College Station Utilities

Metallic balloons and power lines don’t mix

black and red metal rod

By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

With social distancing in place because of the COVID-19 outbreak, people are finding new ways to celebrate events and milestones without the typical parties and get-togethers.

And what’s a birthday or graduation without balloons, especially those shiny, helium-filled foil balloons that are all the rage. They are called Mylar balloons and come in various shapes and sizes and can represent numbers and letters.

Unfortunately, they can also be hazardous.

When released, these festive balloons can get caught in high voltage power lines. The metallic coating conducts electricity and causes short circuits when entangled in power lines.

Stray Mylar balloons entangled in overhead lines in the last week caused two electric outages for hundreds of College Station residents. Such disruptions can cover a large area for two hours or more while we clear the balloons and repair damaged equipment.

Power outages not only inconvenience our customers, but they also jeopardize public safety and cause lost revenue for businesses. Two years ago, a stray balloon caused an outage and lengthy delay during a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium.

This recent report by an Arizona news station illustrates the issue:

College Station Utilities offers five tips to help prevent outages when celebrating birthdays, graduations and other events with Mylar balloons:

  1. Never allow Mylar balloons to be released outside. Keep the balloons indoors when possible.
  2. Make sure Mylar balloons are securely tied to a weight heavy enough to keep them from floating away. Never remove the weight.
  3. Don’t bundle Mylar balloons together.
  4. When your celebration is over, cut the balloons up and throw them away. Even a semi-inflated balloon can become airborne.
  5. Never try to retrieve anything that gets caught in a power line.

To report objects caught in power lines, call 911. To report outages, call 855-528-4278, and have your account number ready.

 


0000072EPAbout the Blogger

CSU Energy Coordinator Patrick McIntyre is responsible for energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.

 


 

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Electric lineman work to keep our power flowing

By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

Since the invention of the Edison lightbulb in 1879, electric linemen have been keeping the nation energized. More than 227,000 men and women install and maintain the nation’s nine million miles of electric grid that meet our power needs, including the 28 who serve at College Station Utilities.

That’s why the United States Congress and the City of College Station are recognizing Saturday as National Lineman Appreciation Day (#ThankaLineman) as a way to honor the hard-working folks who protect public safety and energize our economy by keeping the power on.

Linemen are also an essential part of the first-responder community alongside police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. In most cases, other first responders can see their emergency issues, but electricity is invisible, which makes for an extremely hazardous environment during storms. While big events require all-hands-on-deck, most routine trouble calls are handled by two-person crews.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, being an electric lineman ranks among the 10 most dangerous jobs. Unlike most occupations, linemen spend a large part of their working lives well above the ground maintaining electrical infrastructure. Our linemen work with voltages as high as 138,000 volts and as low as the standard 120-volt power in your home.

College Station Utilities is also committed to the construction of reliable, underground utilities. Our electric grid is nearly 60 percent underground, which requires our electric personnel to be knowledgeable in both overhead and underground systems.

Please join us in thanking the highly skilled and dedicated linemen who work all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to keep your lights on.

 


0000072EPAbout the Blogger

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.

 


 

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10 ways to trim your household energy costs

By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

With College Station residents sheltering in place during the COVID-19 outbreak, households are using substantially more electricity. 

Here are 10 ways you can trim your electric costs:

  1. The most essential step is raising your thermostat setting. Just two degrees above your usual setting can cut your cooling costs by five percent. 
  2. Use ceiling fans rather than air conditioning as much as possible. Fans use about as much energy as a light bulb.
  3. Turn off lights, fans, and electronics when a room is unoccupied.
  4. Replace incandescent and CFL lighting with low-wattage LEDs, which use 50-90 percent less energy.
  5. Do your laundry in the evening or at night when temperatures are cooler.
  6. Use cold water to wash your clothes.
  7. Run your dishwasher only when you have a full load.
  8. Check your air conditioning filter and replace it frequently. Dirty filters can increase costs by about 20 percent.
  9. Consider a Wi-Fi programmable thermostat, which allows precise control of your cooling system.
  10. 10. Take advantage of our Energy Back IIResidential LED Lighting, and Connected Thermostat rebates.

Report power outages, water line breaks, wastewater spills, and backups, and other electric, water, or wastewater problems to 855.528.4278 — and have your CSU account number ready. Our dispatch operates 24 hours a day. 

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on our community, College Station Utilities remains committed to providing you with reliable electric power while taking the proper precautions to protect the health and safety of our staff.

For more information on how to reduce your electricity costs, contact me at pmcintyre@cstx.gov or 979-764-6343. For billing questions, contact Utility Customer Service at 979-764-3535. 

 


0000072EPAbout the Blogger

Patrick McIntyre is the energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.

 


 

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Sales tax holiday can save you money — and water

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

The Memorial Day weekend in the Brazos Valley will be busy with the Texas Weekend of Remembrance, high school graduations, dance recitals, athletic events, and more.

