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Commission debriefs after DMU building fire
July 20, 2018

BY GABE LICHT
Editor

DELANO, MN – Delano Municipal Utilities General Manager Paul Twite praised employees, firefighters, and everyone who responded to the July 10 fire at the utility building during Monday’s meeting of the Delano Water, Light, and Power Commission, which provides oversight of DMU.

“The staff and crew did a magnificent job,” Twite said. “Everyone got out safely once they realized there was a problem. (Delano Fire Chief) Bob Van Lith was on the scene quickly. The Delano Fire Department did a fantastic job of showing up quickly and knocking it down. This could have been so much worse had we let it fester and stew. Quick thinking and quick reactions saved the day, literally.”

He credited his staff for their drive to continue business as usual.

“I have office staff that wanted to go back in and get newsletters and bills,” Twite said. “That’s dedication. I can’t tell you how blessed I am to have coworkers like that. This happened Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday at lunch time, we had bills out . . . The front of the office was pretty much business as usual.”

Adam Steffl, the vice chair of the commission who was running the meeting in the absence of Chair Jonathan, added that his neighbor was surprised to receive a bill in the wake of the fire.

Twite noted that DMU’s engineering partner, Wenck, provided its emergency response unit to help clean up the debris in the building.

Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association, of which DMU is a member, also assisted with emergency response and brought in a disaster recovery company to further aid that process.

Foreman Jim Griebl said, “I’m actually pretty encouraged at the minimum amount of physical damage. When you pull the ceiling down, it makes a mess and looks horrible. It’s impressive how much they’ve done and how good it looks.”

Commissioner Randy Keranen asked if the fire would have a negative effect on the generators.

“Two techs showed up today,” Twite said. “They’re going to spend the rest of this week – and probably next week – poking, and prodding, tearing things apart, and taking samples . . . They’re doing a survey to determine if anything is wrong. These things were made to run in tough situations.”

Griebel added that the technicians might spot problems that the DMU staff didn’t know existed even prior to the fire.

“There may be problems we’ve put up with for years that have small, easy fixes,” Griebel said. “I think we’ll be in a better place when they’re done. I don’t anticipate a lot of repairs.”

“The concern is if water got in,” Twite added. “That’s why they’ll take them apart . . . They’ll go through the intakes and everything. That’s kind of the next step, that just started today.”

All five generators in the area affected by the fire will be inspected.

DMU is required by Midcontinent Independent System Operator to test all generators by Aug. 31, but Central Municipal Power Agency and Services has requested an extension on DMU’s behalf.

Odds and ends
In other business, the commission:

• learned that the cash in the electric fund increased by more than $6,000 in June, while the cash in the water fund increased by more than $46,000. In related business, the commission learned the utility has enough cash reserves to cover slightly more than four months of expenses, which was the recommendation of the auditors.

• learned that the utility has met 61 percent of the annual goal for its conservation improvement update. In addition to work with businesses to upgrade lighting and appliances, the commission reminded the public of rebates available to do so for residential properties.

• learned that DMU and a contractor continue to build out utilities in the West Metro Business Park.

• tabled a formal review of the utility’s emergency standard operating procedure, with Twite saying he was about halfway through whittling down what he called a fairly significant document, as the commission had previously requested.

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