By Cassie McClure
In March, change happened quickly for everyone. At Las Cruces Utilities (LCU), the exception was that the services its staff provides to residents – gas, water, and trash disposal – was an essential function to keep the city running. There were no plans to shut down, but there were plans to keep both staff and residents safe throughout the city.
“We needed to quickly wrap our minds around keeping the shifts going but trying to minimize the risks as much as possible,” said Ramiro Pereyra, LCU Gas systems inspection supervisor. “Most of our crews come together at the very beginning of the day when they clock in and receive their assignments.”
Las Cruces Utilities came in with different solutions for various areas that need to operate smoothly. Some crews shifted their times to come in at half-hour intervals. Some, like the crew for Gas, came into work in their car or truck and went directly to their work truck, their office on wheels for the day.
“The supervisors are the only ones who would come into the building and plot their assignments for their crew for the day,” Pereyra said. “We were able to minimize contact, but nothing changed on how we handled the work that we needed to do to keep gas flowing safely for residents.”
Interim LCU Director Delilah Walsh agreed, “We provide a continuation of services at all times.” Walsh explained that they adjusted to embrace needed flexibility with staff and with customers. “There was overtime and also for those staff who needed to quarantine, we managed to make it work with extraordinary leave and rescheduled others,” she said.
Walsh added that LCU, just from March to June, spent $43,000 for personal protective equipment and sanitation. “The safety of associates is key to the success of the entire utilities,” she said. “Their ability to be on call even in the most stressful of times shows the strength of our entire department.”
Las Cruces Utilities can be reached at 575/528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
Fernando Chacon, LCU Gas services technician, is handed his daily assignment by Tony Quintero, LCU Gas technician. This “truck-to-truck” service was one way that LCU minimized exposure of COVID to staff in common areas.
Note: This story was recntly published in the Las Cruces Bulletin.