By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 4/26/20
During this unsettling Coronavirus time, Las Cruces residents can count on this: their tap will flow with clean water, their wastewater will be flushed away, natural gas will light up their appliances, and their trash will be picked up. These essential services are possible because of Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) staff members who support the City of Las Cruces infrastructure and are dedicated to making sure these utility systems work, even during a global shut-down due to a pandemic.
“Our associates understood that after March 11th, they would be asked to do more to balance their homelife and their work,” said Delilah Walsh, LCU assistant director. “They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure operations have not been impacted and services continue.”
“LCU employees immediately innovated to get the job done. They’ve rotated shifts slightly so that not everyone comes in at the same time, but instead arrive between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. for a full day of work,” explained Walsh. Technology already in place has also been adapted.
For example, Jaime Romero, LCU Water Line Maintenance associate, doesn’t come into LCU offices to clock in now; instead, he goes directly from his personal vehicle to his work vehicle at the start of his shift. This reduces congregation of associates and improves social distancing practices. “We’ve adapted technology in our trucks to do time tracking that we didn’t have before,” said Walsh. “Our people brought up solutions on their own to help take care of themselves as they perform their essential jobs and to help take care of our customers. They’ve been not only creative, but proactive.”
Personal protective equipment (PPE) issuance has been increased, especially masks. “When facing shortages with disinfecting wipes,” Walsh said, “We worked with our vendors, and then found new ones by really beating the bushes to make sure our crews are safe. This in turn helps us keep our community safe when we arrive to check out a gas leak in your home or start a new connection at a service site.”
Walsh cleared up a possible public misconception: although the City temporarily reduced in-office staffing levels to reduce the possible transmission of Coronavirus,
“All LCU staff is either working from the office, field, or home. Or, they have been transitioned to complete tasks within their job description remotely or at a different site,” she said. “These are the people who keep Utilities moving forward, including taking calls and responding to emails at home for customers who might need payment assistance provided by the City Council.”
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Water Line Maintenance associate, Jaime Romero, in full PPE - mask, gloves, and eye protection. This allows him to keep himself, co-workers, and LCU customers safe.