The return of sunny, warm weather also means it an ideal time to make your home and landscape more efficient. If you upgrade your irrigation controller, install a rain sensor, and add mulch to your drought-tolerant plants this weekend, it’s all tax-free.

The Texas Comptroller’s Office has declared a sales tax holiday from Saturday through Monday on the purchase of certain water– and energy-efficient products. This year marks the third time the tax holiday has provided an incentive for Texans to conserve our limited water resources.

Eligible tax-exempt items are things that can be used to conserve or retain groundwater, recharge water tables, or decrease ambient air temperature to reduce water lost to evaporation. Among the eligible items are:

  • WaterSense-labeled products.
  • Soaker or drip-irrigation hoses.
  • Moisture control for sprinkler or irrigation systems (rain shutoff switches or soil moisture sensors).
  • Rain barrels (rainwater harvesting equipment is always exempt from state sales tax).
  • Permeable ground cover surfaces that allow water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points.
  • Plants, trees, and grasses.
  • Soil and compost.

WaterSense-labeled products go through an independent, third-party certification process and meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s specifications for efficiency and performance. The beauty is having water-saving products in your home or business that deliver exceptional performance and savings on water bills for years to come.

For more information, visit the Texas Comptroller’s Water-Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday webpage.

Stay cool this weekend and get ready for water and energy savings!

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Brave linemen dedicated to keeping your power on

By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

Since the invention of the Edison lightbulb in 1879, electric linemen have been keeping the nation energized. More than 227,000 men and women install and maintain the nation’s nine million miles of electric grid that meet our power needs, including the 28 who serve at College Station Utilities.

That’s why the United States Congress and the City of College Station are recognizing Thursday as National Lineman Appreciation Day (#ThankaLineman) as a way to honor the hard-working folks who protect public safety and energize our economy by keeping the power on.

Linemen are also an essential part of the first-responder community alongside police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. In most cases, other first responders can see their emergency issues, but electricity is invisible, which makes for an extremely hazardous environment during storms. While big events require all-hands-on-deck, most routine trouble calls are handled by two-person crews.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, being an electric lineman ranks among the 10 most dangerous jobs. Unlike most occupations, linemen spend a large part of their working lives well above the ground maintaining electrical infrastructure. Our linemen work with voltages as high as 138,000 volts and as low as the standard 120-volt power in your home.

College Station Utilities is also committed to the construction of reliable, underground utilities. Our electric grid is more than 56 percent underground, which requires our electric personnel to be knowledgeable in both overhead and underground systems.

Please join us in thanking the highly skilled and dedicated linemen who work all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to keep your lights on.

 


0000072EPAbout the Blogger

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.

 


 

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Can you imagine a day without water?

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

Think a moment about your typical morning routine.

You wake up and make a steaming cup of fresh coffee or tea before heading to the toilet and the shower. After you get dressed in freshly washed clothes, you eat a nutritious breakfast and clean your dishes in the dishwasher or sink.

Of course, you make your dentist happy by brushing your teeth.

Now, imagine for a moment that you had no water. None of your morning activities would be possible without safe and reliable water and the infrastructure that delivers it to your home.

If you’ve never gone without water, it’s almost impossible to envision a day without it. Your water service may have temporarily been shut off to repair a leak, but you had full confidence that the water would soon flow again.

Today is the fourth annual Imagine a Day Without Water, a nationwide day of education and advocacy about the value of water. The Value of Water Campaign is helping hundreds of organizations across the country host events and spearhead projects aimed at raising awareness about the crucial need for investing in our nation’s water infrastructure.

After decades of underfunding, water infrastructure across the nation has aged and needs replacement or significant repairs. Drought, flooding, and population changes have dramatically increased the stress on our water and wastewater systems.

According to the Value of Water Campaign’s report on The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure, a one-day disruption in water services at a national level would result in a $43.5 billion loss in sales for businesses. In just eight days, a national water service stoppage would put nearly two million jobs in jeopardy.

In contrast, for each job created in the water sector, 3.68 jobs are added to the national economy. For every $1 spent on infrastructure improvements, the United States generates $6 in economic returns. That’s a sound investment.

It’s not all gloom and doom. College Station’s water and wastewater systems are young compared to many cities. For the most part, we’ve been able to stay ahead of our infrastructure needs. Each day – including weekends and holidays – our Water Services employees maintain 454 miles of water lines, 363 miles of wastewater lines, nine groundwater wells, and three wastewater treatment plants.

City councils and community leaders through the years have recognized that water is essential to the quality of life and economic competitiveness and have supported the water and wastewater rates necessary to maintain award-winning water and wastewater systems.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Mayor Karl Mooney read an official proclamation (at right) for Imagine a Day Without Water to draw attention to the many ways we maintain critical water and wastewater infrastructure.

How you can help

No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves safe, reliable, and accessible water.

You can help by conserving water. Since irrigation water gushing down the street benefits no one, sign up for landscape watering recommendations from Brazos Valley WaterSmart. Every gallon of water saved is a gallon left in the Simsboro Aquifer for later use.

