Staff consolidation plan takes a major step forward

EWEB will retain a customer service presence downtown, and other headquarters staff will begin moving to the ROC later this year.

Management and staff have been working for months on a staff consolidation plan by evaluating work needs, customer interests, and space options. A key ingredient to planning the sequence of a move and a new layout at ROC involves how we handle EWEB’s customer service presence. Should we retain a presence downtown? If so, where and how many staff?

Management looked at several options, including:
· A limited customer service center at ROC
· A full-service center at the existing HQ building
· Purchasing or leasing a different building somewhere in Eugene

At the Oct. 3 board meeting, commissioners directed staff to maintain some level of customer service downtown. That could be at the existing headquarters—in either the south or the north building—or in a different space somewhere in the downtown area.

There are advantages to maintaining customer service at the HQ building, mainly around visibility, access, and the availability of public meeting space. But there would be some hurdles to overcome if we were to maintain some or all customer service functions at HQ. For one thing, we don’t need as much physical space as the north and south buildings afford, so configuring our space needs in a way that optimizes the rest of the site for other uses would be a challenge. There are also potential complications around parking if we sell or lease parts of the headquarters site.

One thing was clear from the board—they do not want to operate customer service out of the Roosevelt facility.

“Looking at the social and economic profiles of our customers, it would be a burden for many people to travel out to the Roosevelt location,” said Commissioner Brown.

Other commissioners commented that our customer service center should not only be easy to access, but also present a friendly, inviting feel. The board agreed the ROC is not conducive to a community-oriented customer service center.

GM Frank Lawson indicated that this key piece of direction from the board clears the way to begin moving some staff to ROC as early as November-December, with the majority of moves occurring in early 2018.

“Consolidating the majority of staff at Roosevelt will result in efficiencies and cost-savings that will translate into increased customer trust and confidence,” said Frank. “This has been a long-time in the works, and I think we’re ready to go forward, not just with the physical move, but more importantly, with discovering new and improved ways of working together.”

What customer service functions will remain downtown and where to locate them is the next priority decision. “I’m interested in exploring options around what the HQ facility might look like different circumstances,” said Frank. “Our goal is to meet customer needs while maximize the value economic value to the community.”

A next round of discussions with the board regarding the future of the headquarters building will be scheduled within the next few months.

Commissioners OK draft budget with no price increase

The draft 2018 budget proposes no increase in electric prices and a three percent decrease in water prices. EWEB Commissioners at their Oct. 3 meeting expressed unanimous support for the draft budget.

This spring, we launched the Affordability Initiative to make the prices we charge customers for water and power more affordable, and to create the financial capacity for investments that support our newly-adopted strategic plan.

We are executing this strategic effort to control costs through efficiency improvements, workforce reductions, debt restructuring and program adjustments. The first goal of the initiative is the permanent reduction of $15 million from EWEB’s budget by 2020. We are making significant progress on this important goal.

This initiative, coupled with efforts over the past two years to reduce debt, lower operating costs and defer or delay certain capital projects, is already showing results. Going into 2018, EWEB is in the best fiscal shape we’ve been in over the past decade.

Holding the line on–and reducing–electric and water prices are demonstrable actions that provide tangible results to our customers.

“But our objective is not just cost and workforce reductions,” said GM Frank Lawson. “The much-improved financial position creates the financial headroom for EWEB to make the strategic choices that benefit our customers now and in the decades to come.”

The Board will hold additional discussions and public hearings on the proposed 2018 budget at their November and December meetings, and will approve the final budget at the Dec. 5 meeting.

Customer survey starts this week

EWEB conducts an annual benchmark survey that gauges how important many programs and services are to customers, and also asks customers how satisfied they are with EWEB and specific programs.

As a public utility, EWEB recognizes that the value of services is determined by our customer-owners. We engage the community through surveys and other activities designed to better understand customers’ current perceptions, values and priorities. Past benchmark surveys have consistently shown very high satisfaction with EWEB and support for broad programs and attributes, such as “water quality” or “electric reliability.”

Starting this week, Riley Research Associates of Portland, Oregon, will conduct the 2017 survey by telephone, as they did in 2015; EWEB communications staff is administering the online survey on the Cvent Web Surveys platform. Together, we will gather at least 300 completed telephone interviews and about 1,300 online surveys from EWEB customers, giving us statistically valid results.

Customer Open House planned for Oct. 17

The drop-in style Open House will provide an opportunity for customers to learn about utility infrastructure improvements and get tips for preparing for the winter storm season.

On the evening of Oct. 17, we’re inviting customers to stop by EWEB Headquarters for practical information on winter preparedness, energy and water efficiency incentives. They will be able to hear project updates and provide feedback on electric generation resources, pricing, and more.

The format will be similar to the Open House we hosted in January 2017, following the epic ice storms that affected roughly 24,000 customers.

EWEB managers, subject matter experts, and commissioners will be on-hand to chat with customers and answer questions.

We will also have an interactive electrical safety demonstration for the kids.

Door prizes and light refreshments will be offered.

