What's Current | ATC - Part 10
American Transmission Co. and Madison Gas and Electric Company recently collaborated on a friendly challenge to benefit United Way.
Both companies believe strongly in United Way and completed their United Way fundraising campaigns in October. This year, the company with the highest percent increase in United Way campaign participation got to choose the location of a volunteer activity led by ATC Executive Vice President and General Counsel Bill Marsan and MGE Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler, who is also an ATC board member. By a small margin, ATC won the challenge and ATC employees selected the volunteer activity for all participants.
“Jeff reached out to me as ATC’s campaign sponsor to see what he could do to help support our campaign,” said Marsan. “We came up with this simple challenge as a way to energize each of our own campaigns. We knew it was a win for the community no matter which company came out on top.”
“We work together to serve our communities every day, and supporting United Way together is an extension of that call to service,” said Keebler, who is this year’s Vice Chair of Dane County’s United Way campaign.
The real winner was Eras Senior Network. On the crisp fall morning of Nov. 3, Marsan, Keebler and ATC employee volunteers did yard work and other seasonal chores at the homes of two local seniors. Eras Senior Network, supported in part by United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, paired our volunteers with their clients, both of whom are in their early nineties and living in their own homes. Donna Kerr of Menomonee Falls has lived in her home since building it in the 1960s and raised her two children there. Don Schrock of Waukesha is a decorated Korean war veteran (fitting for this Veteran’s Day story), father and widower, and has lived in his home since the 1970s. Both Kerr and Schrock are able to live independently thanks to the extra help Eras Senior Network and its volunteers provide.
Marsan and Keebler had such a great time volunteering together that they plan to do it again later this month at Madison’s Community Action Coalition.
Three Wisconsin communities replaced trees lost to emerald ash borer and improved their urban tree diversity this year, thanks to grants from American Transmission Co.’s Community Planting Program.
Emerald ash borer is an invasive, wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees by eating the tissues under the bark. Native to northeastern Asia, it was first detected in the U.S. in 2002 and in Wisconsin in 2008. Since then, EAB has been reported in 85% of Wisconsin’s 72 counties (as of September 2021).
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, EAB generally kills ash trees in urban areas and along roadsides in infested areas, costing municipal governments millions of dollars for tree removal and replacement. The financial impact of EAB in Wisconsin forests is unknown but is believed to be substantial.
While the insect spreads slowly on its own, EAB impacts are greatly accelerated when people unintentionally move it in firewood and nursery stock.
Fond du Lac (Fond du Lac County)
The city of Fond du Lac recently planted several trees in Lakeside Park West to replace those lost to EAB, which is killing all the untreated ash trees in the city. The trees were planted near Supple Marsh, along Howard Litscher Drive to provide shade and natural beauty for park visitors.
These additional trees—a mix of Jefferson elm, redpointe maple, bald cypress, tamarack and tuliptree—will create more fall color interest, increase food and cover for wildlife, and attract butterflies, songbirds, and birds of prey. Lakeside Park borders Fond du Lac River and Lake Winnebago, one of the largest inland lakes in the U.S. As the trees grow, the city hopes they will be roosting sites for eagles and hawks, increasing bird viewing opportunities for park users. Fond du Lac is a recognized Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Manitowoc (Manitowoc County)
The city of Manitowoc planted several trees in Red Arrow Park, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. The park offers many recreational amenities, such as a handicap-accessible lakefront and beach walkway. Approximately 7.23 acres of the nearly 20 acres of park is a conservancy area consisting of a narrow strip of land running south approximately 2,800 feet along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
This spring, the city removed 22 ash trees impacted by EAB. The grant from ATC is helping to replace some of those trees with a more diverse tree canopy of oak, elm, hackberry, birch, and white cedar trees. Manitowoc is a recognized Tree City USA.
Menasha (Winnebago County)
In the city of Menasha, EAB is destroying canopy cover in the same neighborhoods that lost the majority of their trees to Dutch elm disease. Partnering with an elementary school and the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh’s Fox Cities Campus, the city planted 30 new trees on Second Street between Manitowoc, De Pere and Appleton Streets.
Planting additional species trees that are less common to the area diversifies the urban forest and protect it from future diseases. Improving canopy cover also leads to energy savings, improved air and storm water quality, and increased home values to people living there. Menasha is a recognized Tree City USA, Menasha Utilities is a Tree Line USA, and UW–Oshkosh’s Fox Cities Campus is a designated Tree Campus USA.
ATC’s planting program
ATC’s Community Planting Program enables us to encourage and support communities to plant trees and vegetation that beautify the landscape in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system.
The program provides financial support to eligible cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes in ATC’s service area for planting projects on public property, outside transmission line rights-of-way. Program funds can be used to plant trees and other tall-growing vegetation. Since 2013, ATC has awarded approximately 240 communities and organizations with funds totaling more than $425,000.
ATC accepts applications from June 1 through Sept. 30, and award recipients are selected and notified by the end of the year. Awards range from $100 to $5,000. Additional information and program applications can be found at atc-GrowSmart.com.
Working closely with our partners to operate safely is essential to success at American Transmission Co. Safety Days is a day committed to each of our vegetation management contract partners to focus entirely on safety.
The events are held at locations chosen by our contract partners; one day for each of our three major vegetation management partners. More than 150 contract crew members and managers from Asplundh Tree Expert Company, Nelson Tree Service and Zielies participated in the 2021 Safety Days.
