WILLIAMSPORT — As the final touches are being put on the $3 million renovation and modernization of Potomac Edison’s regional headquarters on Bower Avenue, a quarter of a million customers of its FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary will see some changes in coming weeks.
When FirstEnergy merged with Allegheny Energy in 2011, one of the changes involved subsidiaries taking on names familiar to customers in different regions, which was Potomac Edison in this area.
“We have a new headquarters with state-of-the-art equipment that allows us to communicate, manage and work as a team,” said James V. Fakult, Potomac Edison’s president of Maryland operations, during a tour of the facility earlier this month. “We’re in the community, and we’re making local decisions out of this facility.
“It allows us to be together, to respond to and to understand the needs of our community,” Fakult said.
About 130 people work out of the Williamsport center, company officials said.
The 130,000-square-foot main building on Bower Avenue includes 30,000 square feet of office space. Engineering, business services, meter reading, and service and human resources are among the functions consolidated at the headquarters.
The headquarters also has video-conferencing capabilities to communicate and work with other companies within FirstEnergy — a big savings in travel time and money, Fakult said.
In case of an emergency, work for major outages from storms can be directed in and out of the Potomac Edison service area from a hazard dispatch room.
On a recent day it was being used for training as Potomac Edison and other FirstEnergy subsidiaries prepared to switch over to a common computer system.
“All applications and software will be consistent across the 10 companies,” said Edward Shuttleworth, director of operations services for Potomac Edison.
When FirstEnergy and Allegheny merged there was an effort to adopt the best practices from each company, Potomac Edison spokesman Todd Meyers said.
For customers, some of the changes, such as billing, will be almost seamless, he said.
“Right now, in the mail all our customers, business and residential customers are getting, (there is) a bill insert showing what the bill will look like,” Meyers said.
“This will not be a huge difference for old Allegheny Power customers” he said of the one-sheet statement customers will receive.
Allegheny Energy’s website will remain up until the end of March, while the new Potomac Edison website will be up and running on April 2, Meyers said.
Most of the facility’s square footage is still devoted to maintaining and repairing thousands of miles of Potomac Edison transmission and distribution lines.
Shuttleworth said there are eight line crews working out of the building, one of 13 service centers in the seven-county region that Potomac Edison serves in Maryland.
Warehouse operations that had occupied a portion of the facility are being relocated to a regional FirstEnergy distribution center in Reading, Pa.
Hoping to encourage energy efficiency and conservation, Potomac Edison has incorporated many energy-saving features into the building’s construction materials, lighting, heating and air-conditioning, and plumbing, said Linda Moss, director of operations support for Potomac Edison.
Adding the local impact, the general contractor and subcontractors on the project are all from Maryland, providing work for companies in the region, Fakult said.