OPD Board member responds to criticism

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[Editor’s note: Mike Young is one of two Mesquite representatives elected to the Overton Power District Board of Trustees. Because he does not face any opposition in the 2016 election, he will retain his seat for four more years.]

We live in an age that has power outages. I’m sure whether you’re from here or some other place you’ve experienced power outages, they are a fact of life. There is no way to avoid them and when they are an act of nature, even the best planning and backup can’t stop them, it can shorten them, but they will still happen. In both cases the outages were beyond OPD’s control. As far as using Twitter and Facebook, those complaining don’t know what they are talking about. In the southern part of the U.S. when hurricane Katrina struck and power was out there was no radio, limited phone service and no power for computers or T.V.s, (similar to Mesquite’s situation). They found that Twitter and Facebook were the only things that were working and they saved lives by allowing locals to call for help. OPD had used it during the first outage to a limited extent but since has adopted this policy to see if it was usable and because nothing else was available.

This was the first time OPD had access to phone alerts and yes it’s true it was only once but now they are able to use the system can expand its use. Since almost all staff including the G.M. was at the site helping with repairs all night or trying to contact customers, there was limited ability to answer phones or change phone messages but they have pledged to do better. OPD does have a list of people that let them know they depend on OPD and they tried to call them Sunday night but with many phones out of service it was slow going.

Some suggest backup power. Staff and the Board all have been exploring standby generation for as long as I have been on the board and nothing comes close to affordability. Full local back-up would be about $50 million dollars and that’s just to build, are you willing to have your electric bills cover that? It’s about $3,500 per service. Any operating and maintenance costs are on top of that. At this point in time, if you need continuous power, you need to take responsibly to insure the necessary backup.

You also criticized the salary increase for the General Manager. If you or your staff had attended the board meetings you would know why his salary was increased. You may find some of the reason below; there is a whole new attitude with the staff, they are outgoing and open to admitting any mistakes and receiving comments and suggestions. When I first arrived a year ago I had complained about the 8% interested rate on $15 million in bonds. We have since refinanced and saved over 6 million, OPD also refinanced a small note saving about $65 thousand, small potatoes but I’ll take them potatoes anytime. Staffing has almost held steady with only one reduction. Staff had not had a cost of living increase in 8 years so the G.M. recommended 3% to which the Board agreed. He and staff are now negotiating new contracts for power starting the end of 2017. Because employees tend to stay with OPD, the Board established an educational reimbursement program to insure that staff have the opportunity to improve themselves and add value to the organization. The G.M. is now about $15 thousand underpaid compared to his peers but he has only been the G.M. a few years, but we’re confident he will bring even more success and improvements to the District.

We do want to know how we could serve our customers more effectively; we’re listening to suggestions for improvements but not to insults, falsehoods and innuendos. The staff and the Board want to give the best possible service and response but that doesn’t require them or me to be defamed or insulted by your paper or you. You have a big advantage as you can edit and post anything you want.

Mike Young

OPD Board of Trustees, Mesquite representative

Mesquite, NV

Comments

  1. johninnv says:

    Please provide real and researched potential costs for secondary power line from grid, Dixie Power, etc.
    Saying that OPD has looked at it doesn’t cut it – OPD also carried debt at outrageous rates while everyone around them realized the savings to be had from refinancing to lower rates.

    You also state that “Since almost all staff including the G.M. was at the site helping with repairs all night or trying to contact customers”. Really. Please provide a lst of the customers they contacted. Both Major Casino operations said they never heard a peep from OPD, as also the Hospital said. Who the hell was being called?

  2. It would have greatly helped customers to know to go to Facebook or wherever for information concerning outages whenever they occur. How about enclosing a card with that information with the bill when it is sent out. I found the outage info on Facebook only by accident. Why was there only one alert that came over my cell phone? More would have helped — like weather alerts. Is there not designated staff to issue alerts? Surely, office workers weren’t repairing lines. It doesn’t make a difference what day/night an outage occurs if there is an effective alert system in place.

    • Mike Young says:

      We did send a press release to all the local papers explaining the alert system, however not all of them bothered to print it. We do need to let more people know but have been trying to avoid extra cost but in light of last weeks outage this needs to be reconsidered. I like your idea of including information with the bill.We did have staff trying to notify customers with regular phone service. That was very spotty because many people don’t have a phone plugged into the phone service without outside electricity and many people left for other locations when the power went out. That simply is not a reliable notification system. This was the first time that we have had any access to cell phone alerts and now the plan is to have staff assigned to that task. However some people say not all people have smart phones which is true so OPD is open to other ideas but for now we’ll concentrate on improving our performance on what we have available. Thanks for your comments.

      • Teri Nehrenz says:

        Yes, they did in fact send us a press release and it was printed in the June 18, 2015 issue. It does tell everyone that facebook and twitter will be updated and used as a means of communications but it ALSO gives them phone numbers ” Before calling Overton Power District No. 5 during a power outage, check to see if others in your area have lost power. This information will help us determine the cause of the outage. If others have lights and you don’t, check your home’s panel box. A blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker could be at fault.
        If you’ve determined that the source of the interruption is outside your home, call us once.
        Keep the outage numbers near your phone so you can find them quickly: Overton (702) 397-2512 Mesquite (702) 346-5710 After Hours (888) 409-6735″….the telephone system was NOT used therefore it is still a fail and now tells us that OPD sent misleading or half useless information in this press release, and still brings us back to the original issue that Facebook and Twitter are not acceptable as the only means of communications…PERIOD!

