Meet OPPD’s Central Maintenance crews: Have wrench will travel

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In February 1975, Fort Calhoun Station shut down for its first maintenance and refueling outage. It did not go well, its duration went long and its cost was more than expected. Something had to change.

By the beginning of 1976, workers from different crafts – including steamfitters, general maintenance mechanics, machinists, electricians and more – were joining a new organization: Central Maintenance. At that time, a plan was formed to assist plant workers whenever they take a plant offline for maintenance or have a major project to complete. So far, it’s worked for 40 years.

From left, Mike Chadwell, Delbert Stratton, John Livingston and Jerry Rosas.
From left, Mike Chadwell, Delbert Stratton, John Livingston and Jerry Rosas.

Jim Rawlings, working crew leader – steamfitter mechanics, remembers the hiring that was going on as OPPD filled the ranks of Central Maintenance and staffed Nebraska City Station, which was under construction.

“They brought in a busload of machinists from Tip-Top Products,” Rawlings recalled. Rawlings joined Central Maintenance in 1980 after six years in OPPD Operations, and is one of the most-tenured workers in Central.

But Central Maintenance isn’t solely mechanics, machinists and steamfitters. Their ranks also include experts in the areas of rigging and backflow prevention systems that help other OPPD sites.

“We are kind of jacks-of-all-trades,” said Scott Schaefer, supervisor of steamfitter mechanics with Central Maintenance. “We’ll come in to assist and that will let the station maintenance staff do regular work to keep other equipment operating.”

At first, Central Maintenance workers ventured out of their base at North Omaha Station to help during outages at Fort Calhoun Station and Jones Street Station, but their role expanded as OPPD expanded its generation fleet when Nebraska City Station came online in 1979.

Forty years later, Central serves all 17 OPPD units, including those at Sarpy County Station and Cass County Station, as well as the second unit at Nebraska City. It makes for a lot of travel.

Rick Short_Bryan Meader_Larry Byers_John Farsons_Bob Simons
From left, Rick Short, Bryan Meader, Larry Byers, John Farsons, Bob Simmonds, Tim McGinnis stand on the turbine deck at North Omaha Station.

“We cover a lot of ground during the year to support the various sites and can have major work going on at multiple locations,” said Keith Morrison, manager of Central Maintenance.

It also can make for a tight schedule.

“We have a committee look at the major work that is needed and then schedule the outages through GEMS, the Generating Equipment Maintenance Schedule,” said Morrison.

But an unplanned outage can throw a proverbial wrench in the works. Central workers are familiar with being pulled from one project to work long hours to get a unit back online after a forced outage.

A lot has changed in 40 years. Before 1995, steamfitters and the general maintenance mechanics had different responsibilities. The positions merged that year to become what is known today as steamfitter mechanics.

From left, Barney Hill and Mike Makalski.
From left, Barney Hill and Mike Michalski.

“Steamfitters had to learn what general mechanics workers do, and mechanics had to learn the steamfitter trade,” said Schaefer.

Both Schaefer and Rawlings said they enjoy the variety of work they do as well as the variety of locations and co-workers.

“It’s all teamwork,” Schaefer said. “Every one of us is dependent on the other.”


From left, Barney Hill, Lynn Beins and Keith Morrison.
From left, Barney Hill, Lynn Beins and Keith Morrison.


Jeff Hanson

About Jeff Hanson

Jeff Hanson was a manager at OPPD until his retirement in April, 2016. He started working in television news immediately after graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. That part of his career took him to four TV stations in three states, including two in Nebraska. He took what he learned there to become a public information officer for the Nebraska State Patrol before joining OPPD. He and his wife Cathy have one son.

3 thoughts on “Meet OPPD’s Central Maintenance crews: Have wrench will travel”

  1. Great to see the recognition so well deserved. Long hours doesn’t mean much to those that haven’t experience the effects on the family and the body. I have tremendous respect for these workers. They can jump in and getter done due to the knowledge obtained at all the facilities over the years. I call it dedication. Hope they are allowed to continue in the future. This is a benefit to OPPD that is immeasurable. Like I say, you can’t have too much experience.

  2. The dedication and hard work this is why there is pride and strength forged , the bonds they merged together create stronger communities..families giving of their family members time, support all these hardworkers!
    My mom, retired, worked Oppd ,30 years, many outages…i can remember everyone…
    Thank you for article!

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