NJUS manager earns pay raise
The Nome Joint Utility Board of Directors voted in October to sign a contract with John K. Handeland to continue as utility manager for another two years, but reserved his compensation for another discussion.
On Dec. 19, at its last regular meeting of the year, the board convened another executive session to discuss Handeland’s paycheck. Handeland will be receiving around $130,000 a year to oversee operation of the City’s water, sewer and electrical power services, as well as shaking federal and state piggy banks for capital project funding. Handeland has been with the utility at the manager’s desk going on 19 years.
The board computed the annual amount based on the same percentages that other employees received since Handeland’s last pay adjustment in 2013. In addition, Handeland will have 80 hours of administrative leave annually as he attends about 40 night meetings; plus, he will have 12 days annual leave, but no formal sick leave accrual. Board members unanimously approved the package.
“The industry standard is more, but it’s not just about the money,” Handeland said Monday. “I love Nome and the job, and am willing to do it for less than I could make somewhere else.”
In other business, cheaper fuel going off the barge into the NJUS tank farm this year did not show up on bills as a direct savings. “Sometimes you can’t win for losing,” is an old adage still true.
As a result of lower fuel prices in effect last summer when NJUS loaded more than two million gallons, the utility was able to lower the fuel surcharge, a reduction of $5.25 per month on a bill for 500 kwh, according to Handeland. However, this caused the utility’s cost of production to be recomputed by the state’s regulatory commission. This resulted in a reduction of Power Cost Equalization eligibility, from 9.79 cents to 8.36 cents per kwh, a drop of $7.15 in assistance, meaning even with the surcharge price reduction, a customer’s bill would go up by $1.70 on 500 kwh, Handeland said, doing the math.
NJUS has been working with engineers at CE2 to get a proposal on the cost to develop bid-ready plans for the King Place water and sewer upgrades. The utility is looking to another company, Golder and Associates, to make bore holes to study soil conditions in the area to include information in the plan on materials to be excavated during the project. This company has another project in the area in the next couple of months, Handeland told the board, so NJUS can piggyback the King Place soil work to reduce costs. The estimate for the soil study is $65,000 if done along with other work in the area.
NJUS staff sent a pre-application to federal U. S. Dept. of Agriculture to determine eligibility for grant funding to combine with an agency loan for water and sewer work.
NJUS has listed $4.3 million for water and sewer infrastructure improvements on the City’s wish list sent to the soon convening state Legislature. Four of the seven items on the federal legislative priority list address money needed for utilities, including water and sewer, as well as money to develop alternative energy sources, including geothermal and energy storage technology. Additionally, NJUS listed a need to acquire land in the port area and to build a storage building for utility, public works and emergency response equipment and NJUS office facilities.
NJUS will provide first aid training to power plant employees in 2018 per the labor contract. Additionally, hot sticks and bucket trucks have been tested. An arc-flash study has been completed to see energy available at specific electrical devices that employees would be exposed to while “interacting with” the electrical equipment at the facility. Staff have received safety training.
NJUS has developed a line extension agreement to accommodate new customers where new service cannot be reached by putting in only the standard one pole, which requires a contribution from the customer. Other customers joining the line within five years would pick up part of the cost of the extension.