Interfacing with partners face-to-face

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community partners
A new housing subdivision goes up in western Douglas County. OPPD is joining with developers to effectively communicate project needs and timelines. Credit: OPPD

Face-to-face communication has become the exception rather than the norm with most people today communicating using email and texts.

But OPPD is working to maintain that personal connection between the utility and its project partners with the launch of a builder and developer coordination committee.

The new committee is a way for area developers and builders – think office parks, housing subdivisions and apartment complexes – to come together and get their schedules and projects on the same page.

Twenty years ago, OPPD formed a utility coordination group made up of representatives from the utility, construction firms, project engineers and the city and county. This group meets monthly to discuss work schedules and projects such as road-widening projects.

Steve Fanslau, director of Customer Service Government Infrastructure, said the meetings are a great way for utility and design professionals to get together and “just talk.” The group talks about projects currently underway as well as those in the near future. For example, the West Dodge Expressway was discussed in these meetings for seven years before construction started.

“We could talk about those big projects, but once it was active we would still meet and discuss them,” Fanslau said.

The meetings allow those involved to be on the same page in terms of expectations, but most importantly it was face-to-face, he said.

Fanslau said this model fit well with the work being done by builders and developers as well. When a new housing subdivision goes in, there is an intricate and well-timed schedule of when entities come into the property to do their work. By establishing communication such as this coordination committee, everyone knew how they each set schedules and timing.

Moving forward

The first several meetings will be held on the UNO campus, but Fanslau said he hopes to then permanently host the builder developer coordination committee meetings at OPPD’s Elkhorn Service Center in west Omaha.

“This group will create a trust and partnership and put a face with the email and text,” he said. “That personal touch is invaluable.”

At its first meeting in February, more than 40 people attended, including representatives from engineering firms, the Metro Omaha Builders Association (MOBA), builders and utilities. Fanslau said he sees the first several meetings as a way of defining the purpose and direction of the group moving forward, much like was done with the utility coordination committee 20 years ago.

Eventually, the groups will most likely get smaller as the parties identify representatives who can regularly attend, he said.

In addition to these larger group meetings, OPPD’s lead utility coordinators are regularly meeting with individual builders and developers. Fanslau said these coordinators, Todd Mclochlin, Danelle Sobbing and Andrew Clark, are OPPD’s link to what’s going on in the field, with the invaluable support of Customer Service Operations clerk Laura Strode.

“Our ultimate goal is to have wide-open, friendly and professional communication,” Fanslau said, “that gives expectations but also knowledge transfer of everyone’s processes so people can learn what’s going on.”

Laura King-Homan

About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is the managing editor of The Wire and a communications specialist at the Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, including the Omaha World-Herald.

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