You can also help keep our waterways clean by avoiding over-fertilizing, picking up litter, and disposing of hazardous waste at Household Hazardous Waste collection events like the one scheduled for Oct. 20. Improperly discarded fertilizer, motor oil, and litter make its way into our creeks, which feed into the Navasota and Brazos Rivers – and someone is drinking that water downstream.

A groundswell of communities and partners have come together to promote safe and reliable water systems with Imagine a Day Without Water. We can make a difference by leveraging our collective power, educating our decision-makers, and inspiring our communities to make water infrastructure a priority.

Let’s invest in our water systems, so no American ever has to live a day without water.

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Public Power Week highlights reliability and service

By Pat McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

The City of College Station is recognizing the dedicated professionals of College Station Utilities and Utility Customer Service during Public Power Week, which runs through Saturday.

The 32nd anniversary of Public Power Week is a nationwide celebration of public power’s value to its communities. The event honors the thousands of men and women across the United States who provide and maintain the electrical grid infrastructure and services known as public power. In 2018, more than 5.1 million Texans are served by community-owned power.

College Station is one of 72 publicly owned utilities in Texas and is one of only four to receive national recognition as a Diamond-Level Reliable Public Power Provider from the American Public Power Association, which coordinates Public Power Week. Utilities receiving the designation are among the nation’s best in reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement.

The 103 employees at CSU and Utility Customer Service are the foundation for the reliable service and electric system infrastructure that allows our community to develop and grow. Programs available in College Station through our electric utility include Energy Back II A/C Rebate, LED Lighting Rebate, Connected Thermostat Rebate, Commercial LED Rebate, and free energy audits.

The American Public Power Association represents not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities that power homes, businesses, and streets in more than 2,000 towns and cities, serving 48 million Americans. With no divided loyalties, these utilities focus on a single mission: providing reliable electricity to the communities they serve while protecting the environment.

As we observe Public Power Week, we thank the employees at College Station Utilities and Utility Customer Service for their hard work, professionalism and the invaluable service they provide to our community every day.

#publicpowerweek

Related Links:

 


0000072EPAbout the Blogger

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.

 


 

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College Station’s new water rates take effect July 1

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

College Station Utilities hasn’t increased water rates since 2010 thanks to improved conservation efforts by our customers and the implementation of impact fees on new development.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Last fall, the College Station City Council unanimously approved a six percent increase in water rates as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The council deferred the increase until the fourth quarter, which begins July 1.

College Station has grown more than 25 percent since that last rate increase. That means we need additional water wells to keep up with demand, along with another water tower on the east side of Highway 6. Without one-time impact fees, we’d need a 15 percent rate increase to pay for those necessities.

Water Usage Rates

Here’s a comparative breakdown of the old and new water rates:

Customer Class Usage Per 1,000g before July 1

Per 1,000g after July 1

Residential 10,000 gallons or less $2.26 $2.40
11,000 – 15,000 gallons $2.94 $3.12
16,000 – 20,000 gallons $3.61 $3.83
21,000 – 25,000 gallons $4.28 $4.54
26,000 gallons or more $4.96 $5.26
Commercial Indoor usage $2.49 $2.64
Commercial Outdoor usage (irrigation) $2.68 $2.84

You’ll be charged $2.40 per 1,000 gallons for the first 10,000, $3.12 for the next 5,000, and up the tiers as usage increases.

Your Monthly Bill

More than half of our residential water customers use 10,000 gallons of water or less each month, but some are consistently in the 26,000 gallons-and-up rate block. If you’re a 10,000-gallon user, you’ve paid about $32.79 a month for your water since 2010, which includes a $ 10.19 meter charge. If the existing rates had been indexed annually to inflation, you’d be paying $36.19 today, or $3.40 more. Under the new rate – which includes a $10.80 meter charge – you’ll pay $34.80.

That comes out to about 35 cents for 100 gallons of clean, pure water that’s rated as superior by state regulators. The chart below includes the monthly residential meter charge, which varies by meter size.

Usage Bill before July 1 Bill after July 1 Increase
10,000 gallons $32.79 $34.80 $2.01
15,000 gallons $47.49 $50.40 $2.91
30,000 gallons $111.74 $118.55 $6.81
50,000 gallons $210.94 $223.75 $12.81

Keep Your Costs Down

The City of College Station offers proactive programs to help customers reduce water waste and trim their bills, including free landscape irrigation checkups, direct outreach to the highest water users, rebates on water-saving products, and weekly watering recommendations from Brazos Valley WaterSmart.

Efficient water use is the least expensive way to make our supplies more sustainable, and it keeps your rates lower over time. Your water bill payment is an investment in our water future, ensuring that we can continue to provide you – and generations to come – with high-quality water.

For more information about water rates or conservation, go to cstx.gov/water or call us at 979-764–3660.


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


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Sales tax holiday a chance to save water, money

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

Memorial Day weekend in the Brazos Valley means it’s time to Remember the Fallen, along with high school graduations, dance recitals, athletic events, and more. But if you can carve out the time, it’s also a great time to make your home and landscape more efficient.