Please help us spread the word! We would love to have a great turnout for this event.

EWEB Customer Open House
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
5:30-7:30 p.m.
EWEB Headquarters, North Building
500 East 4th Avenue, Eugene
Free parking, near LTD bus stop and bike path

Tips for storing water in your emergency kit

Here in the Pacific Northwest, experts recommend we store 14 gallons of water per person (and pet) in our household. How and where do you store all that water?

Throughout September’s National Preparedness Month, we are sharing emergency preparedness tips and resources through Employee News, social media, our website, and at local events.

This week, our focus is, “Storing Water.”

Whether you buy water from the store, or fill your own containers from the tap, there are some basic rules to follow:

•Make sure your containers are food grade and tightly sealed
•Avoid using glass containers, and don’t use milk or juice containers
•Store your water in a cool, dark place
•Keep unscented chlorine bleach in your emergency kit for disinfecting the water before you drink it

The Regional Water Providers Consortium has lots of tips and videos on water storage on their website. Check it out here: http://www.regionalh2o.org/storing-water-emergency.

Got space issues?

If you live in a small house, or you’re just baffled about where to store so much water, EWEB’s video on water storage might be helpful. Check it out here, and find more info on our website http://www.eweb.org/outages-and-safety/preparing-for-emergencies.

Be prepared. Have a family emergency plan.

With hurricanes battering the south and wildfires here at home, we’re encouraging employees, retirees and customers to take steps now to prepare your family, home and business for all types of emergencies.

Throughout September’s National Preparedness Month, we will be sharing emergency preparedness tips and resources through Employee News, social media, our website, and at local events.

This week, our focus is, “Making a Plan.”

Make a Family Emergency Plan

Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Make a plan for yourself and your family: know how you will contact one another and reconnect if separated, and establish a meeting place that is familiar and easy to find.

By talking with your family and coming up with a plan ahead of time, you can do a lot to help ensure your safety in a worst-case scenario.

Planning ahead helps the community as well. If we’re prepared and able to take care of our own in a disaster, that frees up first responders and makes it more likely that each of us can support restoration efforts following any kind of emergency.

Step 1: Put together a plan by discussing these four questions with your family.

1. How will we receive emergency alerts and warnings?
Many mobile devices will now bring you wireless emergency alerts—real-time information directly from local and federal sources. Check out these alert options:

Lane County ALERT ME! Lane County is able to send you emergency alerts via text message, email, pager, or voice call (in extreme cases), based on your preferences. Sign up today and share the types of alerts and notifications that you would like to receive, as well as your contact information and preferences.

American Red Cross Earthquake Mobile App Receive alerts and notifications when an earthquake occurs, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out.

FEMA Mobile App Learn what to do before, during, and after emergencies with safety tips, and receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.​

2. What is our shelter plan?
Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the disaster, it may be best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside by “sheltering in place.” Do you have an emergency stock of food, water, medicines, fuel and other supplies?

If you needed to leave home, where would you go? To a family member or friend’s home? A hotel? A shelter? Where is the closest public shelter located? Consider your options and discuss with your loved ones in advance.

3. What is our evacuation route?
In a natural disaster, some roads and bridges may be unpassable. It’s smart to plan ahead for a few different route options to your shelter location. Keep a map in your car in case your mobile navigation is unavailable.

4. What is our family communication plan?
In an emergency, many people trying to use their mobile phones and land lines at the same time may create network congestion. Have a conversation with your family and agree on a plan for how you will communicate and reconnect. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Try text messaging. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not.
  • Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain all family members know who to contact if they become separated.
  • Agree on a meeting place in case you are unable to connect via phone, text or email.
  • Keep portable cell phone power banks in your car, backpacks, etc.
  • Make sure each family member has a printed list of phone numbers in case your cell phones aren’t working.

Step 2: Document your emergency plan.
Here are some templates to use as a guide: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan

Step 3: Practice your plan
Review and practice your plan a couple times a year so that everyone will remember what to do when in an emergency.

Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can.

As we kick-off September’s National Preparedness Month, Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas is a yet another reminder that creating a plan for emergency communication and evacuation, and having a fully stocked disaster supply kit on hand are essential to surviving and recovering from a disaster.

National Preparedness Month is an annual event sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to raise awareness about the importance of preparing—in advance—for the unexpected. This September, NPM will focus on planning, with the overarching theme “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”

In support of this initiative, EWEB is encouraging employees, retirees and customers to take steps now to prepare your family, home and business for all types of emergencies.

Throughout September, we will be sharing emergency preparedness tips and resources through Employee News, social media, our website, and at local events.

This week, our focus is Building an Emergency Kit.

Build a 2-Week Emergency Kit

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management encourages residents to be prepared to be on their own for a minimum of two weeks. This will help emergency responders focus limited resources on injured and other vulnerable populations immediately following a disaster.

A basic emergency supply kit should include the following items:

  • Water – 14 gallons per person in your household, plus a little more for pets
  • Food – 2-week supply of non-perishable food, plus a manual can opener
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight + extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Check out the FEMA checklist that can help you build an emergency kit.

