Parker WSD Meets the Challenge of Operations Staffing By Travis Scurlock and Eric Pierce ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER JANUARY 2017 | 25 OPERATIONS PARKER WATER AND SANITA- tion District (Parker WSD) is locat-ed in northeastern Douglas County and covers 43 square miles. It provides water and sewer services to approxi-mately 50,000 customers. Total water production in 2015 was over two bil-lion gallons. The drinking water system includes one surface water treatment facility, 37 wells, 17 well houses, five booster stations, five storage tanks, and one 75,000-acre foot capacity reservoir. On the wastewater side there are two water reclamation facilities and five lift stations. The operation and management of the water and wastewater systems can be both challenging and complex. Initially, the department had four water production operators with one supervi-sor, and five wastewater operators with one supervisor. As time progressed and additional well facilities came on line, additional water production operators were hired. With the segregation in job duties, each operator was highly trained and proficient in their respective field. Each operator displayed a high dedica-tion to their craft and their focus was on a narrow scope of job functions. Unfor-tunately, it was difficult to cover time off for vacation or sick days, and the narrow scope of duties did not fulfill the ambi-tion of some operators who wished to broaden their horizons. As Parker WSD grew, it became clear that the division of operators between water and wastewater did not serve the needs of the district. As a result, the water and wastewater sections of the department were combined. An almost entirely new version of the department was cre-ated. The department superintendent supervised the department as a whole. Direct supervision of the operations became the responsibility of the two lead operators who individually oversaw water and wastewater production. The lead operators switched roles each year. Every operator in the department was required to cross-train and cross-certify. They spent two months in the water section and two months in wastewater. A new position called a “floater” was also implemented to perform special projects and fill in wherever necessary to cover time off. This change gave the depart-ment a large pool of highly trained oper-ators who had the capability to work in any position at any given point in time depending on the needs of the district. It resulted in flexibility for on call cover-age and a large group of operators with a thorough understanding of all aspects of water and wastewater operations. How-ever, the down side was an extended period during which an operator was not involved in a specific treatment pro-cess. It took time for operators to “settle in” to certain positions when rotating. Also, some operators did not appreciate the steep learning curve required each time they changed roles. The department consolidation appeared to work well until after construction and startup of the new surface water treat- Parker (Colo.) Water and Sanitation District staff members participating in an operations training session.
RMW January 2017
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