By Cassie McCLure
Published in the Las Cruces Bulletin August 28, 2020.
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) hosted a Virtual Stop of the American Public Gas Association (APGA) on August 13th. During the meeting, the organization was able to share new best practices in the gas industry that have been helpful to its members throughout the county during the pandemic.
APGA is a not-for-profit nationwide association for public and community-owned natural gas utilities and has over 700 members in 37 states. Due to concerns related to COVID-19, the membership tour with senior staff transitioned to a virtual tour that will include over 25 regional/state visits with APGA members nationwide.
Meetings lasted for approximately 90 minutes with topic-based presentations and an open-ended discussion roundtable for municipal natural gas employees to learn and engage with APGA staff about the operational, regulatory, and legislative issues at the federal level important to municipal natural gas utilities.
“Plenty of professional development conferences have been canceled or gone online during the pandemic,” said Lucio Garcia, LCU deputy director Gas. “But collaboration and learning from other gas workers is still helpful, such as hearing what others are doing to continue to provide gas services while keeping workers and customers safe from COVID.”
“Many of our members are getting creative with how they can help keep their employees and customers safe,” said Erin Kurilla, APGA vice president for Operations and Pipeline Safety. She explained that staggered shifts – like what LCU has been doing – can minimize foot traffic within the office. There was also a shift in splitting up larger crews so that if self-quarantining was needed, less of the active crew would be affected.
“LCU has implemented the truck-to-truck system for its crew, where the supervisor meets associates at their trucks every morning to assign their work for that day,” said Garcia. “We can show that these methods and procedures, that we started very early in the pandemic, still allowed us to serve our customers while keeping everyone safe as much as possible.”
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Juan Molina, LCU gas technician, works with mask and gloves to go out and check for leaks with a spray bottle of detergent that will show any leaks through bubbles.