[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.
OPD Board of Trustees, Mesquite representative