Jun 19 , 2012
Post by Brandi Smith
Standing in front of an old wood panel wall filled with items such as old smashed-up lunch pails, hot sticks, pole climbing gear, chew cans, and painted plaques, engraved and taped with names, nicknames and years of service entices many questions for those who walk the halls of Avista’s Lewiston/Clarkston construction office.
This particular lunch pail proved difficult
to smash...even with a line truck.
It is rumored that it had to be run over
three or four times before
it finally caved.
The tradition of hanging up an item of significance upon retirement began in the early 1950s. Back then, metal lunch pails were pretty common, and on an employee’s last day, they would back a line truck over the lunch pail, smashing it in honor of their years of service. It is rumored that one lunch pail proved particularly difficult to smash and had to be run over three or four times.
Over the years, the items hung on the wall shifted from lunch pails to other possessions of significance. It’s a menagerie of objects contributed from lineman, gas servicemen and even folks from the Clarkston Water Department.
The wall of fame, as they call it, represents more than years of service. It represents pride and years of hard, physically demanding work with an intangible reward – the lights are back on and the gas is flowing. Customers have the energy they need to power their lives.
If the wall could talk, we could all enjoy hearing the stories from the lineman who just retired after 35 years of service or the gas serviceman who began his career in the late 1950s, back when gas was new to the area. The wall of fame will occasionally get visits from the public wanting to see their friend or family member’s symbol of a lifetime of hard work.
A visit to the office also begs the question. What item represents you upon your retirement? Something to think about.
Jun 08 , 2012
Safety is a family affair in Oregon
Avista’s commitment to safety extends beyond our workday and jobsite – all the way down to our grandkids. Last Saturday Avista’s Eddie Randles recruited his 7-year-old granddaughter Arianna to help at Safety Saturday at the Rogue Valley Mall in Medford, Oregon.
Randles started the day with a Tailboard Meeting – just like employees who go out into the field to fix gas leaks or build new pipelines. (That’s her focused, arms-crossed look in the picture.) The detailed briefing taught Arianna all of the natural gas display items for the event and how they work.
“She even installed my pressure gauge build-up on the gas meter and found a leak with the Rover,” Randles said. “She was so versed in the different parts of the meter she was able to describe it to the Red Cross gentleman [see photo].”
The event was free and open to the public. Dozens of organizations provided information and exhibits, from document spreading to fire prevention to electric and gas safety.
Thanks Eddie and Arianna for going the extra mile for safety!
May 30 , 2012
Over the past few years, we’ve heard from our customers and employees that they want more information on how we do business in areas like utility operations, environmental stewardship and our community impact. We’re glad you asked!
That information and more is available in our fourth annual report on our performance, “Together We Will Build Shared Value,”
now online at avistautilities.com.
Our primary mission is to provide the energy you need for your life. The back story is all about what goes into providing that energy and how often this has additional benefits to the customers and communities we serve. That’s shared value.
In this year’s report, we tell many stories of how shared value is created throughout our business. For example, in the Utility Operations section we talk about how Avista must meet state-mandated energy savings targets. As part of our sustainable business practices, the report is published online
We’ve made PDF files available of the entire report and four of its sections for your convenience in sharing the report with others.
Shared value is at the heart of what Avista does every day. We hope you’ll take the time to read this year’s report and give us your feedback
. We want to hear from you about how – together – we can continue to build shared value.
May 23 , 2012
Post By Brandi Smith
The 811 Call Before You Dig, Damage Prevention Bike made its way through Spokane on May 18 and 19 to help us spread the word about the importance of calling 811 before you dig. The custom chopper revved up a lot of attention as Avista, in partnership with One Call Concepts and the Inland Empire Utility Coordinating Council featured the bike at three important community events. The Spokane Shock game on Friday night (congrats Shock on a nice win!), the Lilac Festival Annual Car Show and the Torch Light Parade in downtown Spokane on Saturday night.
One Call Concepts, Inc. commissioned Paul Jr. Designs to build the 811 Bike to help promote awareness of the importance of preventing damage to underground facilities. In 2011, for every 1,000 utility locates performed in Avista’s service territory, 7.9 instances of utilities being dug into occurred. This is much higher than the national average, which is 3.7 per 1,000 utility locates. Avista’s goal is to reduce the amount of dig-ins to our underground lines by 10 percent. Help us continue to spread the word about the importance of calling 811 before you dig.
