Fall Foliage, Ovando, Montana

SPRING-ing into Construction Season

Posted: May 31, 2019
Joe Smith, Chief Operating Officer

Spring is always an exciting time of year for utilities. As the weather begins to warm and construction season ramps up, projects that have been in the developmental stages for months are ready to launch. As a fairly new Missoula Electric Cooperative (MEC) employee, this time of year is especially exciting for me!

Since assuming the role of MEC’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) in January, I’ve become aware of, and gained appreciation for, our unwavering commitment to delivering reliable service to our members. A comprehensive Strategic Maintenance and Reliability Taskforce (SMART) Program was already in place, and our Operations team had outlined several critical reliability projects. Beyond strategic planning, I was also impressed with our use of system analytics, such as our Outage Management System (OMS), to identify, plan and prioritize efforts.

In 2018, MEC allocated resources to an aggressive Right-of-Way (ROW) Program, which was focused on trimming overgrown vegetation surrounding our power lines. Overgrown trees and vegetation play a significant role in service interruptions, outages and blinks (brief delivery disruptions). This spring, MEC will continue to focus on our ROW Clearance Program, which will contribute to our efforts on improving service reliability.

Whether our members are flipping on a light switch, plugging in their cell phone, or cranking up the AC, our primary goal is to deliver on our promise of reliable service. As we continue our vegetation management efforts, our small, but mighty Tree Trimming Crew of three, will be joined by three Contract Crews. These Crews will focus their attention on areas near Seeley Lake, Clinton and several isolated locations throughout our system.

In addition to MEC’s ROW efforts, our Engineering and Operations teams have already begun work on several construction projects. This winter, our Crews worked to replace aging poles, but due to inclement weather and hard-to-reach locations, were unable to access some of the poles. Remaining pole replacements will be on the agenda this spring, along with several projects focused on re-building feeder lines, which will help to increase capacity in growing and population-dense areas. Areas include; Koch Lane in Florence, Roman Creek near Huson, Touchette Lane near Frenchtown and Sun Valley Road, south of Lolo. Another project that began in May, was the replacement of underground cable. The largest of these replacements, is the Highway 12 project, west of Lolo, which has been in development and planning stages for several years.

As we begin the implementation stage of various projects, the end-goal remains the same… delivering reliable energy to our members. I am humbled, excited and feel very blessed to work for a member-owned organization and look forward to serving Missoula Electric Cooperative’s membership for years to come!