And it’s all tax-free.

The Texas Comptroller’s Office is offering a sales tax holiday on the purchase of certain water and energy-efficient products from Saturday through Monday. The sales tax holiday was made possible by legislation passed in 2015, and this year marks the second time the tax holiday has provided an incentive for Texans to conserve our limited water resources. In addition to tax savings, rebates for toilets and rain barrels are available for College Station water customers.

Eligible items are things that can be used to conserve or retain groundwater, recharge water tables, or decrease ambient air temperature to reduce water lost to evaporation. Mulch is on the list because it is an excellent way to cool the soil, suppress weeds, and help plants use water efficiently. You can’t go wrong with a good thick layer of organic mulch.

Other tax-exempt items include:

  • WaterSense-labeled products.
  • Soaker or drip-irrigation hoses.
  • Moisture controls for sprinkler or irrigation systems (i.e., rain shutoff switches).
  • Rain barrels or an alternative rain and moisture collection system.
  • Permeable ground cover surfaces that allow water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points.
  • Plants, trees, and grasses.
  • Water-saving surfactants.
  • Soil and compost.

WaterSense labeled products go through an independent third-party certification process and meet the EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. The beauty of WaterSense is having water-saving products in your home or business that deliver exceptional performance and savings on your water bills for years to come.

For more information, visit the Water-Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday page on the Texas Comptroller’s website. Stay cool this weekend and enjoy water and energy savings!

 

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


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CSU’s smart meters will be safe and secure

By David Coleman, College Station Interim Assistant City Manager

College Station Utilities customers have grown accustomed to workers entering their backyards to read the electric meter. No one looks forward to the monthly intrusion on their privacy, but the work is necessary to get an accurate measure of your electricity usage.

The situation is as uncomfortable for our readers as it is for our customers. You don’t like the invasion of your privacy; our readers don’t like encountering startled Rottweilers. If only a better, less intrusive way existed to check your monthly electricity usage.

Well, it does. And CSU and its electric customers will soon have access to it.

Last month, the College Station City Council directed CSU to move forward with implementing Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI), commonly called smart meters. The process will take about three years to complete. The change will apply only to electric meters, while water will continue to install AMI-ready meters for future implementation.

Smart meters record energy usage just like traditional meters but send and receive the data through wireless communications technology. That eliminates the need for us to enter your property on a regular basis. The new system will not reduce our workforce, either, since we’ll hire meter and system technicians to replace the readers.

Since 2010, AMI use has doubled with about half the nation’s electricity customer accounts now using smart meters. In 2016, Texas added the most residential smart meters of any state. Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU) successfully implemented its AMI system more than six years ago.

The council’s decision has raised some questions about the pros and cons of smart meters. Even though the city hasn’t yet requested proposals from potential contractors, we can still address many of the issues.

In addition to being less invasive, the meters will provide timely data that helps us generate more accurate utility bills by reducing human error. We’ll be able to better monitor system performance, control energy theft, provide greater reliability, and pinpoint and respond faster to outages. The system also will make it easier for you to identify ways to save energy and trim your monthly bill.

Since College Station is home to one of the nation’s largest universities, our electric utility handles an extraordinary number of service connects and disconnects. Because of the transient nature of much of our growing population, College Station Utilities processed about 70,000 connection and disconnection work orders last year.

During the peak move-in and move-out times in May and August, what should be a simple service can take several days. We’ll soon be able to handle those 70,000 annual connects and disconnects remotely, which will significantly improve our customer service capabilities and recover about 700,000 miles logged by our service trucks each year, providing substantial savings and environmental benefits.

Privacy and Security

Our top priority has always been providing reliable and safe electric service, which includes safeguarding your privacy and protecting your data. Since we must know how much electricity you use to bill you accurately, that’s all the smart meters measure — not how you use the electricity. Only consumption data is transmitted, nothing more. At the same time, the system’s firewall protects us against external hacking threats.

Moreover, privacy laws require us to protect consumer data. We can’t share that information without your permission, so rest assured it won’t end up in the hands of marketers.

Radiation

Our most likely communication system would use radio frequency, which produces no microwave radiation. Research shows that standing next to the AMI meter exposes you a fraction of the electromagnetic radiation produced by cell phones or baby monitors.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas recently concluded that “decades of scientific research have not provided any proven or unambiguous biological effects from exposure to low-level radio frequency signals. In reviewing all available material, (PUC) staff found no credible evidence to suggest that smart meters emit harmful amounts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation.”

Costs

For several years, the leadership of our electric utility has prudently set aside adequate funds in CSU’s budget for potential capital projects such as an AMI system. That means the new meters won’t cause an increase in electric rates. The up-front, one-time cost of implementing the AMI system is expected to be about $9.2 million, with annual operations and maintenance costs of about $660,000.

If the meters have a life of 11-12 years, we’ll likely break even on the costs and benefits of the new system. Any shortfall would simply be the cost of doing business and providing better service.