Upcoming NPM events & topics:

  • Sept. 16: Get Ready Eugene event at Autzen Stadium
  • Sept. 26: Mapping Your Neighborhood (3:30-5:30 at Eugene Public Library)
  • Sept. 27 Emergency Preparedness Fair (11-2 at Downtown Park Blocks)

Register now for Day of Caring projects

Friends of Buford Park, Northwest Youth Corps, BRING, NextStep, Pearl Buck, and Science Factory are just a few of the dozens of agencies that are looking for help during this year’s Day of Caring.

Day of Caring Group Photo Friends of Buford Park

If you’ve been thinking about volunteering for United Way’s Day of Caring, now is the time to register. Day of Caring is Lane County’s largest day of service and our opportunity to show the impact of a community volunteering together.

Check out the list of projects and start recruiting your team now!

The 2016 Day of Caring will take place Thursday, Sept. 21. The number of projects and needs for volunteers this year is greater than ever.

Why not get together with your friends and form a team?

Here’s how it works:

1.Form a team
2.Pick a project
3.Register online

If you’d like to join a team of EWEB employees, email EWEBCares@eweb.org and we will get you hooked up!

Are you ready for the Great American Eclipse?

State and local emergency managers are planning for an influx of about one million visitors into Oregon for several days on either side of the Aug. 21 eclipse. With this many visitors, concerns include driving times or gridlock, availability of gasoline, bandwidth for cell service, and timely availability of just about anything you might usually be able to buy.

In an abundance of caution, the Red Cross and other agencies are recommending that people plan ahead, and make sure your emergency kit is stocked with everything you need for at least 24 hours.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy this once in a lifetime event, while being safe and prepared.

Maintain a positive attitude & stay flexible

Planning ahead with some realistic expectations is a responsible thing to do for yourself, your family and your neighbors. Make plans that will have opportunities for flexible schedules and activities, and include ways to reduce stress for individuals and families.

Have a communications plan

Meet with your family and discuss the importance of preparing for an emergency. Where will you meet if you get separated? How will you check-in with each other? There may be some bandwidth issues for cell phone users, so one helpful tip is to set up and practice texting codes with the family that may still get through, like IMOK (I am okay) or IMATH (I’m at Tyler’s House). FEMA has great Family Communication Plan resources for emergencies. Go to www.ready.gov/kids to find check sheets, worksheets and some interactive games. The American Red Cross site is full of helpful information, too.

If you must drive, plan ahead

Expect that Aug. 21, as well as the days before and after the Eclipse could have significant traffic congestion. Keep a 24-hour emergency kit in your car including water and some food in case you are stuck for a few hours while trying to get to your destination. Fill up your tank in advance and drive only when necessary.

Plan for medical needs

In any emergency, first responders and medical personnel will be stretched pretty thin. Plan ahead to be sure you have an adequate supply of necessary medications and personal hygiene supplies. Now is a good time to brush up on basic first aid, too.

Stock up on food and water

Resources such as food, water and basic daily living supplies will be in high demand with a surge of people coming from all around. Plan ahead to avoid long lines and shortages. Also, keep some cash on hand in case of a power outage or other credit/debit card system issues.

Protect your eyes

Many stores are offering inexpensive, special eclipse-viewing glasses that block harmful light that can damage your vision. Regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes from permanent damage. Look for the ISO 12312-2 international standard on eclipse glasses (https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety).

Enjoy and be safe!

Two wind farms will be declared surplus, setting the stage for possible sale

Commissioners on Aug. 1 voted unanimously to explore the possible sale of EWEB’s ownership interests Harvest Wind in south central Washington state and Foote Creek in Wyoming.

The move to consider the sale of one or both ownership stakes in the wind farms follows the successful 2016 sale of the Smith Creek Hydroelectric facility in northwest Idaho. EWEB is long on power – meaning we have more generation resources than we need to serve customer energy demand, even under drought conditions, for the next decade.

Further, wind is among our more expensive generation resources, and both Harvest Wind and Foote Creek are remote from our service area. In addition, the lethargic wholesale energy market has not been kind to these higher-cost resources.

EWEB remains under contract to purchase power from two additional wind farms, Klondike III in Sherman County, and Stateline in Umatilla County.

Commissioner actions on Tuesday are only the start of a process that may or may not come to fruition. The Smith Creek sale took more than two years to complete. Any potential sale must be approved by commissioners.

EWEB owns a 21.2 percent share of the Foote Creek Wind I wind farm near Laramie, which started operations in 1999. The majority owner, PacifiCorp, is interested in acquiring EWEB’s share so it controls the entire site. The project has 68 turbines that are each capable of producing 0.6 mW.

Operations at Harvest Wind, near Roosevelt, Wash., started in 2009. EWEB owns a 20 percent share in a partnership that include three other Northwest utilities — Peninsula Light Co., Cowlitz PUD and Lakeview Light & Power. Like EWEB, two of the three remaining owners have sufficient resources to serve customer load and are amendable to considering a sale of the project.