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Staff Reports



Older Ohioans: Know your abilities and options to stay on the road safely

State agencies partner to share tips, resources to prevent older driver crashes

Columbus, Ohio – Because being able to get around in the community is critical for older Ohioans to remain independent and healthy, the Ohio Department of Aging and the Ohio Department of Transportation are partnering to increase awareness of available resources for older drivers during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 3-7, 2018.

Drivers age 65 and older represent the fastest-growing segment of licensed drivers in Ohio and across the nation. While older drivers are among the safest drivers on our roads, they may be more likely to be seriously injured in a crash. Ohio has seen four consecutive years of rising traffic deaths involving drivers age 65 and older.

“The ability to get around safely in their neighborhoods allows older Ohioans to continue to feel connected and access opportunities to contribute to their communities,” said Beverley Laubert, director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “To maintain their mobility, older Ohioans should become aware of their changing abilities, understand the factors that can increase the risk of a crash and learn about resources in their communities to maintain their driving ability or find alternatives to driving.”

“There are many state and local programs and resources that can help older Ohio drivers stay safe on the road, as well as find alternatives to driving if they feel they can no longer do so safely,” added Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. “Doing so not only helps them maintain their independence, but also reduces risks to themselves and others.”

Normal aging may increase common risk factors for roadway accidents, including changes in vision, hearing, strength, visibility, reflexes and memory. Medical conditions and certain medications also may impact the ability to drive safely. Older drivers also may drive older vehicles that no longer fit their needs (e.g., too big or too small, or seats, steering wheel and mirrors do not adjust sufficiently). Finally, a fear of driving and traffic can increase the risk of a crash.

Tips for older driver safety:

Stay aware of your changing physical, vision and hearing abilities and adjust your driving habits accordingly. Exercise regularly to increase and maintain your strength and flexibility.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medical conditions you have or medications you take could make it unsafe to drive.

Try to do most of your driving during daylight and in good weather. Avoid busy roadways and rush hours whenever possible.

Plan your route before you drive and choose routes with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn signals and easy parking.

Avoid distractions while driving, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, or listening to a loud radio. In-car conversations can also be distracting.

Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you so that you can react if the other driver stops or slows suddenly.

Do not drive too slowly, as this can be as unsafe as speeding.

The Ohio Department of Aging offers a webpage (www.aging.ohio.gov/transportation) of transportation and driving tips and resources for older adults. The page includes a link to “Stay Fit to Drive,” a publication of the Ohio Department of Transportation that includes statistics about older driver crashes and tips to reduce key risk factors.

Ohio Inspector General Investigation Finds Ohio Department of Education Employee was Paid Over $16,000 for Consulting Work While Being Compensated by the State for the Same Services

Columbus, Ohio, November 28, 2018

The Ohio Inspector General issued a report of investigation today after investigating a complaint received from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) alleging that Jennifer Ross, ODE Consultant 3, contracted with the Columbus City School District to provide the same services she was being paid to perform by ODE.

In furtherance of the investigation, investigators obtained records from the Columbus City School District including invoices and purchase orders from R.O.S.S. Consulting (Ross’ private consulting business), consulting service attendance sheets, and payments issued for services rendered. In addition, investigators examined Ross’ ODE-issued computer and email account and found multiple emails, calendar entries, quotes for services, and invoices for services related to her private consulting company.

The Ohio Inspector General determined that Ross violated numerous ODE policies, including improperly using ODE resources to promote her private business interest, submitting a false travel reimbursement, and failing to report to ODE her outside employment. In total, Ross profited $16,300 for consulting services she provided to Columbus City School District during hours she was compensated by ODE.

The report of investigation is being referred to the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney, the Columbus City Attorney, and the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Ohio Inspector General Report of Investigation file number 2017-CA00033 is now available at:

http://watchdog.ohio.gov/investigations/2018investigations.aspx <http://list.em.ohio.gov/t/761259/10937416/5167/3/>

PUCO approves agreement implementing Columbia Gas of Ohio tax changes, alternative rate plan

COLUMBUS, OHIO (Nov. 28, 2018) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today adopted a settlement agreement that adjusts Columbia Gas of Ohio’s rates to reflect the lower corporate tax rates enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), and resolves the utility’s capital expenditure program case. A total expected tax benefit to Columbia customers is approximately $300 million.