We encourage CSU electric customers to participate in the discussion when an AMI contract is presented to the city council early next year.

 


About the Blogger

David Coleman serves as College Station’s interim assistant city manager after 14 years as the director of water services at College Station Utilities. He also served 21 years as a civil engineer corps officer in the U.S. Navy. Coleman earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M in 1981 and a master’s in construction engineering from Stanford.


 

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Electric linemen brave elements to keep your power on

By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

Since the invention of the Edison light bulb in 1879, electric linemen have been keeping the nation energized. More than 115,000 men and women install and maintain the nine million miles of electric grid that meet the nation’s power needs, including the 28 who serve at College Station Utilities.

That’s why the United States Congress and the City of College Station are recognizing Wednesday as National Lineman Appreciation Day (#ThankaLineman) as a way to honor the hard-working folks who protect public safety and energize our economy by keeping the power on.

Linemen are also a vital part of the first-responder community alongside police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. In most cases, other first responders can see their emergency issues, but electricity is invisible, which makes for an extremely hazardous environment during storms. While big events require all-hands-on-deck, most routine trouble calls are handled by two-person crews.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, being an electric lineman ranked among the 10 most dangerous jobs. Unlike most occupations, linemen spend a large part of their working lives well above the ground maintaining electrical infrastructure. Our linemen work with voltages as high as 138,000 volts down to the standard 120-volt power in your home.

College Station Utilities is also committed to the construction of reliable, underground utilities. Our electric grid is more than 56 percent underground, which requires our electric personnel to be knowledgeable in both overhead and underground systems.

Please join us in thanking the highly skilled and dedicated linemen who work all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to keep your lights on.

 


About the Author

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.


 

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Public Power Week celebrates value to community

By Pat McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

The City of College Station is recognizing the dedicated professionals of College Station Utilities and Utility Customer Service during Public Power Week, which runs through Saturday.

The 31st anniversary of Public Power Week is a nationwide celebration of public power’s value to its communities. The event honors the thousands of men and women across the United States who provide and maintain the electrical grid infrastructure and services known as public power. In 2016, more than 4.1 million Texans were served by community-owned power.

College Station is one of 72 publicly owned utilities in Texas and is one of only five to receive national recognition as a Reliable Public Power Provider from the American Public Power Association, which coordinates Public Power Week. Utilities receiving the designation are among the nation’s best in reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement.

The 77 employees at CSU and the 25 at Utility Customer Service are the foundation for the reliable service and electric system infrastructure that allows our community to develop and grow. Programs available in College Station through our electric utility include Energy Back II A/C Rebate, LED Lighting Rebate, Connected Thermostat Rebate, Commercial LED Rebate and free energy audits.

The American Public Power Association represents not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities that power homes, businesses, and streets in nearly 2,000 towns and cities, serving 47 million Americans. With no divided loyalties, these utilities focus on a single mission: providing reliable electricity to the communities they serve while protecting the environment.

As we observe Public Power Week, we thank the employees at College Station Utilities and Utility Customer Service for their hard work, professionalism and the invaluable service they provide to our community every day.

Related Links:

 


0000072EPAbout the Author

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.

 


 

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New water meters will improve accuracy, planning

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

College Station Water Services is replacing about 5,000 residential water meters to allow the city to more accurately monitor water usage, plan for future water needs, and support water conservation.

The project began in April and is expected to be complete in June. You won’t be charged for your new meter, which will be replaced in order of billing cycle to allow you to begin a fresh cycle with the new meter.

The contractor won’t need to enter your home or business to do the replacement, but they may walk through your yard to access the water supply valve. Our water meters are located below ground in plastic, concrete or cast iron meter boxes with lids, typically near the sidewalk or curb.

The contractor’s vehicles are marked “Contractor for College Station Water Services.” If you’re home, the workers will let you know before briefly shutting off your water. If you aren’t home, they’ll leave a tag on your door to let you know they replaced your meter.

As with any measuring device, meters can become less accurate as they age. Water meters more than a decade old can significantly under-register flows. If the new, more accurate meter results in a slightly higher water bill, that means your old meter wasn’t registering all the water you used.

If you experience any problems or leaks with the new meter, please call College Station Utilities Dispatch at 855-528-4278. Choose option 2 to report a water issue and leave your contact information.

If you have any questions or concerns, call Water Services at 979-764-3660.

 


About the Author

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after serving two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and received a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Brave linemen are dedicated to keeping the power on

By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

Since the invention of the Edison light bulb in 1879, electric linemen have been keeping the nation energized. More than 115,000 men and women install and maintain the nine million miles of electric grid that meet the nation’s power needs, including the 28 who serve at College Station Utilities.

That’s why the United States Congress and the City of College Station are recognizing today as National Lineman Appreciation Day (#ThankaLineman) as a way to honor the hard-working folks who protect public safety and energize our economy by keeping the power on.