May 07 , 2012
Avista is replacing nearly 9 miles of natural gas
pipeline in Davenport, Wash. The project is
estimated to cost more than $3 million. The
work will be conducted May to October.
Bring in the diggers and heavy equipment because construction is underway in Davenport, Wash., as Avista replaces nearly 9 miles of natural gas pipeline that’s approaching the end of its service life. The project carries a price tag of more than $3 million. It’s part of Avista’s commitment to maintain and upgrade our natural gas pipeline system.
From May through October, Avista-authorized contractor Loy Clark will be installing new natural gas pipelines in streets and alleys throughout Davenport.
As we replace the natural gas pipeline one section at a time, Davenport natural gas customers will experience a short interruption of service while we’re working on the natural gas pipeline in a specific area. Customers will be notified two days in advance of working in their neighborhood so they can plan ahead. Once the work is complete and service is restored, qualified Avista personnel or contractors will safely relight appliances, such as water heaters.
Attendance was light when we held an open house at the Davenport Memorial Hall on Wednesday, May 2, to answer questions about the project. Hopefully that means that folks in Davenport are comfortable with the project.
This six-month, $3 million project is just one example of how Avista must continually invest in maintaining and upgrading the natural gas pipelines that allow us to serve our customers.
Apr 23 , 2012
Ashland customer praises employees for going the extra mile
Guest Blog Post by Brian TaylorMedford, Oregon Gas Operations Manager
In my position as Gas Operations Manager in Medford, I hear from customers quite a bit, which I enjoy. One of the best parts of my job is when a customer goes above and beyond to simply thank our employees for work they did at a home or business. Recently a customer called after two of our employees spent time at her home ensuring the safe operation of her very antique range.
It’s easy to talk about customer service, but it’s another thing to actually do it - Avista employees Marty Moore and Eddie Randles live it.
In mid-March, Moore was at the Ashland customer’s home. Her antique range had a leak that needed to be fixed. Given the age and model of the appliance Moore was concerned that the customer would have trouble finding a dealer who could provide service. He called a few on her behalf and found no takers. So, when Moore was called away on an emergency call, he called in Randles, who was working on some natural gas pipelines nearby, to help out. This avoided immediately shutting the customer off.
Randles was able to fix the small leak around the control body seal. He also cleaned and adjusted the pilot light while he was in there. The range was so old that the name plate was faded. Despite that, he was able to get enough information about the range to find a dealer in California who still stocks parts for it. This information just might come in handy in the future.
Here’s the best part. The customer called and spoke to two different Customer Service Representatives about the employees who visited her home.
“She was absolutely amazed with all [Moore and Randles] have helped her with today,” wrote one CSR.
Another CSR wrote, “The serviceman was very professional, friendly and went above and beyond what she expected. He paid attention to detail and helped her with things she didn’t expect, every little detail to help her get back in service . . . She is very happy with Avista.”
We do little fixes, like this one, for customers all the time. If a customer needs something extra and we can provide it without too much trouble, we’ll go ahead and do it. For the customer in Ashland with the antique range, these fixes went a long way.
Have you had a similar experience? Tell us about it in the comments.
Apr 20 , 2012
By knowing what’s below, contractors and homeowners are making wise decisions
Summit Group, Inc.
A landscape design, construction and maintenance company
Digging in the dirt has been a part of my daily life for the last 29 years I have been in business. As the owner of a full-service landscape company, safety, as you can imagine is a huge focus in my line of work.
Landscaping in the Spokane and Couer d’Alene region is a seasonal operation which means tight schedules and deadlines. It is important for my company to have clear lines of communication between the project manager and crew, the homeowner, the general contractor and/or subcontractor and the utility locate company. In fact, Clearwater Summit Group
is never bashful about calling in a utility locate. One wrong move can compromise the safety of our employees as well as cost us time, money and credibility with the homeowner or general contractor.
In order to maximize our efficiency and safe operations, we have a clearly defined process for calling in utility locates. Our one rule of thumb is to never assume anything. If there is a doubt, we encourage our employees to voice their concerns to the project manager.
Since April is National Safe Digging Month, we are making it our mission at Clearwater Summit Group is to educate our customers about using the 811 Call Before you Dig system. Many of our clients will add to their landscape year after year and we want them to be aware of how important it is to know what’s below the surface of their yards before they embark on any DIY projects. Please help us and Avista
spread the word about the importance of using the 811 system
A message about 811 from Avista
We are proud to post messages from members of the community who are interested in helping us spread the word about the importance of using the free 811 utility locate system. Safety and reliability are top priorities for customers and that’s important when it comes to natural gas. Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.
