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Avista makes amends

Residential natural gas customers have responded with gratitude to the news that Southern Oregon’s natural gas utility is granting them a $50 credit on their bills after an outage left them without heat, hot water or cooking capability for up to five days. Many also complimented workers for restoring service and relighting pilot lights.

Residential customers certainly were inconvenienced. And $50 should cover the bulk of the service lost by most residential accounts.

According to Avista’s Customer Service Guarantees web page, if you are a Washington or Idaho customer, you will receive an automatic $50 credit on your account “in the event we fail to deliver on a guarantee.” One of the guarantees listed: Avista will “restore your service within 24 hours of reporting an outage.”

So the company apparently is doing no more than it is required to do in two other states it serves.

That doesn’t address the financial losses suffered by commercial customers, including restaurants that were forced to close, serve only cold food or buy electrical equipment to fill orders. Avista announced it will make a $25,000 donation to the Ashland Parks Foundation instead of rebates to commercial accounts.

That’s nice, but it doesn’t begin to compensate commercial customers who lost business. They must file complaints by filling out a form and providing “Tax records and/or bank statements, payroll records, revenue and expense statements, (and) sales receipts.”

Avista’s website promises a decision within 30 days. Company officials should aim for a faster turnaround than that.

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