Linemen are also a vital part of the first-responder community alongside police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. In most cases, other first responders can see their emergency issues, but electricity is invisible, which makes for an extremely hazardous environment during storms. While big events require all-hands-on-deck, most routine trouble calls are handled by two-person crews.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, being an electric lineman ranked among the 10 most dangerous jobs. Unlike most occupations, linemen spend a large part of their working lives well above the ground maintaining electrical infrastructure. Our linemen work with voltages as high as 138,000 volts down to the standard 120-volt power in your home.

College Station Utilities is also committed to the construction of reliable, underground utilities. Our electric grid is about 56 percent underground, which requires our electric personnel to be knowledgeable in both overhead and underground systems.

Please join us in thanking the highly skilled and dedicated linemen who work all hours of the day, often in hazardous conditions, to keep your lights on.

 


About the Author

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984. 


 

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Adjusting to new LED street lights may take time

By Timothy R. Crabb, P.E., Electric Utility Director

We’ve received good feedback on our LED street lighting program as we replace the old high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights with energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures. The HPS fixtures had lost much of their effectiveness through deterioration of components and dirt buildup on the lenses.

Since the LED fixtures provide more lighting, our customers may need to allow a month or two to get used to the change.

We began upgrading the city’s 5,000 street lights in early March. The project should be complete by mid-July.

Related Blog:


About the Author

Timothy Crabb is in his fifth year as College Station’s electric utility director and has more than 40 years of electric utility experience. He began his career in the electric utility industry the week after he graduated from Taylor High School in 1977. Timothy earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the UT-Arlington in 1990.


 

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College Station converts to efficient LED street lights

By Timothy R. Crabb, P.E., Electric Utility Director

In 2009, College Station became the first city in Texas to install an automated street light monitoring system, which helps us quickly identify and repair malfunctions and burned out bulbs.

Now, we’ll be the first with that system to convert entirely to high-efficiency LED (light emitting diode) lighting.

On Wednesday, College Station Utilities will begin upgrading the city’s 5,500 street lights to LED fixtures. The LEDs will reduce our power and maintenance costs while providing better, more reliable lighting. The conversion should be complete by mid-July.

The street lights used in residential neighborhoods will be 3,000 Kelvin fixtures that retain some of the warm glow of our current lights but with better color recognition. Thoroughfare lights will be 4,000 Kelvin fixtures that emit a brighter, cooler white light to enhance security and traffic safety. Our monitoring system also allows us to dim the LEDs.

Since the LED fixtures provide more lighting, our customers may need to allow a month or two to get used to the change.

Replacing thousands of street lights isn’t cheap. The project has a price tag of about $2.56 million, but the money we save from lower maintenance and power expenses means we’ll likely recover the costs in 7-8 years.

Since the new system is expected to last about 30 years, we’ll be reaping the benefits for decades to come.

 


About the Author

Timothy Crabb is in his fifth year as College Station’s electric utility director and has more than 40 years of electric utility experience. He began his career in the electric utility industry the week after he graduated from Taylor High School in 1977. Timothy earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the UT-Arlington in 1990.


 

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New fee will help address street maintenance concerns

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By Aubrey Nettles, Special Projects Coordinator

While the results of our 2016 citizen survey last spring were enlightening, they were hardly surprising.

We weren’t at all surprised to learn that the overwhelming majority of our residents think College Station is a terrific place to live, work, and raise a family. We were proud that our overall city services got high marks, along with the value of the services you receive for your tax dollars.

When it came to what services our residents deem most important, we weren’t surprised, either. Public safety, managing traffic congestion, and maintaining our roadways and were at the top of the list.

The survey also revealed the biggest gaps between the importance and quality of our services. With our rapid growth, we weren’t surprised to see a 70-point gap between the importance (98 percent) and quality (28 percent) for managing traffic congestion.

What seized our attention was the 51-point gap for street maintenance. While 99 percent said maintaining our roads was an important service, only 48 percent gave us a good or excellent rating. That represented a 23-point drop from the 2012 survey, the biggest decline in any city service.

City council takes action

Those numbers also commanded the attention of the city council. During the FY17 budget process, the council began considering roadway maintenance fees to help address the maintenance needs of that vital infrastructure. After two public hearings and much deliberation over several months, the council voted in November to implement the fees starting Jan. 1.

The roadway maintenance fee will be paid by citizens and businesses within the city limits, based on their reasonably equitable share in the total impact on the road system. The fee will appear as a line item on your utility bill, with the revenue dedicated entirely to the maintenance and rehabilitation of our streets. That means the funds can’t be used for anything else.

Many cities in Texas are facing the same issue of road maintenance needs outpacing property and sales tax revenue. Others with variations of a roadway maintenance fee include Bryan, Austin, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Lampasas, Taylor, and Richwood. Our neighbors in Bryan began assessing a transportation fee in 2004 that’s improved the quality of its road system.

How much do I pay?

Travel characteristics of specific land uses were used to develop the fee schedule. For residential properties, a flat monthly rate of $7.78 will be assessed to single-family homes and $6.10 to multi-family units. Bryan residents pay $12 a month.

