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Essential Services

Ensuring Essential Services for our Community

The year 2020 is marked by great uncertainty, brought on by the surprise of a pandemic that no one expected. The world turned upside down in the face of challenges associated with COVID-19. Close to home, we feel the effects of the health crisis and its economic impacts. While we are not out of the woods yet, our community’s ability to persevere remains strong. Fueled by a community-owned utility, our customers can count on Holland Board of Public Works to deliver reliable essential services. Residents and businesses count on us to keep the power on and the water flowing. Knowing what it means to our community, our commitment to providing reliable utility services is earnest and unwavering.

What does it mean to be essential?

When we talk about essential, we are talking about the very basics that our society needs to function, the baseline. As a whole, our community depends on a vast array of industries. All who live here and all who do business here are immensely important to the community. When we say essential, it is not in terms of measuring importance. Essential just means that we have to do our thing, so that you can do yours.

Reliable utility services are essential to our way of life. Our customers are accustomed to turning on the tap to access healthy and clean drinking water. They know that the lights will go on before flipping the switch. Holland Board of Public Works dutifully keeps essential utility services running with a high standard of reliability, every day of the year. We build and maintain the infrastructure for electricity, water, wastewater and broadband services. Our community counts on us to deliver our utility services right to its homes and businesses. Even through the pandemic, we aim to continue our standard of excellence, without disruptions to utility services.

Crisis Management

Living through the COVID-19 crisis has impacted life across the board. Adapting to a crisis brings opportunities for change and growth. For example, many organizations learned how to work remotely to keep business running while protecting their employees. Holland Board of Public Works is no different. We quickly adapted in a variety of ways to prevent the spread of the disease, protecting employees and customers from the novel coronavirus. HBPW has an emergency response plan that helped pave the way for adapting to COVID-19, but specifics for how to react to a pandemic were forged in real time. While we faced change and implemented new ways for doing things, our capability to deliver reliable utility services did not waiver. Sensitivity to our customers’ needs also took priority. Temporary policy changes were put in place to support the community through challenging financial times.

“Being closed to the public for eight weeks is something that we never imagined. The willingness of our team to be innovative and flexible was extremely valuable and allowed the transition to go well”

– Amy Yost, Customer Solutions Senior Manager

We have a strong safety culture at Holland Board of Public Works. As one of our core values, we want our employees to feel safe while they work. Keeping everyone safe and healthy is pertinent to the continuity of our operations. One of HBPW’s first safety measures in response to the pandemic was having people work from home who could. Those who are remote, conduct their responsibilities in the safety of their homes. They are protected and the quantity of people on site is reduced, allowing for better social distancing at all of HBPW’s locations.

On the other hand, some roles simply must be on site or work in the field. Keeping everyone safe at the plants and the Service Center is critical. The technical and skilled nature of utility work takes training, experience and knowledge. There is no surplus of talent that we can draw on if a large number of our workers get sick or exposed all at once. HBPW emphasizes diligence in prevention measures like social distancing, mask wearing and sanitation. We adjusted work schedules and location assignments to limit the number of people working in proximity to one another. For example, some electric line crews are based out of substations rather than gathering in a large group at the Service Center each day. Limiting the number of people in each location reduces risks of exposure by making social distancing easier to maintain. Operations at all of our plants were thought through to find the best accommodations for protecting our workforce while maintaining reliability of our services.

During the statewide shutdown, the HBPW Service Center lobby was closed to the public for eight weeks. In order for that to happen, telecommunications upgrades were needed to enable customer service representatives to receive calls at home. The transition was smooth and the technology is in place if it is needed again in the future. Closing the Service Center led more customers to utilize HBPW’s electronic services like online bill pay, direct payment and the MyHBPW customer portal. The shift occurred naturally. Many customers enjoy the extra conveniences of our online services and continue to use them after the Service Center reopened on July 6th. “Being closed to the public for eight weeks is something that we never imagined. The willingness of our team to be innovative and flexible was extremely valuable and allowed the transition to go well,” said Amy Yost, Customer Solutions Senior Manager.

The effects of the crisis are not limited to the biology of the pandemic. On one hand the health and safety concerns required efforts to slow the spread of the virus. On the other hand, businesses and people struggled as economic challenges arose. To help customers with financial hardships that occurred during the shutdown, temporary policy changes were put in place to help residents and businesses. We extended the annual non-shut off period through July 15, which normally resumes on April 15, after the winter months. We also work with customers on a case-by-case basis to create payment plans and connect them to financial resources. Information about assistance resources is also listed on hollandbpw.com. Individuals are directed to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for utility assistance. Holland Board of Public Works is part of a communications system through Lakeshore Advantage and the West Coast Chamber of Commerce. With these networks, we are able to lead businesses to connections that could offer support.

Our Commitment

Holland Board of Public Works continues to face the pandemic with diligence to keep our community and workface safe. Our emphasis on safety protects our employees who are essential to maintaining reliable operations that keep our services going strong. We adapted swiftly to ensure continuity of our services. HBPW remains dedicated to being a source of information and community support throughout these unprecedented times. We are committed to staying the course, while being agile in our response to current conditions. Our services play a vital role in our community. Know that we are here with an unwavering pursuit of our mission to provide essential, economical and innovative utility services for the Holland community.

2020 Annual Report

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