There are some exciting changes happening in Galion’s Utility Office. Earlier this month, the city hired Dan Bute as the Utility Office Manager. During his first day on the job on Feb. 17, the city’s newest employee was ready to serve.
“I believe I can help the city with the transition, and my background in public management will add value to the operation,” Bute commented.
The Utility Office Manager oversees the six staff members in the office and the daily operations, which brings in $13 million of revenue each year. In addition, he will be the “go to person” for customers who need to make payment arrangements, dispute charges or file other complaints.
Bute graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington then went on to work for the State of Ohio for 13 years. Five of those years were spent as a purchasing and contracting supervisor before moving on to inventory control manager in the Adjunctant General’s Department. In addition, he completed training through the Ohio Public Management Program.
On why he applied for his current position, Bute explained he was looking for a job closer to home. “This position was open and I jumped at it,” he said, adding that he felt Mayor Tom O’Leary and Safety-Service Director John Swain have a great vision for the Utility Office that he wants to be involved with.
He said he will enjoy working closely with the people he serves. As far as his approach to addressing billing issues, Bute emphasized the customers own the utilities, so there needs to be “a win-win for both the city and the customer.”
Bute lives north of Galion in Whetstone Township. While he may not be a certified Galionite, he emphasized that he shops locally, attends community events and has family and friends in Galion. “I think that my ability to take ownership and serve the people of Galion will be evident…I truly believe I can make Galion a better place to live.”
It will take a few weeks for Bute to learn everything about the position, in addition to the software system. After that, he said he will be happy to talk to customers and work to resolve any situation they may have with bills.
On filling the manager position, Mayor O’Leary commented that Bute’s experience in public management will be a major benefit to the staff and customers. “It’s been really day-to-day from a management perspective,” he said. “The staff has done a great job, but it deserves management.”
He noted that one of the big successes of this new form of government was the separation of the Finance Department into a UtilityOffice and an Auditor’s Office. Initially they dealt with restaffing the Meter Department and a maternity leave in the Utility Office.
After Bute was hired, he and Swain went over priorities and areas for improvement with him. O’Leary said employee training for the computer software and business processes will be a main focus in the short term.
Late last year, the city implemented a payment system for credit cards at the office. This new system features three terminals where customers can pay with a debit or credit card; Visa, Master Card and Discover are all accepted (note that American Express is NOT accepted at this time).
Former Finance Director Karen Walters had purchased the software, and Treasurer Paula Durbin got the system up and running. Durbin noted the system is simple for customers to use, and for the staff to process.
“The city needed to give back to the citizens,” Durbin commented. In order to give back to citizens even more, the city absorbs the mandatory banking fees associated with processing the cards. The amount of the fee ranges from $0.85 to $2.00.
Since the office began accepting cards, customers have been taking advantage. Auditor Brian Treisch reported that in January there was more than $1,000 in payments made by a card.
A system for online bill payment is in the works as well, which is part of a complete overhaul of the City of Galion website. At this point there is no estimated timeframe on when customers will be able to make online payments.
Smart Meters were brought up during the most recent City Council meeting. The mayor said that is a low priority for now and the city will not be “leaping into anything,” instead investing in the staff.
The main phone number of the Utility Office is 419-468-6614.