American Transmission Co.

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What’s Current

The people who help keep the lights on: Tom Dagenais, Manager, Strategic Project Planning

Tom Dagenais, manager, strategic project planning, develops solutions for the future of the electric transmission grid within American Transmission Co.’s service area. He says ATC is the perfect fit for him because he knows what he does makes a difference.

“There’s a lot of passion; you can tell that day in, day out in what people do. It seems that everyone understands that what we do is important. We keep the lights on,” said Dagenais. “What we’re doing has a great deal of value for the community at large, and that’s rewarding.”

Beyond powering communities, Dagenais says he appreciates that ATC is as invested in his community as he is.

“ATC really has a strong community involvement. I think that’s a source of pride for the people who work here – that ATC does try to give back to the community and is very active in doing so. It’s just nice to be part of an organization that cares,” Dagenais said.

Dagenais has been with ATC for nearly 14 years total. In that time, he has grown from an individual contributor to a leader. He says he chose ATC twice, once in 2004 and again in 2010 after a brief departure to work in consulting, because of the growth opportunities offered.

“ATC has a great culture of trying to give people opportunities and expand their breadth of knowledge – expand their horizons. We allow, especially younger engineers, to move from department to department to experience new things and see the industry from a different side. I think that’s very valuable for them,” he said. “It was valuable for me as a young engineer.”

Now in a leadership role, he works to make sure newer engineers on his team have opportunities to learn, challenge themselves and expand their perspectives. At the same time, he encourages his team to embrace work-life balance.

“We strive to have a good work-life balance here at ATC, and I certainly strive to do that as well. I have two small children,” he said. “I always tell my team, ‘Your family comes first, no matter what.’”

Dagenais says he believes ATC is an ideal landing place, especially for newer engineers.

“We’ve got posters hanging up around the office touting the awards we’ve won as a great place to work, and it’s actually true,” he said. “It is a great place to work.”

If you are interested in joining Dagenais and being part of the ATC team, browse our open positions.


ATC electrically reconnects the Upper Peninsula and lower Michigan

Three undamaged cables combined to form a powerline across Straits of Mackinac

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – American Transmission Co. has restored the electrical connection between the Upper Peninsula and lower Michigan. Two powerlines made up of six submarine cables in the Straits of Mackinac tripped offline Sunday, April 1. Three cables are needed to make one circuit, or powerline. Two of the cables – one in each circuit – were damaged, possibly by vessel activity, and were subsequently decommissioned after they were found to be releasing dielectric insulating fluid. Subsea inspections revealed that at least three of the remaining cables were undamaged and operable; ATC reconfigured and tested those cables to create a circuit across the Straits. The new circuit went into operation on Tuesday, May 1.

“This connection is essential for reliability for the eastern U.P. and the northern portion of lower Michigan,” said Mark Davis, chief operating officer for ATC. “We were able to maintain reliability by implementing conservative operating procedures during the month the connection was lost, but re-establishing this powerline will give us greater flexibility and an added measure of reliability to help us keep the lights on.”

The damaged cables have been soldered, capped, sealed and returned to the bottom of the Straits. ATC is making plans to permit and construct two new circuits in the Straits using a solid dielectric insulator, and to eventually decommission the six fluid-filled insulating cables. No firm timeline or cost has been established.

“We thank all the participants in the Unified Command, led by the U.S. Coast Guard, for the safe and efficient response to this incident,” Davis said. “The coordinated response helped minimize impacts to the environment and local community.”

Note to editors:
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Employees put ATC on Top Workplaces list for fifth consecutive year

To keep our positive energy flowing, American Transmission Co. relies on regular feedback from employees. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Top Workplaces survey is a great way to learn how we’re doing.

For the fifth year in a row, ATC has been awarded a Top Workplaces honor by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel thanks to survey responses from our employees. The anonymous survey, administered by Energage, measures several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution and connection.

To develop and maintain the great workplace culture that is reflected in the formal survey, we encourage conversation between employees and teams, and we empower employees to act. Managers and their direct reports have regular one-on-one meetings to talk about work projects and check in with each other on a personal level.

We care about each other and the communities we serve. Employees are given time to share their talents volunteering in the community, and ATC supports more than 600 organizations and municipalities through sponsorships, contributions and matches to employee gifts.

We know what we do matters, and that helps us bring positive energy to our work. That positive energy, along with great pay and benefits, is why employees want to learn, grow and stay here.

We appreciate being recognized by our employees as a Top Workplace, and we will continue to build on that foundation.

ATC systems admin serves country in Air National Guard

Captain Rutkowski, second from right, with his team in Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of Jeff Rutkowski.

Jeff Rutkowski spends his days at American Transmission Co. helping to protect the electric transmission grid, and in his time away from ATC, he helps to protect our country as a Captain in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

Rutkowski is a systems operations administrator with ATC, which means he monitors the servers and applications running the electric transmission grid throughout ATC’s service area. Many evenings and weekends, he trains and attends conferences as the Officer in Charge of the 115th Fighter Wing’s Communications Flight with the Air National Guard.

Rutkowski’s secondary role is leading the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) and preparing his team to respond in emergencies. His JISCC team operates a portable communications center during catastrophic events, and the team was integral to recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria caused massive damage throughout Puerto Rico in September.