Non-residential properties will be placed in one of five tiers ranging from $17.23 for properties that generate little road use to $250 for properties that create the most road use. For example, a small office building is expected to cause much less traffic than a large retail business, so it pays a lower fee.


Vehicle Miles Generated/Day Monthly Charge
Non-Residential
Tier I 0 – 23.99 $17.23
Tier II 24.00 – 43.99 $38.71
Tier III 43.99 – 90.99 $74.71
Tier IV 91.00 – 223.99 $152.39
Tier V 224.00 + $250.00
Residential
Single Family Flat fee/dwelling unit $7.78
Multi-Family Flat fee/dwelling unit $6.10

What determines the non-residential tiers?

The tiers for non-residential properties are based on the amount of roadway traffic generated by the land use, the size of the property, and an industry-standard trip generation factor. The 65 land use categories for the roadway fee are consistent with other city transportation initiatives.

The size of each property depends on its land use. For example, office buildings are measured by floor area, gas stations are measured by the number of fueling positions, and hotels are measured by the number of rooms. The trip generation factor for each land use — a function of the number and length of vehicle trips — is determined by the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Trip Generation Manual.

The amount of the fee based on a final trip value derived from the property size and the trip generation factor.

Our residents made clear in the citizen survey that they expect our streets to be properly maintained and rehabilitated. In the long run, additional resources dedicated to maintenance will save taxpayer money by deferring costly reconstruction projects.

For more information, contact me at 979-764-3423 or anettles@cstx.gov.

 


15171088_10109275789026314_9222973594705679303_n1About the Author

Aubrey Nettles is in her third year as special projects coordinator in the City Manager’s Office. She previously served as executive assistant to the Fort Bend County Commission and was a management analyst for Harris County. A native of Smithville, Aubrey earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Houston in 2012 and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Texas A&M in 2010.  


 

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New thermostat rebate could lower your energy costs

home-control

thermostatBy Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

It’s not exactly a news flash that Texas gets terribly hot in the summer. That’s why air conditioning is among mankind’s greatest creations.

Unfortunately, it can also be expensive.

If you’re a typical College Station resident, about half of your annual energy bill can be attributed to air conditioning. The cost of running household appliances and electronics don’t even come close.

The thermostat that controls your HVAC system can be the key to lowering your costs.

The device itself doesn’t directly consume electricity, but significant savings can be realized by reducing the run time of your system. Thanks to technological advancements, you can save energy by remotely controlling your thermostat with your smartphone. That means you can reset your connected thermostat to pre-cool your home before returning from work, or you can adjust it while on vacation.

Starting in January, College Station Utilities’ will offer $30 rebates to residential customers who purchase an eligible thermostat through the Connected Thermostat Program. All you need to do is submit an application along with a purchase receipt. Once the application is approved, we’ll credit the rebate to your utility account.

Eligible thermostat brands are Nest, Honeywell, Radio Thermostat, Ecobee, Emerson, Carrier, Schneider Electric, Lux GEO, Lockstate, Trane, Hunter, and First Alert.

The Connected Thermostat Program complements our existing programs that can help lower your electric bill:

  • The Energy Back II Rebate Program provides rebates for residential customers replacing central air conditioning systems with higher efficiency models.
  • The Residential LED Lighting Program encourages the replacement of incandescent lighting with higher efficiency LEDs (light-emitting diode) lamps. CSU will credit residential customers’ accounts $2 per LED up to a maximum rebate of $20 per customer in any 12-month period.
  • CSU also provides free, personalized commercial and residential on-site energy surveys to help you identify energy conservation measures that can further reduce your utility costs.

Download Connected Thermostat Rebate Form

Take advantage of these cost-saving programs today! If you have any questions, email me at pmcintyre@cstx.gov.

 


0000072EPAbout the Author

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984. 

 


 

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Photo Credit: scyther5/123RF Stock Photo


5 things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

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By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (5:30 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings. Here are five items to watch:

  1. Wastewater Master Plan Update: In the workshop, the council will review the city’s updated Wastewater Master Plan, which includes demand projections and a capital improvement plan.
  2. Neighborhood Sidewalk Improvements: As part of the consent agenda, the council will consider a $203,000 contract for sidewalks on the west side of Eisenhower Street, the south side of Live Oak Street, the north side of San Saba Drive, and an ADA accessible sidewalk on the south side of Cross Street. The projects will be funded by federal Community Development Block Grants.
  3. LED Street Lighting: Also on the consent agenda is a $2.56 million contract for replacing the city’s street lights with more efficient LED (light emitting diode) fixtures.
  4. Corsair Circle Rezoning: After a public hearing, the council will consider a request to change the land use and zoning designations for about two acres on Corsair Circle just north of Pavilion Avenue. The changes would allow for the development of a hotel.
  5. SH 6-Sebesta Rezoning: After a public hearing, the council will consider a request to change the land use and zoning designations for about 18 acres south of Sebesta Road along State Highway 6. The changes would allow for commercial development.

