Weekly Update

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As we have all unfortunately seen over the last few years, our city’s infrastructure has demonstrated the effects of a long-term lack of investment. 

But there is a plan, and implementing this plan in an efficient and effective manner is in large part why Doug McGowen was my choice as the new president and CEO of MLGW. 

In 2020, the Memphis City Council approved rate increases for water, gas and electric utilities to generate money for improving reliability and resilience of our utility systems.  A utility consulting firm surveyed MLGW’s infrastructure and prioritized investments that would be the most impactful to improving reliability. The results from that survey were the basis of the MLGW “Way Forward” capital plan.

In short, this plan allocates a total of $1.2 billion dollars in capital investment to improve the water, gas and electric systems. This investment is the largest by far in decades and is on top of the regularly scheduled, annually budgeted amounts for routine maintenance.

As federal infrastructure dollars (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act) are made available, MLGW will seek those funds to complement what has already been approved.  For example, MLGW has already received approximately $33 million of additional federal funding for the water system and has applied for a $59 million grant for additional improvements to the gas system. 

The capital investments are generally divided as follows:

  • $800M to the electrical system
  • $286M to the water system
  • $128M to the gas system.

 These investments are then divided into three categories:

  • First, the plants that MLGW operates to receive or generate the resource. These include things like water wells and pumping stations, electric transmission lines (to receive and distribute power from TVA) and Substations, and the MLGW liquefied natural gas plant and gas transmission system.
  • Second, the distribution systems that send the resource to homes and businesses. These include things like power lines (above and below ground), distribution automation, transformers, circuit breakers; water mains, water tanks and booster pumps; and gas mains and regulator stations.
  • Third, improving the general operation of each system. These include improvements to things like the water laboratory, systems communications monitoring, and security improvements.

All these investments are aimed at preventing interruptions to service by replacing aging and failure-prone infrastructure, protecting against the impacts of weather or other hazards, and to improve monitoring of the system and speed recovery of service when an interruption does occur.

This work began in 2020 and was forecast to take five years to complete.  While some parts of the plan are on track or even ahead of schedule, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain and workforce availability, the plan is now forecast to be completed by 2027. 

To give a real-life example of how supply chain/parts availability has impacted the plan—prior to the pandemic, electric transformers and switchgears were available within 30-45 days from placing an order. Since the pandemic, it now takes more than one year. 

Workforce had similar impacts. Because of lack of qualified personnel, tree trimming contractors were only able to complete roughly 25% of the forecasted tree trimming in 2022.  

I know that one of President McGowen’s top priorities is to accelerate that timeline. I have asked him to keep us regularly updated on progress and outcomes and to do everything possible to speed up improvements to reliability of the utilities we all count on. I have every confidence that he will make it happen, and I appreciate his leadership over the last several days.

Thank you: As I have written before, it is during times of crisis when you find out who you can truly rely on.  Your city staff went above and beyond—many of them over the holiday—to take care of a city they love. Here are just a few examples.

During the recent weather event, the City of Memphis (Memphis Fire, Memphis Parks and the Office of Emergency Management) opened a warming center at Dave Wells Community Center, and they assisted with staffing and operations at the Hospitality Hub. MATA provided free transportation to both places. These centers combined provided warmth and shelter for well over 200 people each day.

Additionally, MFD engine companies provided consultation and support to mitigate issues caused from low water pressure with the boilers and chillers at St. Francis Hospital on Park Avenue, Methodist University Hospital, and Regional One Medical Center helping to keep them open.

Despite the weather conditions, Memphis Parks held all seven scheduled winter camps this week even though four of them had to be relocated to other centers within the neighborhoods.

Due to low water pressure in the area, Memphis Fire personnel, MPD, Memphis Parks and the General Services division went above and beyond to implement a plan of action for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl game to ensure the game was able to be played.

All that to say, City personnel did a tremendous job keeping our citizens safe even while they were impacted themselves. Their "get it done" attitude and teamwork across divisional lines is what makes our city great and them a joy to work with. Thank you for all you do for our city.

Be safe and enjoy your weekend.

Happy New Years!


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