The hurricane destroyed a variety of communications equipment as well as a generator used by the Federal Aviation Administration to power the control center that directs flights throughout the island. Without communication tools, the only way to direct the flow of air traffic was by visually assessing the spacing between planes to ensure safe takeoff and landing. With no other way to organize incoming and outgoing flights, only about six planes could land each hour at the San Juan International Airport, which typically can handle around 45 flights per hour.

“The first responder effort was incredible. But with Puerto Rico being an island, the only way you can get there is by plane or by boat. It was so important to get communications up and running at the airport so they could fly those first responders in,” said Rutkowski.

Rutkowski’s unit arrived at the airport just three days after the hurricane hit. The team immediately began setting up a temporary communications network. His team provided the FAA with internet, radio and phones to help restore capabilities and resume operations through contact with planes in the air and the surrounding area’s airports. Because of the team’s efforts, the number of flights per hour climbed from six to 30. After communication was established at the airport, more responders and aid could land.

“The hurricane was really devastating to the island and the island’s infrastructure. It just looked like it had smashed these structures,” he said. “It’s clear the infrastructure will take years to recover.”

Without power throughout the island, and with only small quantities of gas to run generators, everyday life for Puerto Rico residents ground to a halt. People needed food, water and other basic necessities. Rutkowski and other members of the national guard did everything they could to help.

“We were cleaning and helping people at their homes. We took on a lot of extra tasks because we knew how important it was. We were one of the first teams there, and we tried to be as impactful as we could,” he said. “It was pretty humbling and made me think about how important food, water and power is. It really highlights how important what I do here at ATC is – helping to reliably deliver power every day.”

Rutkowski’s team provided the primary source of communication for the airport for four weeks and continued as the secondary source of communication for two more weeks. In total, Rutkowski and his team were in Puerto Rico for 41 days.

Rutkowski’s Puerto Rico deployment was just one of many he has been part of during his 12 years in the military. He has also been deployed to Iraq and Estonia, among other locations.

Bill Rheingans (left), Area 2 Chair of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, presented the Patriot Award to Rutkowski’s supervisor, Lori Pernsteiner (center), ATC team leader, energy management system, for her support during Rutkowski’s deployments.

When he’s not deployed, Rutkowski spends time training and researching how to protect military and Air Force communication networks.

“It takes a lot of work. When you hear about the National Guard, people think of weekend warriors, but it’s so much more than that. It’s almost a second full‑time job. But what we do in the National Guard is all volunteer – everyone there wants to be there and wants to put in the effort,” he said.

Rutkowski says he’s able to do both because of a strong support system, including his family at home and his team at ATC.

“I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have a company like ATC to support me. They are very supportive of my life in the military,” Rutkowski said. “That in and of itself relieves a lot of stress and relieves a lot of the burden.”

Rutkowski recently nominated his supervisor, Lori Pernsteiner, team leader, energy management system, for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriot Award. Rutkowski coordinated with Bill Rheingans, Area 2 Chair of the Wisconsin chapter of  the ESGR, to surprise Pernsteiner with the award in April. Rutkowski says he nominated Pernsteiner to recognize her for the support she shows for both his military duties and his career at ATC.

Roughly 10 percent of ATC employees are either in the military or have a military background. ATC is proud to support both active military and veterans, and ATC is grateful for their service to our country.



New Bucks arena construction progresses with ATC reps on site for underground transmission line safety

By Chris Dailey, Team Leader, Transmission Line Maintenance

The $524 million Milwaukee Bucks arena is nearly 80 percent complete. It’s quite a change to the Milwaukee area landscape. ATC owns two major underground transmission lines that pass through the project area. From planning to execution, ATC has had significant involvement promoting safety around ATC’s underground electric transmission lines during the arena’s construction.

ATC operates multiple 138,000-volt high-pressure, fluid-filled underground transmission circuits that are critical to powering the downtown Milwaukee area. Two of those transmission circuits pass through the project area for the new arena. To coordinate safe work around underground electric transmission lines, ATC met with the arena design team during the planning phase of the project. Along the way, numerous detailed plans were submitted to Lori Kolbow, senior technical transmission line services specialist within ATC’s asset management department. Kolbow has detailed knowledge of encroachment issues with underground assets. With some minor adjustments and refinements along the way, ATC approved the work around ATC’s underground transmission lines and planned to have an ATC representative on site for work around those facilities.

Ron Latus, senior underground transmission line coordinator within ATC’s asset maintenance department, provided field oversight. He protected ATC lines and the safety of others while numerous contractors worked. Asset protection is paramount with these types of transmission lines due to the high voltage and high fluid pressures. Latus attended the weekly site meetings to help facilitate construction coordination and oversee contractors installing the supporting infrastructure. ATC’s lines were exposed numerous times to assure the lines were correctly identified while work took place. When it was time to bury the exposed portions of the lines, Latus ensured a special backfill material was used that would prevent the lines from overheating in the future.

As the project wraps up, the work impacting ATC lines is mostly related to landscaping and aesthetics. Bushes, water features and media trailer interconnect pods are the final phases that will require ATC oversight.

Watch this video to learn more about how ATC works to help excavators dig safely around underground transmission assets.

Editor’s note: ATC applauds the Milwaukee Bucks’ progress on the new arena. We are glad to partner with the Bucks in the community through our Trees for Threes partnership, which facilities a tree planting at schools throughout Wisconsin for each three-point shot the Bucks make at home during the 2017-2018 regular season.

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