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Vectren's plan to close field offices fuels complaint

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Three union offices in Indianapolis and 14 individuals want regulators to force gas utility Vectren North to reopen 16 of the 29 field offices the utility closed recently in central and southern Indiana, saying the move endangers public safety.

The petition was filed late last month with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1393 and by United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Manufacturing, Energy Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Locals 7441 and 12213.

The locals represent nearly 300 employees of Vectren North, which serves 570,000 gas customers surrounding Marion County.

Earlier this year Vectren closed nearly half of its field offices, instead giving field employees take-home vehicles. Some of the previous field offices are now used to store materials.

The complaint alleges that the more diverse dispersion of home locations can delay the time it takes crews to respond to incidents such as broken gas mains, endangering local fire and police officials and the public.

Among petitioners in the complaint are Frankfort Fire Chief Ron Bogard and Bedford Fire Chief Jon Wagner.

Vectren ceased staffing field offices in Attica, Bedford, Crawfordsville, Elwood, Frankfort, Greencastle, Greensburg, Huntington, Lebanon, Madison, Martinsville, New Castle, Rockville, Rushville, Seymour and Shelbyville.

Field offices that remain staffed include those in Anderson, Greenfield and Noblesville.

Evansville-based Vectren has not yet filed a response with the commission.

However, Vectren’s executive in charge of utility operations, William Doty, said  that evolving technology, including GPS equipment and vehicle computers, have “allowed our employees to be more mobile and better able to respond to emergencies, regardless of the time of day.”

After-hours emergencies are assigned to the employee who can most readily respond to an emergency, the utility said.

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