Unthoughts

With the refreshing rain, and as a City Administrator, I am presented with things that I never thought of before.  To some, it may seem obvious, but many issues in city infrastructure are so camouflaged, it takes certain events to teach new insights.  Anyway, back to the rain.

Parts of Marion are served by a storm water drainage system, while other parts of town rely on surface drainage.  When we get a good rain like this morning, did you know a city crew member checks the storm drains in town to make sure they are open and allowing water to drain?  All the while, creek levels are monitored to the north and west of town to determine when the Luta creek inlet is closed to keep rising creek water from coming into town.

With our levee system, the majority of the water collected in town must eventually  be released back into the levee stream through drainage gates on the west and south sides of town.  The old Cottonwood River Channel within the levee has the potential of storing a vast amount of water, but this water must eventually go back outside the levee and on down the Cottonwood River.  This “release” must coincide when the outside levee stream levels are lower than the retained water inside the levee.

Another curious event with rain concerns the power lines in town.  More particularly, tree limbs that become weighted down with rain and sag closer to power lines.  Not only are they closer to the lines, they are also saturated with water and create excellent grounding opportunities.  Smaller limbs do not knock out sections of town, but do have the ability of creating “line loss” of electricity.  This is the distribution of electrical power without the ability of the city to capture the distribution with a meter.

“So what?”, you might say.  Well, next time you see a city vehicle driving in town, you might consider that the city crews may be monitoring water levels outside of town, drainage systems inside town, removing tree limbs from power lines, or checking on a variety of service requests related to the efficient maintenance of that barely visible infrastructure.

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“We’ll See”

There is a story told by “Gust” Avrakotos, the CIA operative in “Charlie Wilson’s War”, published in 2003 and portrayed in the 2007 movie of the same name.  The story is about a village where a young boy gets a horse, and all the villagers say “Isn’t it wonderful!”, and the village leader states “We’ll see”.  Then the boy falls off the horse and severely damages his legs and the villagers all say “Isn’t that terrible!”, and the leader says “We’ll see”.

Then war breaks out and all the young men have to go to war; all except the boy whose legs are messed up, and the villagers all say “Isn’t that wonderful!”.  The leader only says “We’ll see”.

This story illustrates how decisions, actions and situations can be interpreted.  I get the feeling the villagers were easily excited and disappointed, while the leader understood the longer view.  It also points out that events will happen, decisions will be made and results will be evaluated.  How we respond in the middle of the process indicates our degree of excitability and, possibly, our agitation.

I have studied and researched ways to make the city run more efficiently and consistently.  Part of that analysis has evolved into the current meter replacement project we are in the middle of.  As some readers may already know, when a meter is replaced, the final reading of the old meter is entered as the usage to be billed.

It seems like a small detail, but when a meter gets replaced later in a month, the bill may reflect two or three more weeks of usage which, in turn, may be a larger bill than normal; “Isn’t that terrible!”.  But the next bill may only reflect one or two weeks of usage, making the next bill much smaller; “Isn’t that wonderful!”.  It will take two billing cycles to get it back to “normal” usage and reading for billing purposes.

With the meters on a radio-read system, the monthly readings will be much more consistent; “Isn’t that wonderful!”.  Some households may see slight increases in usage, because the old meters (average 45 years old) may have slowed down and not been metering correctly; “Isn’t that terrible!”.  But, in fact, those homes have really been getting billed 92 – 97% of actual usage for the last 10 or more years, “Isn’t that wonderful!”.

Proper metering will allow the City to efficiently distribute utility costs fairly to all residents.  So, it is my hope that before we get into the cycle of determining “wonderful” or “terrible”, we’ll garner an attitude of “We’ll see”.  My research indicates “we’ll see” a much more efficient and consistent utility system for the village of Marion.