“There has been unwavering support for Safety Days at ATC from the top down,” said Michelle Stokes, manager of Vegetation Management and Transmission Line Maintenance “It’s a serious commitment on behalf of the company to take workers off the job for a day to concentrate on safety, and we have found it to be very valuable.”
According to Stokes, Safety Days foster great discussion among the attendees. The opportunity to get everyone dedicated to ATC’s vegetation management program together at once allows front-line workers to openly discuss safety issues in job-specific circumstances with co-workers and supervisors.
Each contract partner is asked to identify relevant topics to cover during these sessions. This year, the contract partners based their agendas on the ATC safety and human performance data metrics. Leading indicators in the way of good catches, near misses, all-stops were top of mind, along with chainsaw safety, equipment maintenance, tree climbing, and roping and rigging techniques. A few Nelson Tree crew members who went to California in fall 2020 shared tips for removing dead trees more safely. Crews are dealing with more dead ash trees with the outbreak of emerald ash borer, and it is not safe to climb dead trees.
“With the ATC support and involvement, it really shows that the utility cares. We always have to make time to do some training in the field, but this day allows everyone to be together, and focus on some specific training,” said IBEW/ATC Vegetation Management Safety Liaison Brian Smith.
Smith was recognized during Safety Days for his significant contributions in fostering a safe work culture within ATC field operations. His coaching on safe work practices and communicating safe work expectations across the service area over the last four years has positively influenced ATC’s safety performance. ATC presented Smith with a letter of appreciation from Mike Rowe, ATC president and chief executive officer; Mark Davis, executive vice president and chief operating officer; Jared Winters, director of asset maintenance and commissioning; and Stokes. Nelson Tree leadership also presented Smith with a glass plaque to recognize his contributions.
“Safety Days are one of the key components of our ATC vegetation management contractor safety program,” said Winters. “These training sessions provide our ATC vegetation management team with a fantastic opportunity to engage with our contractors, showing that we care about each person working safely, and that we are committed to each person going home everyday injury free.”
Connecting to renewable generation continues driving the need for new, updated transmission infrastructure
PEWAUKEE, Wis. – American Transmission Co.’s new 10-year plan to address the need for electric grid improvements is driven by an increase in renewable generation projects in addition to required asset maintenance improvements.
“Since the time ATC was formed 20 years ago, our aim has been to consistently achieve the highest standards in electric reliability, efficiency and safety,” said Andy Dolan, vice president of system planning. “The interconnection requests we’ve seen over the last year for renewable generation developments in our footprint is unprecedented. In response, our long-range planning efforts are transforming today’s network for tomorrow’s sustainable energy future.”
Specifically, the plan calls for expenditures of $2.2 billion in asset maintenance, $0.2 billion in regional Multi-Benefits Projects, $0.6 billion in network projects and between $0.5 billion and $1.2 billion in other capital expenditures.
“While we’re investing in a grid that aligns with new technologies and generation resources, 50% of our capital projects are also driven by aging infrastructure,” said Jim Vespalec, director of asset planning and engineering. “Significant investments in our existing infrastructure are required to address deteriorating wooden poles and substation equipment initially installed decades ago that is approaching end-of-life. Additionally, new fiber optic wire upgrades and installations also help our operators address unplanned and planned outages and more reliably monitor the status of our grid.”
The full plan is available for viewing at ATC10YearPlan.
Suzanne Allen, president of Allen CFO Services LLC, and Scott Mair, president – AT&T Network Engineering & Operations, have been appointed to American Transmission Co.’s board of directors, effective Sept. 1, 2021.
Allen and Mair’s appointments expand ATC’s board to 11 members. Allen will serve on the board’s audit and finance committees, and Mair will serve on the audit and compensation committees.
“We are delighted to welcome Scott and Sue to the ATC board of directors,” said ATC President, CEO and Chairman of the Board Mike Rowe. “Sue brings valuable financial experience in the utility, information technology and manufacturing industries. Scott brings substantial business and technology leadership experience in the telecommunications industry.”
Suzanne Allen, of Duluth, Minn., is president of Allen CFO Services, a consulting company that brings the power of financial tools to companies that may not yet be in a position to hire a full time chief financial officer but can benefit from the high skill assistance of a CFO.
Allen formerly served as CFO at Unity Holdings Inc., based in Fargo, N.D., and Compudyne Inc., an information technology company based in Duluth, Minn. Previously, she was vice president and treasurer of Otter Tail Corporation, also in Minnesota. She has held treasurer roles with Rural Cellular Corporation and Nash Finch Company.
Allen holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Minnesota – Duluth and a Master of Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas.
Scott Mair, of Frisco, Texas, is president – AT&T Network Engineering & Operations, where he oversees AT&T’s next-generation wireless and wireline networks, including planning, engineering, construction and operations. He also leads AT&T Labs Research, the company’s intellectual property organization and network operational support, which includes AT&T’s central offices and data centers, energy optimization, network automation and infrastructure provisioning.
Prior to his current role, Mair served as president – AT&T operations and senior vice president – technology planning and engineering. Mair began his career with Wisconsin Bell. From 1985 to 2001, he held several positions with Wisconsin Bell and Ameritech serving on teams such as NP&E, corporate planning and operations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in industrial technology, both from the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.