Rochester Public Utilities | Blog

Things to note if you are planning to visit the RPU Service Center

We are continuing to recommend that all possible customer interaction with RPU be electronic or over the phone at this time. If you must visit the RPU Service Center, please be aware of our lobby changes and in-person requirements.

The RPU Service Center lobby hours are now Monday-Friday 8am-4p. RPU Customer Relations staff are available on the phone (507.280.1500) Monday-Friday 8a-5p to help customers with their RPU needs.

RPU staff are working safely at the Service Center and from home, depending on their job and remote capabilities. This time has certainly been a test of creative teamwork and how to maximize resources remotely. The great thing is that RPU employees want to embrace new ways to work as a team to ensure that we are meeting and exceeding the expectations of our customers.   

Please pay attention to our social distancing measures in place.
Please note the window signage with safety messaging before entering the RPU Service Center.
The RPU Service Center lobby has been updated to ensure safety for RPU employees and visitors.

Posted: Jul 30, 2020 by Tony B | Comments (0)

RPU to resume non-pay disconnects on August 2, 2021

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) will be resuming non-pay disconnects beginning August 2. Service disconnections were put on hold in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

RPU customers with an outstanding balance will receive a disconnection notice, with a date of disconnect. If you are behind on your RPU bill, and need to make a payment or set up a payment arrangement, contact RPU Customer Care. If no action is taken, the account will be up for disconnect after August 2.

Financial and energy assistance resources can be found on the RPU website at https://www.rpu.org/education-environment/community-resources.php under the Community Resources page or by calling RPU Customer Care at 507-280-1500.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 56,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 40,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include photovoltaic offerings, wind energy, energy and water efficient equipment, and electric vehicle charging.

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Posted: Jul 13, 2021 by Tony B | Comments (0)

Good planning prevented pandemic problems for public water suppliers in Minnesota

MDH releases annual drinking water report, showing no major issues

Despite the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, public water utilities in Minnesota continued to provide safe drinking water to millions of Minnesotans over the past year, according to new data from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

The statistical results of the steady work and consistent monitoring by thousands of public water supplies are contained in the 2020 annual drinking water compliance report released by MDH this week. But the real story is the work that has gone on behind the scenes to deliver safe drinking water to large and small communities across Minnesota.

The public water systems in Minnesota adjusted their operations and found ways to provide critical services while keeping health and safety as the highest priority.  

Most systems were ready to deal with the pandemic as a result of contingency plans already in place. Cross-training of employees was one way in which utilities prepared, making sure distribution crews and those at the treatment plant were sufficiently versed on one another’s job to be able to step in in case employees became sick. Many followed a plan based on the “40% Drill,” which MDH promoted more than 10 years ago during the H1N1 influenza outbreak. The drill consists of randomly selecting 40% of utility staff to be listed as “out sick” and conducting a drill on how to maintain operations with the remaining 60% of employees.  Although no utilities sustained such a reduction because of illnesses among their staff, public water systems were prepared for such a scenario.

Early in the pandemic, Kyle Hinrichs, superintendent for the water utility in Mankato, used his experience with the 40% Drill to create a work plan and schedule that would allow them to continue with the daily duties of managing a utility while losing as much as two-thirds of the workforce. Fortunately, the utility escaped the virus and did not lose any employees to illness.  However, Hinrichs said, “I felt confident, especially with previous cross-training we had done, that we could have maintained 24-hour operations even if we had people out sick.”

With proactive planning, Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) was able to prevent disruptions in day-to-day water services. Doug Klamerus, manager of maintenance and construction for RPU water, said they staggered start times to reduce contact between employees and relied on past cross-training to ensure work could continue through water challenges they encountered. “We went to one-person jobs as much as possible, reduced group work, and limited contact with customers and one another,” Klamerus said.

Rick Wahlen, manager of utility operations for the city of Eden Prairie, said their past planning for emergency response and resiliency was helpful, but the pandemic was “something unique in nature.” The city began planning as soon as they were aware of the pandemic, dividing employees into three-person work groups to limit exposure. “That way, if anyone got it, only two other people would be affected.” They were able to get through the pandemic without any instances of COVID among operators in the water treatment plant.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said partnerships were key to ensuring the pandemic did not create problems for the state’s drinking water supply.

“Providing safe drinking water to homes and businesses day in and day out doesn’t just happen on its own, but is the result of hard work and extensive partnerships,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “As a result of these partnerships, even in times like COVID-19, we can still go to the kitchen sink and expect to have plenty of safe water.”

Through floods, tornadoes and other disasters that shut down businesses and other operations, public water systems have consistently maintained a safe supply of water for customers. COVID-19 has been a challenge, but the drinking water profession continued to come through.

“Though the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated changes in how we do our work, the drinking water program at MDH has sustained its work to keep drinking water safe for everyone, everywhere in Minnesota, in partnership with 6,724 public water systems across the state,” said Sandeep Burman, manager of MDH’s section of Drinking Water Protection.

