Canadian company Liberty Utilities becomes new owner of Atmos Energy operations in Columbus starting Monday

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 27, 2013 

Starting Monday, Atmos Energy will have a new owner and a new name — Liberty Utilities — that should have little impact on natural gas service in Columbus, but is creating additional employees.

“We think it’s going to be a seamless transition,” Joel Ames, manager of public affairs at Atmos, said Wednesday.

“Technically, the deal doesn’t get done until Monday. But we did want to put out some kind of word to our customers,” said Ames, noting a postcard and letter already have been sent to customers, with plans to advertise the switch to the new name in coming weeks.

Liberty Utilities, which is owned by Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., a Canadian firm headquartered in Oakland, Ontario, announced its $140.7 million purchase of Atmos operations in Georgia last August. Dallas, Texas-based Atmos also has sold its natural gas business in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

Ames said Atmos employed 67 people in Columbus at the time of the announcement. It has since added 32 staffers in Columbus and in Gainesville, Ga., where it also does business. The bulk of those, about 20, are local, however.

“Everybody is still here who was here. And we still have two or three more we want to hire up,” he said, explaining the new positions include customer service, sales, human resources, finance and accounting, engineering, and environmental health and safety.

Atmos has about 60,000 residential, commercial and industrial natural gas meters in Columbus.

A letter mailed to customers from Roger Garms, president of Liberty Utilities in Georgia, said changes are being made to the company’s logo on bills, vehicles, uniforms and buildings.

Customers will also have new account numbers and a new website — www.libertyutilities.com — that they can use to pay their bills and communicate with the company.

There will also be new payment centers in Columbus where customers can pay their bill in person. Those will include several retailers.

Currently, Atmos bills can be paid at various convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as a pharmacy, pawn shop and jewelry store. “Walmart’s going to be one of our payment centers, and there are four or five other ones around town,” Ames said.

Customers should check the new website or call customer service to find out exactly where payments can be made starting Monday and thereafter.

Algonquin Power & Utilities, primarily through the name Liberty Utilities, does business in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire and Texas. Its various lines of business include natural gas, electricity, and water, to include sewage treatment.

Factoring in the acquisitions it has made recently, the company estimates it will have about 465,000 customers in 2013, with roughly 700 on its payroll. About 56 percent of its business is natural gas, with electric and water split evenly at 22 percent each.

NEW TELEPHONE NUMBERS

Atmos Energy in Columbus officially becomes Liberty Utilities on Monday. Here are the new phone numbers customers need to know:

• Customer service: 1-855-216-6305

• Emergency: 1-855-216-6306

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