Before the council’s executive session, the city’s employee of the year will be announced at 3:30 p.m. and honored with the other nominees at a reception. Employees with at least 20, 25, 30 and 35 years of service also will be recognized.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. The website includes an archive of previous council meetings. We’ll post a detailed live blog on this site.

Related links:     

         


14316755_10108798313965164_2904942172107966680_nAbout the Author

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian)has been with the City of College Station since 2010. He previously served 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also done extensive volunteer work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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Public Power Week focuses on reliable electricity

By Pat McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

The City of College Station is recognizing the dedicated professionals of College Station Utilities and Utility Customer Service during Public Power Week, which starts Sunday and runs through Saturday, Oct. 8.

The 30th anniversary of Public Power Week is a nationwide celebration of public power’s value to its communities. The event honors the thousands of men and women across the United States who provide and maintain the electrical grid infrastructure and services known as public power.

College Station is one of 72 publicly owned utilities in Texas and is one of only five to receive national recognition as a Reliable Public Power Provider from the American Public Power Association. In 2016, more than 4.1 million Texans were served by community-owned power.

Utilities that receive the designation are among the nation’s best in reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. The 71 employees at CSU and the 25 at Utility Customer Service are the foundation for the reliable service and electric system infrastructure that allows our community to develop and grow.

The American Public Power Association coordinates Public Power Week. The organization represents not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities that power homes, businesses and streets in nearly 2,000 towns and cities, serving 47 million Americans. With no divided loyalties, these utilities focus on a single mission: providing reliable electricity to the communities they serve while protecting the environment.

As we observe Public Power Week, we thank the employees at College Station Utilities and Utility Customer Service for their hard work, professionalism and the dedicated service they provide to our community every day.

Related Links

 


0000072EPAbout the Author

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984. 

 


 

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Surge protection now can save big money later

01-surge-protectors-groupBy Pat McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

Power outages like the one we experienced Saturday can cause a lot of inconveniences and problems, particularly for expensive electronic devices that lack adequate surge protection. Home theaters, TVs, computers and sound systems are costly to replace.

What’s the best way to protect these devices?

Here are five things to consider:

  1. Power strips aren’t enough: Power strips with multiple outlets are simply an extension of your wall outlet and may not provide adequate protection. High-quality surge protectors are a relatively inexpensive way to protect your electronics.
  2. Joules matter: Protectors with at least of 400 joules of capacity are recommended. Whenever surge protection is used, it consumes capacity. Indicator lights may show that some capacity remains, but they don’t reveal how much. Think of a battery that lacks the power to start your car but will play the radio.
  3. Surge protectors wear out: The capacity of surge protectors degrades over time. They typically have a light that signals when they’re on and working, but the light doesn’t indicate the unit’s remaining useful life. How long they last depends on how much they’re needed.
  4. More outlets: Always get more surge protection outlets than you need.
  5. What’s new?: Thewirecuttercom’s pick as the best surge protector is the Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL, which stops passing power when it’s no longer effective at blocking surges.

When you consider the high price of your electronic devices, making sure you meet your surge protection needs is an easy choice to make.

Related Article:

 


0000072EPAbout the Author

Patrick McIntyre is energy coordinator for College Station Utilities and is responsible for the energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984. 

Other blogs by Pat McIntyre


 

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Second transformer arrives at Northgate substation

 

By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator  

CSU received a second transformer Thursday morning at the Northgate substation the city shares with Texas A&M. The new transformer doubles the substation’s capacity and will help us stay ahead of Northgate’s growth.

Since the substation is located in a high-density area, precautions had to be taken. College Station police escorted the truck and 70-foot trailer carrying the 150,000-lb. load through a route prescribed by the Texas Department of Transportation. University police isolated the area that led to the station entrance, where a 350-ton mobile crane carefully off-loaded the transformer.

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Is College Station’s drinking water contaminated?

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By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

After the recent national headlines about lead contamination in Flint, Mich., and the news stories about poor water quality monitoring practices, you certainly can’t blame people for suspecting our tap water may be unsafe — or even dangerous.

Unfortunately, some businesses have taken advantage of the headlines by spreading misinformation in a misguided attempt to sell water products and services.

Don’t believe them. College Station’s drinking water is safe.

(more…)


Public Power Week focuses on reliable electricity providers

By Patrick C. McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

The City of College Station joins communities across the nation this week in recognizing the thousands of men and women who provide and maintain the electrical grid infrastructure and services known as public power.

The American Public Power Association coordinates Public Power Week, which is in its 29th year. Not-for-profit, community-owned electric providers serve about 47 million Americans in nearly 2,000 towns and cities.

With no divided loyalties, these utilities focus on providing reliable electricity while protecting the environment.

College Station Utilities is among 72 publicly owned utilities in Texas that serve more than 4.1 million customers with community-owned power. CSU is one of only two utilities in our state to be nationally recognized this year as a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3). The designation is based on reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. (more…)