In addition to its normal operations, Drinking Water Protection supported public water systems in dealing with the pandemic in many ways, including:

In 2020, more than 99% of Minnesotans drinking water from a public water system received water that met all federal standards throughout the year. Details of the Minnesota Annual Compliance Report (PDF) for 2020, along with the Annual Report for 2019 (PDF) can be found on the Drinking Water Protection Annual Reports page on the MDH website.

In addition to the report issued by the state, communities across Minnesota are required to issue their Consumer Confidence Reports to their public water supply customers by July 1 each year. Those reports provide details on the results of monitoring for each public water system.

-MDH-

https://www.health.state.mn.us/news/pressrel/2021/water060321.html

Posted: Jun 07, 2021 by Tony B | Comments (0)

RPU announces Arbor Day Tree Giveaway

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) along with its Partnering Sponsors – Maier Tree & Lawn, Rochester Parks & Recreation, Sargent’s Gardens, and Jim Whiting Nursery & Garden announce a Free Arbor Day Tree Giveaway on April 30th.

Over 800 burr oak seedlings will be handed out at the tree giveaway, while supplies last.

The tree giveaway will be a drive-thru event on April 30th from 11am-1pm at Three Links- Silver Lake Park located at 840 7th St NE in Rochester. Staff from the sponsor organizations and the city of Rochester will be handing out tree seedlings, along with a proclamation reading from Mayor Kim Norton at 11am. Please wear a mask when you drive up to receive your tree seedling.

RPU usually hosts an annual Arbor Day Celebration, but due to Covid-19 restrictions and to ensure safety for RPU staff, sponsor staff, and the community, the celebration event was canceled this year.

For more information on the Arbor Day Tree Giveaway, visit the RPU website at www.rpu.org.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 56,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 40,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include photovoltaic offerings, wind energy, energy and water efficient equipment, and electric vehicle charging.

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Posted: Apr 30, 2021 by Tony B | Comments (0)

RPU announces the Neighbors Chipping In Program to help customers in need

April 5, 2021 – ROCHESTER, MN – Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) announces the Neighbors Chipping In Program, a voluntary, ongoing fundraising program to benefit RPU customers in need of help. It allows RPU customers to help other RPU customers by agreeing to have their monthly utility bill “rounded up” to the next whole dollar or by an amount of their choosing.

“There has been a growing need in the Rochester community for resources and support with paying utility bills. We wanted to customize a program that would provide the assistance needed, as well as, leverage our existing local resources and partnerships,” said Krista Boston, RPU Director of Customer Relations.

Customers interested in participating in this new program can donate two ways. One, they can choose to have their monthly total bill rounded up to the nearest dollar each month. Or two, they can pick a fixed amount (e.g. $5, $10, or any dollar amount of their choosing). The rounded up amount or fixed amount will then appear on their monthly utility bill.

RPU is collaborating with Three Rivers Community Action to allocate the collected funds to customers who qualify and already participate in the Energy Assistance Program. When there are not enough EAP funds available, Neighbors Chipping In will help supplement the need within our community.

If you are interested in signing up, please visit the RPU website and click the Neighbors Chipping In link under Residential Programs.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 56,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 40,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include photovoltaic offerings, wind energy, energy and water efficient equipment, and electric vehicle charging.

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Posted: Apr 05, 2021 by Tony B | Comments (0)

City of Rochester Launching Third Year of Energy Benchmarking Program

Media Contact

Megan Moeller, Communications Coordinator

Direct: 507-328-2436 | E-mail: mmoeller@rochestermn.gov  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

City of Rochester Launching Third Year of Energy Benchmarking Program

March 18, 2020 – ROCHESTER, MINN. – The Rochester Energy Benchmarking Program provides a way for local business and building owners to track their energy use and identify ways to save money on utility bills. The program kicked off in 2019 with 90 participants and continues to build out Rochester’s energy data set, encouraging additional facilities to participate and demonstrate energy reductions. In 2020, the number of participants in the benchmarking program grew to 112 properties, including the program’s first hotel. The 2019 Benchmarking Report can be found here.  

There will be a virtual kick-off event on March 24, 2021 at Noonto introduce the program and participation benefits. Speakers will include Mayor Kim Norton, local utility partners and current participants. Building owners, managers and operators of commercial buildings of any size are encouraged to attend and may register here.

The program will provide valuable information to help identify potential energy efficiency opportunities, save money, and learn how to benchmark your building efficiently using new, automated utility data tools. Project partners include Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) and Minnesota Energy Resources.  They will both assist benchmarking participants in collecting their utility data and offer special incentives and individualized assistance towards your energy savings goals.

The City of Rochester benchmarking team is offering free technical assistance during the weeks of April 26 and May 3 to help property owners set up their ENERGY STAR portfolio manager profile, submit data and learn how to use and interpret their results to track and improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. The information to signup can be found here.

Below is a list of materials and information participants will need to gather in order to participate: 

*Additional required information varies by building type. Refer to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager’s Data Collection Worksheet.

**Total gross floor area includes the entire floor area of the building, including common areas and leased space.

Those interested in learning more can contact Sustainability Coordinator Lauren Jensen at ljensen@rochestermn.gov. The program team hopes to have all participant profiles set up by early June to begin analyzing the benchmarking data.  Information can also be found here

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Posted: Mar 17, 2021 by Tony B | Comments (0)