        • Mike Young says:

          Hold on Teri, nobody suggested the Facebook and Twitter were the only means, they are just one tool. During small outages phones work find but as the problem grows you add more resources. As you find more things that work and you have access too you add them. If you had tried the phone as I did you would have found consent busy signal.

          • Teri Nehrenz says:

            Then what emergency resources has your general manager added to deserve his pay raise? Nothing since the press release and that information (phone) was ineffective. What resources do people have to find information if the power were to go out today? What resources were already in place BEFORE you discovered facebook and twitter? As far as the phone and getting a busy signal….would have been a lot less people calling a busy signal if you had put something on the outgoing messages…just takes a minute and word of mouth would have aided in people’s awareness…people share information and it would have possibly stopped many of those calls. It’s not rocket science Mike…you should have an effective plan and it seems that OPD just doesn’t. A multi line emergency telephone system would have been nice also, one able to handle those calls. You can’t tell me that customers would object to the cost of something so inexpensive and easy to install. There really are no excuses…you tell your customers that, “Power outages happen” yes and it is the responsibility of folks to be prepared but isn’t that OPD’s responsibility as well? Be prepared to communicate with your customers during outages, not after the fact….it wasn’t until after the fact that many found out what was going on or why their power was out…still not acceptable. By the way, I’m not an OPD customer, I have Dixie and believe me, when something goes wrong, they have a plan that is immediately put into action….now there’s a general manager that works for his money! I do, however, have a In-Laws living in Mesquite. My Father-in-Law lives in Highland Manor and my husband, step-son, Daughter-in-Law, Mother-in-Law and Brother-in-Law were all at Highland Manor that day celebrating my Mother-in-Law’s birthday…the staff at Highland Manor weren’t contacted about the outage. What customers exactly were contacted? Not the casinos, not the hospital, not Highland Manor. I would think those are pretty large accounts and very valuable customers. I have lived in Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida and now Arizona, I have NEVER experienced a public utility company that didn’t have a plan in place for emergencies and You said it yourself, “Power outages happen!” So knowing that…why isn’t there a plan in place for those occurrences? All available staff was out at the repair site….WOW, you must have a really progressive cross training program if your office staff was able to be any help at all at the repair site and knows how to repair downed lines…rather than being in the office where your customers needed them to be. You are a paid board member are you not? Why aren’t you doing something for the people who voted you into that position and, as a board member, making sure that your overpaid G.M. is doing his job. It’s all well and good that he’s saving the company money so you can all put a little more of your customer’s money into your own pockets but what are you doing to earn that money from the people who are ultimately paying you? You certainly aren’t holding yourselves accountable to them. Seriously Mike, what effective plan do you have in place for those who don’t do social media? Oh, my…just found out you are the former COO of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California…shame on you, you should know better! I bet being unprepared would not have been tolerated there. Remember, communication is key! It floors me even more now that I know what you used to do for a living and how badly you have let OPD ignore their responsibilities to their customers…and you, personally don’t even use facebook and Twitter….having an account doesn’t count as using…it’s been dormant since October of 2014, and you have no Twitter account so how is it that you justify social media as an acceptable means of communication to your mostly retired customers? What a joke!

  3. I moved to Mesquite 2 years ago from Houston, TX where everyday power outages was a common occurrence.
    In the 2 years that I have lived here, we have lost power twice. I say BRAVO to OPD for the good service that we receive.
    I also appreciate the updates that we received on Facebook during the last outage and found them very helpful. At least we knew why the power was out and that it was being attended to in the middle of the night.
    I guess I just don’t understand why everyone is so upset, OPD worked hard to get it fixed as fast as they could.

  4. Maggie Calhoun says:

    Thanks, Teri, for the additional information. It helps round out the picture of efficiency and forethought at OPD. I want to point out that the money OPD “saved” is a misinterpretation designed and used by many ‘public’ employees and politicians…Similar to the dove a magician “produces”. The magician does not “produce” the dove; he allows the audience to see it. Neat trick. OPD “saved over 6 million” by refinancing $15 million, and is “saving about $65 thousand, small potatoes but I’ll take them potatoes anytime.” by refinancing a small $65 thousand loan. OPD is lowering the payments for the ratepayers. I can’t ‘save’ what I don’t have. I can’t eat unplanted small potatoes. To decide to spend the amount I am ‘saving’ before I have it earned is considered foolhardy. I’m grateful that OPD decided to reduce its/our outgo on incurred debt by following good business practices. I expect that behavior and accountability from my public utility, even if it is quasi-public and purely private. I am angry at the patronizing attitude OPD exhibits toward its ratepayers. I will write a congratulatory note as soon as OPD earns it.

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