The Mesquite City Council and city administration demonstrated at their last meeting that they are listening to their constituents when they discussed how to deal with future prolonged power outages.
Hats off to Fire Chief Jayson Andrus and City Manager Aaron Baker for the work they’ve done to plan how the city will take care of citizens who need support for oxygen, food, security, and cell phone charging.
Sadly, the one public entity who should be leading the charge to take care of its customers is doing what it always does – obfuscate, cover up, deceive, and absolve itself of any core responsibility.
In fact, Overton Power District (OPD) Chief Information Officer Jon Jensen incorrectly stated how long the January power outage lasted.
Jensen said the outage only lasted eight hours. That may be true for his neighborhood in Moapa Valley. Maybe that’s why OPD stopped communicating with its Mesquite customers four hours before power was fully restored to the bulk of Mesquite. The power outage in my neighborhood lasted 13 hours, just as Chief Andrus said at the council meeting.
The previous unplanned power outage in March 2017 lasted 17 hours.
OPD testified at the Oct. 22 council meeting that they couldn’t guarantee any assistance for emergency transmission of power during a prolonged outage. That turns out to be only slightly true. They have a verbal agreement with Dixie Escalante to provide power through the ‘back door’ but don’t want to put it in writing because it might cost OPD too much.
In fact, OPD pretty much refuses to agree to anything in writing including signing on to the emergency operations plan that the city is developing.
Why is that?
Mesquite has the largest number of OPD ratepayers in the district, somewhere between 70 and 75 percent. I’m sure OPD will let me know if that estimate is incorrect.
Yet Mesquite continually receives lip service to its needs and second-rate service at that.
OPD’s only mission in life is to provide electricity. It’s number two job in that mission is to have back-up power ready to go when the primary source is interrupted. OPD is the one who should be creating plans for comfort stations and buying temporary generators to ensure the safety and well-being of its customers.
Instead, the only thing OPD elected officials and administration continually provide are excuses. And, its more than willing to let the city spend its money on back-up generators and comfort stations, and take the fall during the next power outage.
Mesquite has dealt for years with OPD’s “closed empire” mindset. It’s time to stop bowing at the feet of the supposed gatekeepers and for the city to continually shake it up and keep the pressure on. The Oct. 22 council meeting was a good start.
Multiple sources inside city hall have told me that OPD General Manager Mendis Cooper has agreed to meet with Mesquite city officials but does not want City Attorney Bob Sweetin or City Councilman George Rapson in the meetings.
Why do you think that is?
First, Cooper is not the one who should decide who does and doesn’t represent the city of Mesquite. The council, mayor, and city manager are the only ones in a position to make that call.
Perhaps he doesn’t want them in the discussions because neither of these gentlemen take OPD’s word on the surface. Rapson especially has criticized OPD since he was elected in 2011. He’s challenged their half-hearted promises and half-baked management of power issues for years.
Sweetin also knows a thing or two about power management because of the law firm he works for and that the city has access to as part of Sweetin’s employment contract. He won’t accept disingenuous answers to real questions.
OPD should immediately hire an outside independent engineering firm to complete a full audit of its entire system. When I say ‘independent’ firm I don’t mean the Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) that is simply a rubber stamp for whatever the OPD board and management wants.
As private citizen Dave Ballweg said at the council meeting, “OPD clearly has no idea where its critical points of failure are. Before you can make a plan, you need to know the problem you’re trying to solve. That takes an engineering study. OPD needs to hire an engineering firm to determine the critical points of failure in the system and how to address those.”
Ballweg knows of what he speaks. He has attended virtually every OPD meeting since 2011. He owns a multi-national, multi-million-dollar company, LoadTec, that designs and manufactures electrical power supply units and electrical system testing equipment.
Take a minute and compare how OPD operates “in the dark” while the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) continually works to “keep its head above water.”
Periodically, VVWD hires an outside engineering firm to do a complete audit and study of the entire water system that identifies weak points and determines where the district needs to concentrate its resources.
That information is presented to the public and the board in lengthy detail. VVWD management uses it as a planning tool and creates a list of projects it needs to complete according to urgencies outlined in the study.
Is it a foolproof method of management? No. The water district still has unforeseen collapses in its system. But the study provides much more insight that just guessing.
And guessing is mainly how OPD manages its system failures. Any ‘critical point failure’ study is done primarily in-house and is more a shot-in-the-dark than a concrete planning tool.
While power supply is OPD’s only mission, the city of Mesquite’s primary mission is public safety. The city is upholding its responsibility by thinking about, discussing, and planning for future disasters stemming mainly from power outages.
Good for the city.
OPD needs to find the light switch, come out of the dark and do its job.