A working relationship spanning three decades makes for a smooth transition and that’s just what the Nebraska City Utilities will have as Jeff Kohrs transitions from office manager/accountant to general manager in April of 2018.
Kohrs will be replacing the retiring Leroy Frana, who has served Nebraska City Utilities for 42 years.
Frana and Kohrs worked side-by-side from 1984 to 1998 on customer accounting and financial accounting with Frana being the office manager/accountant.
Frana then transitioned to the role of general manager with Kohrs replacing him.
For the last 20 years, the two have continued to work closely together.
“We have been working together on the financial side of the business,” Frana said, adding that Kohrs is ready to take on the new role.
“The utilities has some pretty dedicated employees and I have always thought that Jeff was very dedicated as well,” Frana said. “He puts in a lot of hours—whatever it takes to get the job done.
“Jeff has always been involved, if not in the project itself, in all of the financial parts that go behind the project. He attends all the board meetings and hears all the discussion and hears the discussion in staff meetings. He’ll do great.”
Considering all the years that Frana has put in with the utilities, the thought of leaving isn’t one that’s easy, but Frana said he feels the timing is right.
“I will miss this place,” Frana said. “But, there is always a time to pass the baton on to other people.”
Through their years with Nebraska City Utilities, Frana and Kohrs have seen a lot of changes in the industry.
“Our industry is probably one of the fastest changing industries right now,” Frana said.
Changes include differences in how power is purchased and scheduled, the deregulation of natural grass in the late 80s and early 90s, and changes in water regulations.
The water regulation changes caused Nebraska City Utilities to increase the amount of chlorine in the water supply. Frana said the Nebraska City water supply is taken from ground wells which were deemed to be under the influence of surface water—the Missouri River. Even though there had been no issues, additional chlorine was required.
Some customers noticed a change in the taste of their water and Frana said the utilities explained the reason for the difference.
Connecting with customers continues to be important for the utilities. Just recently, the utilities launched a web site and established a Facebook page. Both are intended to educate customers by providing tips on conservation, efficiency and troubleshooting among other things.
“I look at it as a kind of virtual employee,” said Frana. “We are going to have a lot of information on there to, theoretically, help people so they can have instant access.”
The issues of efficiency and conservation are ones that Kohrs said will have increased importance going forward.
“There are limited resources and there is more emphasis on conservation and making the best of the resources we have,” Kohrs said.
While encouraging efficency among its customers, the utilities will also attempt to work efficiently to provide service to the area.
Frana said that, when he joined the utilities, there were 72 employees in the operation. That number is down to 65, but the number of customers served by the utilities has increased.
“It’s all about trying to do as much or more than you did in the past with as many or fewer people,” Frana said.