Jan 06 , 2012
Natural gas slideshow

Crews brave the cold to bring reliable service to you in $1.4 million project

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
If you’ve traveled along Highway 95 in North Idaho by Silverwood recently, you may have seen Avista natural gas crews working alongside the busy highway. We wanted to let you know what they are up to. Our crews are relocating and increasing capacity for six miles of natural gas pipeline to accommodate a newly constructed highway.

The Idaho Department of Transportation is reconstructing a portion of Highway 95 from approximately Chilco to Athol.  The highway will expand from two to four lanes, which is great for safety and traffic, but means Avista’s existing 3-inch natural gas pipeline needs to move to a new right-of-way on the east side of the road.

Avista is expanding the capacity of the pipeline from 3 to 6 inches too. Expanded capacity helps serve existing customer needs and helps prepare our infrastructure for the future. The estimated cost for this project is around $1.4 million. Part of our requests for customer rate adjustments typically includes infrastructure work like this project.

You can see from the slideshow of pictures that the crews are clearing a pathway, laying down 40-foot lengths of yellow plastic pipe, fusing them together and then burying the pipeline with sandy soil. The sandy soil protects the pipeline from being touched rocks or hard objects that could put pressure on the new pipeline. After the line is in place it will be pressure tested before being brought into service.

The project started in mid-December and should be completed by mid-March. One of the biggest hurdles the crews had to overcome recently was frost. At times crews had to dig through 12 to 24 inches of frozen ground to make a trench that goes much deeper. Typically large projects like this aren’t completed during winter months, but Avista and other utilities agreed to do the work now to accommodate the Idaho Department of Transportation’s aggressive schedule. Luckily snow hasn’t been an issue yet, but if it does, our crews will work through that too.

Checkout other Avista Blog post about Natural Gas.
Published: 1/6/2012  11:31 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 04 , 2012
Employees work fast and give generously to bring Christmas to a customer in need
 
Donated tree
An Avista employee cut down a Christmas
tree from their own property to give to the
customer, along with donated lights and
holiday decorations.
Donated gift basket
Within 24 hours, the Customer Service
department raised more than $400 from
employee donations, which were delivered
in this gift basket.
 
As a single father who had struggled for a long time after his divorce, Avista Customer Service Representative Steven Schmitt was greatly impacted recently after taking a call from a single dad of two, who was struggling to pay the bills. There was no Christmas in sight for this family – not even a tree. But Schmitt and his co-workers didn’t just stand by and watch Christmas slip away - they sprang into action and brought Christmas to the customer.

The customer explained to Schmitt, that over the last six months, he had lost everything: his home, car, wife and job. He was having a hard time “catching his breath.” He had started a new job and just needed a little extra time to catch up.

“For some reason, this phone call really struck something in me,” Schmitt said. “I remember a time where, if it hadn’t been for the help of family and friends, I was almost the one telling my son he wasn’t going to get a Christmas. No parent should ever have to tell a child that.”

Schmitt wanted to give this customer something he himself was given in a time of need, a warm and bright Christmas for his children.

Schmitt and others in Customer Service were able to work with the customer on a payment arrangement for his energy bill and get the customer in contact with SNAP and some Project Share funds to get the his past due amount paid. SNAP also set him up for an appointment in January for further energy assistance.

That took care of the bill, but there was still no Christmas for his family.

“I wanted them to have a Christmas and knew we had to act fast,” Schmitt recalls. “I sent an email to all my coworkers in Customer Service, explaining the situation and asked if they could help somehow. I work for a wonderful, generous company where the employees are second to none.”

Within 24 hours, the Customer Service department raised more than $400 from employee donations. Schmitt used the funds to buy a bus pass, some gift certificates to local stores and a housewarming gift certificate to help with some of the bill. All the items were put together in a gift basket that included some Avista fleece blankets and water bottles.

An Avista employee even cut down a Christmas tree from their own property to give to the customer, along with donated lights and holiday decorations. Schmitt and a co-worker delivered the gift basket, Christmas tree and decorations to the family the Tuesday before Christmas. It was nothing less than an emotional and enlightening experience for everyone involved. There were a few grateful tears shed during the visit.

According to Schmitt, the customer was extremely grateful, and sent his deepest thanks and gratitude for all the caring hearts at Avista Utilities.

“I am proud to say that I work with an amazing group of people,” Schmitt said. “I thank everyone for their compassion and generosity this holiday season. We were able to make this a happy holiday for a father and his two children.”

If you are in need, we want to hear from you
Avista offers services for customers such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services (CARES), which provide assistance to special-needs customers through referrals to area agencies and churches for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance and other needs. We want to hear from you before you get behind on your bill – just give us a call. You can even make payment arrangements online.
Published: 1/4/2012  1:39 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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