MEUW Weekly :: July 16, 2019

Keep cool in hot weather: High humidity and extreme temperatures are forecast across the state throughout the week. Click here for some timely reminders from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help you stay cool and safe in the hot weather.

MEUW monitoring need for mutual aid assistance in response to Gulf Coast storm: Over the weekend, “Barry” strengthened to a Category 1 Hurricane, battering the Louisiana coastline and dumping massive amounts of rain as it moved northward and weakened. MEUW took part in the American Public Power Association’s mutual aid working group conference calls that began last Thursday. While there were some power outages, the utilities affected did not need to request assistance from our Wisconsin utilities. As Hurricane season continues, we will be monitoring needs for crews to travel to out-of-state affected areas and will communicate those needs to MEUW members as warranted. If you have questions about mutual aid, please contact Manager of Safety Service Mike Czuprynko at (608) 478-2530.

Member Inquiries:  Two MEUW members are seeking insights from fellow members. If you can help out, please respond directly to the requester.

Manitowoc Public Utilities (MPU) is working to develop criteria for employee participation in state and national associations at different levels (e.g., committee roles, Board assignments, etc.) If your utility has developed any such criteria or policies, please share your experience with MPU CEO and General Manager Nilaksh Kothari

Clintonville Utilities is exploring ideas to set up the many required labor accounts for PSC tracking in its MiPay payroll system. If your utility uses MiPay for payroll and have ideas to share, please contact Clintonville Electric Manager Brian Ellickson at (715) 823-7641.

Small cell legislation takes effect: On July 10 Governor Tony Evers signed Senate Bill 239 – the small cell bill – into law as Act 14. The Act took effect July 12, creating a uniform framework for the deployment of 5G advanced wireless equipment in municipal rights-of-way within the state.

Act 14 mirrors limitations placed on municipal right-of-way regulatory powers by the September 2018 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 5G ruling. It creates a regulatory framework for the state and local governments for: (1) the deployment by wireless service providers of wireless equipment and facilities for 5G service, including the placement of such items in rights-of-way; (2) the local permitting process for certain activities by wireless providers; (3) access to government poles by wireless providers; and (4) the resolution of disputes.

Many other states have passed similar legislation. Wisconsin’s version has higher fee caps and is less restrictive on local governments than those passed in other states.

MEUW has formed an ad hoc committee to enable municipal electric utilities to take an organized and common method working with wireless providers seeking to deploy the small cell wireless technology in Wisconsin. A handful of Board members recently stepped forward to provide insights and help to develop guidelines and model agreements that will eventually be made available to all MEUW members for the purpose of coordinating a consistent approach. The ad hoc committee is having a kick-off meeting next month. Additional information will be shared with MEUW members as the committee’s work progresses. 

Data collection continues for 2019 Wage & Benefits Survey:  Member utilities are encouraged to submit data for MEUW’s annual Wage & Benefits Survey before the July 26 deadline. This year’s survey includes several new questions and re-ordered sections to make it easier to complete. Only those utilities that provide information for the survey will receive a copy of the results when they are distributed in mid-August.

More than 30 utilities responded by the deadline for the first of two random drawings designed to encourage early submittals to this year’s survey. Prizes and winning utilities from the July 10 drawing are:

  • $50 Visa gift card (2 winners): Columbus and Sturgeon Bay
  • MEUW merchandise (5 winners): Boscobel, Cumberland, Fennimore, Lodi and Wisconsin Rapids

A second drawing will be held on Wednesday, July 17, among all entries received by 5 p.m. today (July 16). If you have questions about the Wage & Benefits Survey, please contact Tim Heinrich at (608) 478-0998.

Wisconsin PSC adjusts organizational structure:  The staff of the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has been reorganized into four new divisions. The stated goals of the reorganization are to achieve more effective and efficient operations, to optimize the use of human resources and management personnel, to provide more responsive service to the public and the PSC’s customers, to be more effective in decision-making and cooperative management, and to better meet program and workflow demands. 

The restructuring means some teams have been realigned and divisions have new names (including new acronyms).  Here is an overview of the new structure:

The Division of Business Operations and Office Management (DBOM) supports the day-to-day business operations of the PSC. Within the division are the Financial Services Bureau and the Office of Business and I.T. Services as well as the Office of Employee Engagement and Business Services. DBOM will focus on serving internal and external customers with I.T., budget, fiscal and employee onboarding and training services. Eric Esser serves as DBOM Administrator.

The Division of Digital Access, Consumer and Environmental Affairs (DACEA) is responsible to ensure customer access to essential services, to analyze the environmental impact of applications before the Commission, and to manage the PSC’s grant, energy innovation, and statewide energy-efficiency and renewables programs. DACEA includes three offices and a bureau: (1) Office of Environmental Analysis (the Environmental Team previously part of the Division of Energy Regulation [DER]); (2) the Office of State Broadband and Telecommunication Access (staff previously housed in the Divisions of Business and Program Management [DBPM] and Water, Telecommunications, and Consumer Affairs [DWTCA]); (3) the Office of Energy Innovation (including Focus on Energy, which has transitioned from DPBM), as well as the Bureau of Consumer Affairs (from DWTCA). Kristy​ Nieto is Administrator of DACEA. 

The Division of Energy Regulation and Analysis (DERA) combines the DER and Division of Regional Energy Markets (DREM) to support the PSC’s mission of regulating utilities to assure they provide customers safe, reliable and fair electricity and natural gas while ensuring Wisconsin’s involvement in regional energy issues. DERA conducts financial and engineering analyses; audits and investigates electric and natural gas utilities and utility holding companies; designs electric and natural gas rates; reviews applications for construction of transmission, electric, and natural gas utility infrastructure; and oversees natural gas pipeline safety. DERA has a four-bureau structure: Audit and Accounting; Rates and Finance; Electric Analysis and Engineering; and Natural Gas Analysis and Safety. Martin Day is Administrator of DERA. 

The Division of Water Utility Regulation and Analysis (DWURA) focuses on water and sewer regulation, including rates and infrastructure construction applications as well as water conservation and quality. Denise Schmidt​ is the Division Administrator.

Make sure your community doesn’t miss cable TV franchise fee filing deadline: Under a new state law, the Video Service Provider (VSP) fee percentage rate a community assesses will be reduced by 0.5%. So if your municipality’s VSP fee percentage is currently 5% of cable gross receipts, it will be 4.5%. The State of Wisconsin will replace the lost revenue to municipalities in 2020 by paying an amount equal to 0.5% of VSP gross receipts from 2018. In order to qualify for the 2020 reimbursement payment from the state, a municipality must file certain information with the Department of Revenue by Aug. 15, 2019. To learn more, check out this information from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Updated online calendar available:  The online calendar MEUW had been using for the Electric Utility Safety and Training Coordinators has been replaced with a new version that promises to be more reliable and easier to use. The calendar displays the training topic and location for sessions that Randy Larson and Mark Zielsdorf will be conducting. You can find the calendar here

The July edition of Live Lines was distributed earlier this month. In case you missed it, you can find it online here.