“The Commission is pleased to approve a balanced agreement that credits Columbia’s customers with the effects of the TCJA,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “Rate impacts from important gas system work will be minimized thanks to the Commission’s strong stance on utility tax reform.”

Columbia will credit customers the amount it has over collected, plus interest, since Jan. 1, 2018 under the higher tax rate. The $22.5 million credit will be passed back to all customers over a 12-month period. Residential customers will see a $1.06 monthly credit on their bill.

Columbia will also reduce its base distribution rates by $121 million to reflect the reduction in corporate income tax rates. For residential customers, this results in a $1.06 monthly reduction in base distribution rates. The utility will also file a distribution rate case with the PUCO by July 2021.

Columbia will begin collecting deferred expenses related to its statutorily authorized capital expenditure program (CEP) through the CEP rider, totaling $74 million. The CEP rider will include annual rate caps to mitigate bill impacts related to ongoing capital expenditures. For residential customers, Columbia’s CEP rider will initially be set at $3.51 per month.

An ongoing proceeding regarding its infrastructure replacement program is expected to bring the total tax reductions to over $300 million, resulting in greater monthly savings for Columbia’s customers.

Background

On Dec. 1, 2017, Columbia filed an alternative rate plan to recover its deferred costs related to capital expenditures the utility has made since 2011 and are not yet reflected in rates. The Commission previously authorized Columbia to defer collection of certain expenditures and to implement a CEP.

On Jan. 10, 2018, the Commission ordered an investigation to study the impacts of the TCJA on PUCO-regulated utilities and how best to pass on the benefits to customers, and directed utilities to set aside money in excess of the reduced tax rate to later be returned to customers.

On Sept. 14, 2018, the PUCO staff filed its report of investigation related to Columbia’s application.

On Oct. 25, 2018, a settlement agreement in Columbia’s CEP case, which includes adjustments to Columbia’s rates to reflect the TCJA, was signed by Columbia Gas of Ohio, PUCO staff, Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, Ohio Energy Group, Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group, The Kroger Company, Interstate Gas Supply, and Retail Energy Supply Association.

A copy of today’s Commission opinion and order is available on the PUCO’s website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov by searching for case 17-2202-GA-ALT.

PUCO seeks proposals related to grid modernization collaborative data and planning working groups

COLUMBUS, OHIO (Nov. 28, 2018) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today issued request for proposals seeking technical facilitators for its PowerForward Collaborative working groups. Proposals are due to the PUCO by Dec. 28, 2018.

“The PUCO’s work on grid modernization must continue through our PowerForward Collaborative and working groups. We released an informed and thoughtful policy roadmap, and are now implementing the PowerForward Roadmap through partnership with our Ohio stakeholders and national experts. We must ensure that we are responding to an innovative and constantly evolving marketplace,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque.

The PUCO is seeking proposals for technical consultants to advise PUCO staff and facilitate the PowerForward Planning Working Group (PWG) and the PowerForward Data and Modern Working Group (DWG). The PWG and DWG will include discussions surrounding the integration of distributed resources and non-wires alternatives into the electric distribution grid, data access and data privacy.

On Aug. 29, 2018, the PUCO issued PowerForward: A Roadmap to Ohio’s Electricity Future. The PowerForward Roadmap envisions the future electric distribution grid as a secure, open-access platform that will give customers more control over how they consume electricity, and allow customers to adopt innovative applications of their choosing as they are introduced on the market.

The PowerForward Roadmap is the culmination of nearly 18 months of public dialog focused on how the PUCO can enhance the electricity experience for Ohioans through innovation.

Additional information regarding PowerForward, including over 100 hours of high definition video, is available on the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov.

Link to RFPs: Copies of today’s entries are available on the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov in cases 18-1596-EL-GRD, 18-1597-EL-GRD.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.

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Staff Reports