamlining its administrative functions, reorganizing and changing the parent company’s ownership and a bringing a “re-focus and recommitment” to the quality and service to its customers, Gloriod said.

The changes were meant to “achieve efficiency,” although Champaign customer rates are among the lowest for residences and businesses in Illinois, according to Gloriod.

With the changes, Gloriod said Illinois water quality and resources would remain in good condition and prices would continue to hold at stable rates.

Gloriod also said that Fred Ruckman, former chief financial officer for Northern Illinois Water Corporation, was recently named the managing director for Illinois.

“(Ruckman) is from this community, knows this community and now has a responsibility for this community,” Gloriod said. “Champaign is in good hands.”

The council raised concerns about the location of the company’s Alton, Ill.-based call center. Council members were concerned that the center’s phone operators may not be familiar with the Champaign neighborhood.

Gloriod said the call center would contact a “dispatch time critical service order” and would respond to possible problems.

Gloriod also said the company planned to address terrorism. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the company searched for security experts to decide how to protect the American Water facilities around the country. Gloriod said the company relied heavily on manpower to post watch around facilities and stay alert.

“We believe we are at the right level of security,” Gloriod said. “The security changes we made in 2002 even reduced costs slightly.”

The company also planned to build a new water treatment facility for Champaign in coming years. Gloriod said the company would consider Champaign’s growth rate, water use and fixed production capacity when planning for the new facility.