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    Focus on capital projects leads to busy year for CUI

    The past year saw Chestermere Utilities Inc. (CUI) hard at work with capital improvement projects throughout the city.
    “We’ve had a very busy year,” said Chief Executive Officer Leigh-Anne Palter.
    “2017 I would say we really hit the ground running,” she said.
    The year started with an increase in utility rates coming into effect and the attendant work to implement that.
    The main emphasis for CUI in 2017, however, was on implementing capital programs. CUI had one of its biggest construction years ever last year.
    “We’ve really been working in virtually every part of the city this year,” she said.
    Palter said that for a company that has traditionally had a very small capital and construction budget 2017 was, “a big adjustment for us.”
    While their project load was greatly increased this year, Palter, was happy to see that staff met the challenges safely and with the right set of expertise and ensured that CUI and its rate payers were getting good value for their money.
    “We’re delighted that we’ve made really, really good progress in that regard,” she said.
    Some of the bigger projects they worked on last year included the lift station 13 force main, the copper line replacement project, building a new facility for the solid waste collection fleet, and the Rainbow Road sanitary trunk project.
    “We’ve got lift station 13 force main virtually complete all the way back to the City of Calgary,” said Palter.
    “We see that as a huge success this last year,” she said.
    All that’s left with that project is some road rehabilitation work that has to wait for warmer temperatures in the spring.
    While the copper line replacement project had a bit of a rocky start Palter feels that it was actually one of CUI’s successes in 2017.
    “I’ve already acknowledged that we could have done a better job getting that project out of the gate,” she said.
    “At the same time, it provided us with a tremendous opportunity to learn… how to better manage that kind of activity,” she said.
    In the end, Palter, said that CUI was able to build better relationships with the affected customers as communication improved over the course of the project.
    The replacement work has also provided CUI with important information about their copper lines that will help them to assess the overall utility system.
    “It provided us with a lot of important data that will serve us well over the long term,” she said.
    One of the more challenging and unpopular projects of the year has been the Rainbow Road sanitary trunk project.
    “No one here at CUI wanted to close that road and create that level of inconvenience for our customers,” said Palter, “but there was really no other way around it.”
    While the inconvenience was unavoidable, Palter, said that they have been and continue to work as quickly as they safely can to get the project finished and the road open again.
    “It’s really gratifying to see…a good first piece of the pipe having been safely bored underground with no lost time incidents,” she said.
    With all the work being done, Palter said that CUI staff have had a lot of opportunity to interact with and rebuild the relationship between CUI and the community.
    “The overwhelming sentiment that I receive from the customers I speak to is certainly they don’t like that their rates have increased but they understand the work we’re doing,” said Palter.
    Looking to the future, Palter plans to continue to build on 2017s successes in the new year.
    “There’s always lots of opportunities to do things better,” she said, “and certainly ’18 is going to see us focusing on many of those areas.”
    CUI announced Jan. 2 that they would not be seeking a rate increase for 2018.
    Palter said that they will be continuing to work to find cost efficiencies throughout the year as the continue working on capital projects in the city.
    “We’ll continue to be focused on getting those capital projects completed,” she said.
    “We expect that by the end of 2018 we will have a system that is fully compliant with Alberta Environment standards and poised for growth,” said Palter.