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Public water service has been a hot topic on the national news front. Forgive this pun, but the "trickle-down effect" that has been brought upon by significant disruptions and shortfalls at locations like Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi, has caused many of us to take a much-needed closer look at our water operations. My municipality had a small system, but the environmental requirements and oversight weren't any different for us than they were for the nearby city. I admit that I was spoiled by having a genuinely dedicated operator who always went above and beyond when it came to the finished product. His devotion was evident as he enthusiastically and professionally addressed any complaints or concerns we may have had.


I recognized his abilities early on and made sure to compensate him appropriately to ensure that his high level of performance continued. Obviously, we offered a salary that was in line with other systems of similar size and responsibility, but we also made sure he had backup parts, help when needed, and public recognition of his abilities. I nominated him, and he won Pennsylvania operator of the year a while back. Lastly, an honest "atta boy" assured me that I could focus on other issues as manager and be confident that I was producing a quality product for our residents.


I realized early on that you can't be too careful when you are responsible for something so precious as drinking water. I didn't want to get lulled into a false sense of security, so I made it a point to speak with the operator every day. We regularly discussed national issues like those in Michigan and Mississippi and applied them to our own system. The ultimate question always ended up being: "Would you be prepared to respond to a similar situation" or better yet, avoid it altogether?


Of course, unforeseen breakdowns in the system were inevitable. An example was the slow and ongoing corrosion of bolts that held clamps in place and shutoff points. After it happened at three different locations in a short period of time, we quickly realized that all of these bolts needed to be replaced to avoid a catastrophe. The operator found a technique to make this change while not interrupting the system. It was a challenge but a needed procedure that didn't require alerting the average end-user and causing undue alarm. It was incorporated into the yearly maintenance program.


My point is that ensuring you have a professional team dedicated to the job will allow you, as manager, to focus on other aspects of the municipality to create a well-rounded operation. I often equated the manager's position to that of a firefighter, putting out one fire and moving on to the next. Most times, it seemed there was also something smoldering that needed attention. So, if you are looking ahead and want to discuss an STMP or perhaps make some team changes, KMS has the dedicated professionals you need to put out the fire. What puts out even the worst fire, water, of course, and you want to be confident that it's the best quality you can produce. So, let's "fire this thing up," get the water flowing and get those fires under control.

 

About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at david@keystonemunicipalsolutions.com. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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