Apr 18 , 2012
Enter for a chance to win a custom designed and pained helmet by local artist, George Roybal
Post by Brandi Smith
April is National Call Before you Dig Month, and at Avista we are doing our best to get the word out about how important it is to use the free utility locate system before digging into the unknown territory below.
In honor of the occasion, we have partnered with the Inland Empire Utility Coordinating Council (IEUCC) to bring a custom made chopper designed by Paul Jr. Designs to Spokane at no cost. You may have seen him on the popular reality show, “American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior” where the design and construction of the 811 Damage Prevention bike was featured.
To enter the contest go to
“Like” our page and fill out the entry form.
It’s that easy.
Don’t delay however,
the contest ends on May 31.
But wait, there’s more. Avista is offering a chance for one lucky person, biker or not, to win and design his or her own custom painted motorcycle helmet with the help of Spokane artist George Roybal.
Meet the artist
Known as the "Purveyor of Potent Paint", George Roybal owns and operates Illustrated Air
, a custom airbrush, pinstripe, and paint studio located in Spokane Valley, Wash. For over 16 years, George has transformed custom paint in the Inland Northwest. Renowned for his photo realistic airbrush work, he has garnered numerous "Best Paint" awards for his customers including The House Of Kolor "Prestigious Painter" award in 2002 on a 1995 Hummer painted with a cutting edge tribal graphic done entirely freehand.
What we are trying to say is that his work is awesome and you wouldn’t want to miss out on this golden opportunity to win something cool. Entering the contest is as easy as calling in a utility locate. All you have to do is be at least 18, “like” us on Facebook and fill out the entry form. Why 811 is so important
Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.
The new 811 Damage Prevention Bike created for One Call Concepts, Inc. will be at the May 18 Spokane Shock game and will be in the Spokane Lilac Festival Torchlight Parade and car show on May 19. Bringing the 811 Prevention Bike to Spokane for high-profile community events is one way that we can share with customers and the public about the importance of calling before beginning any project that involves digging.
If you have a project that needs a utility locate, call 811 or visit, www.call811.com to submit a request online. Simply click on the "local information" tab to get information on your state's utility locate service.
Apr 03 , 2012
Contractor dig-in causes gas outage impacting 105 homes or businesses; quick response gets customers relit in a hurry
An employee inspects the scene of a natural gas line
dig in at Dalton Gardens, Idaho last week. 105
homes or businesses were without gas overnight
during the repair and relight process.
When it comes to the 24/7-natural gas and electric service we all depend on, Avista’s top priority is to provide it safely and reliably. It is a commitment we all take seriously, and work hard to ensure every day.
An example of this occurred Monday, March 26 at a construction site in Dalton Gardens, Idaho. A contractor struck a four-inch steel natural gas line. The line break was blowing natural gas into the area. A four-inch line doesn’t seem big; however, that size natural gas pipeline can send natural gas to numerous commercial and residential buildings. For comparison, the internal diameter of a typical residential natural gas line is roughly three-quarters of an inch.
We received the emergency call around 4 p.m., just as our natural gas crews were getting ready to go home from their workday. A crew responded immediately to secure the area from potential danger and repair the natural gas line.
After working for nearly 24 hours between their normal workday and the emergency response, the three-man crew finished the repair. Another crew arrived early in the morning to go door-to-door to all 105 businesses and residences to ensure their natural gas service was back on and to relight their natural gas appliances.
Though larger natural gas line incidents rarely occur, you can count on us 24/7 when they do. That’s standing by our commitment to provide safe and reliable service to your homes and businesses.
What you should do if there is a gas leak outdoors
Below are some instructions on what to do if a natural gas line is ever struck or you believe there is a leak nearby.
When outdoors, look for these signs:
• Rotten egg odor in the air. We add an odorant that smells like rotten eggs so you’ll know right away if there is a problem.
• Blowing or hissing sound
• Dust blowing from a hole in the ground
• Continuous bubbling in wet or flooded areas
• Dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area
In the event of a natural gas leak, your safety and of those around you are priority one. Any time you smell or hear a gas leak, take these precautions:
• Evacuate the immediate area. Leave immediately on foot in the direction away from where the gas is leaking. Warn others to keep away from the affected area.
• Call Avista Utilities at 1-800-227-9187, and stay on the phone with us until we have all the information we need to send help. Never assume someone else has already reported the leak.
