Las Cruces Utilities workers on the front lines of essential services

LAS CRUCES — During this troubling time of coronavirus, Las Cruces residents can count on this: their faucet will run with clean water, their sewage will be flushed, natural gas will turn on their appliances, and their trash will be picked up. These essential services are made possible by the Las Cruces Utilities staff members who support the City of Las Cruces infrastructure and are dedicated to keeping these utility systems running, even during a worldwide shutdown due to a pandemic.

“Our associates understood that after March 11, they would be asked to do more to balance their family life and their work,” said Delilah Walsh, deputy director of LCU. “They went above and beyond to ensure operations were not impacted and services continued.”

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“LCU employees immediately innovated to get the job done. They’ve alternated shifts slightly so everyone doesn’t arrive at the same time, but rather arrives between 5 and 9 a.m. for a full day of work,” Walsh explained.

The technology already in place has also been adapted.

For example, Jaime Romero, the LCU’s water main maintenance associate, doesn’t come into the LCU offices to clock in now; instead, he switches directly from his personal vehicle to his work vehicle at the start of his shift. This reduces associate congregation and improves social distancing practices.

“We’ve adapted the technology in our trucks to do time tracking that we didn’t have before,” Walsh said. “Our employees have provided solutions themselves to take care of themselves in carrying out their essential tasks and to help take care of our customers. They were not only creative, but proactive.

The issuance of personal protective equipment has been increased, in particular masks.

“When we faced shortages of disinfectant wipes, we worked with our suppliers and then found new ones by really beating the bushes to make sure our crews were safe,” Walsh said. “This, in turn, helps us keep our community safe when we arrive to check for a gas leak in your home or start a new connection at a service site.”

Walsh dispelled a possible public misconception: Although the City has temporarily reduced staffing levels to reduce possible transmission of the coronavirus, “all LCU staff work either from the office, in the field, or home. Or, they were transferred to perform tasks in their job description remotely or at a different site,” she said. “These are the people who keep public services going, including taking calls and answering emails at home for customers who may need payment assistance provided by the council.”

You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.

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Michelle J. Kelley