Because natural gas is lighter than air, it becomes combustible when mixed with air and exposed to an ignition source. Don’t smoke, light matches, turn your electrical switches on or off, use the telephone or do anything else that might create a spark.
To report a life-threatening emergency, always call 911.
April is National Call Before You Dig Month
Spring is officially here; and with the warming of the season comes outdoor projects. Before you start digging any time of year, remember to make one easy phone call to 811 or a click of the mouse to http://www.call811.com
to get your underground utility lines marked.
It’s easy and free. Just call 811 or request at http://www.call811.com
at least two business days before you dig, and a professional locator will come to your proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of the lines. Once you know where they are, it’s safe to start digging.
Apr 02 , 2012
We need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs
The new Noxon Rapids Dam Unit 4 turbine is
lowered into place earlier this year. This 4-year,
$45-million project is coming to a close in 2012.
An employee works to replace old wooden poles
(left) with a new steel structure (right). Steel
structures are more expensive, but typically last
longer than wooden ones.
A line crew runs a new, higher-gauge power lines
over a two block distance in downtown Spokane.
Work like this ensures a more reliable system
that’s ready when you need it.
An employee wears protective gear while using a
grinder at a natural gas job site in Spokane
Valley. We do our best to work safely on the
system that delivers you energy.
Today Avista filed requests with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
to increase overall net electric rates by 5.9 percent, and natural gas rates by 6.8 percent in Washington only. The UTC has up to 11 months to review the filings and issue a decision.
What does this mean to you? If you’re an Avista electric customer in Washington with average use and the Commission approves the requests, you would see an increase of $4.94 per month or about 16 cents a day, for a revised bill of $83.91. If you’re a natural gas customer in Washington with average use, you would see an increase of $4.23, or about 14 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $65.78.
So why is Avista asking for more rate increases? The simple answer is that it costs more each year to provide safe, reliable energy to you. Meeting our customers’ energy needs reliably and responsibly, while still complying with state and federal requirements, is our first obligation, even when it costs more.
About 40 percent of your electric bill and 35 percent of your natural gas bill covers the cost of delivery – the equipment and people needed to provide safe, reliable energy service to you. Maintaining and updating our generation plants (some that are more than 100 years old) and substations, along with more than 18,000 miles of power lines, a quarter of a million poles, and nearly 8,000 miles of gas pipeline, is a big job that doesn’t stop, and one that costs more each year. When we replace or update old equipment with new equipment and technology, it costs many times more than when it was installed. It’s much like when you update your older home or vehicle. Imagine replacing flooring, cabinets and appliances in a kitchen built 40 years ago, and how much more those items cost today than they did in the 1970s.
This was the primary reason for the proposed increase in our last request and we expect it to continue to cause a need for increased rates in the future. We’ll need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs. And, while our customers still pay some of the lowest prices in the northwest, we’re not the only utility facing rising costs and an aging system.
Keeping rates increases as low as possible
Even so, we work hard to manage our own costs and keep rate increases as low as possible. In the filings, Avista proposed a proposed one-year Energy Recovery Mechanism bill decrease, which is a rebate to customers based on power supply costs, to help offset the increase. About 60 percent of a customer’s electric bill and 65 percent of a natural gas bill is the cost of generating or purchasing electricity and purchasing natural gas to meet customer needs. Power supply costs were lower in 2011, due to factors such as declining natural gas prices and favorable hydroelectric conditions.
We also proposed through this request to help ease the burden of the increase on low-income customers with increased funding for Avista’s energy assistance programs.
Don’t forget, Avista offers services for customers such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services (CARES), which provides assistance to special-needs customers through referrals to area agencies and churches for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance and other needs. To learn more, visit www.avistautilities.com
Executive salaries in Wash. rates aren’t going up
So what about executive salaries, and how much do the salaries and incentives of our executive officers affect your rates? Not as much as you might think. Avista has proposed that the amount of executive officer salaries and incentives included in rates remain at their 2011 levels.
Approximately 25% of total officer salary and incentives is included in Washington retail rates, which makes up less than ½ a penny of every dollar you pay in rates. This adds up to about 40 cents of your monthly bill if you’re an electric customer with average use, and less than 75 cents if you get both electric and natural gas service. The bottom line is executive salaries aren’t driving energy costs up, rather it’s the rising costs of doing business and taking care of our system.
We realize in these difficult economic times it can be a struggle for people to pay their energy bills. We’ll keep working to reduce costs and improve efficiency while continuing to provide reliable, responsible energy at some of the lowest prices in the Northwest.