By Beth Lawrence

 

The Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer board reviewed and updated its emergency action plan to keep the department running in the event of a possible coronavirus outbreak in Jackson County.

Board member Jeff Goss brought up the subject at TWSA’s March 10 work session.

“By no means do I want to be an alarmist,” Goss said. “We should dust off our emergency action plan, take a look at what we have in place and give some thought to what we would do if any of our operations teams have somebody impacted (or) the entire department being quarantined for 14 days. How are we going to continue to provide services?”

The board discussed a number of suggestions like the need to update contact information including the addition of new director Daniel Manring, making a plan for continuity of service in the operations department, and sanitization practices.

Nancy Hoyle, TWSA finance officer confirmed that supervisors and operators were already cross-trained to perform other jobs in the case of an emergency.

Manring suggested the possibility of bringing in a private company to run the water and sewer as a last resort should the entire staff be affected.

Some measures to minimize exposure are already in place in the business office.

Hoyle said her staff was already in the habit of cleaning doors, counters and other frequently touched surfaces due to cold and flu season.

Goss touched on the subject of disinfecting the operations and business offices should an employee be exposed and bring it to work.

“What if we do have a staff member that is potentially exposed to it?” Goss asked. “We know that we need to totally disinfect, but do we have a cleaning service on call and know that we can have them come to this facility?”

A suggestion was made to reach out to professional cleaning services to find out which ones contract for that kind of work. 

Current interim Director Dan Schaeffer will work with Todd Dillard, director of Emergency Management for Jackson County for suggestions as to biohazard cleaners.

The board also discussed having office staff prepare to work from home.

Manring was charged with looking into the purchase of a laptop or laptops that have sufficient power to run TWSA accounts programs to allow accounts payable and receivable to continue to operate.

“I think this particular situation calls for us to have access to a laptop, at least one,” Board Chair Tracy Rodes said.

It was agreed that staff would work on a business continuity plan in the coming weeks.

A few steps have been put in place since the meeting, Rodes said.

“The board of directors discussed proactive measures to be taken to ensure continuity of TWSA services in case employees are out sick for an extended period of time due to COVID-19,” she said. “The most important thing for the public to know is that TWSA will continue to provide quality water and reliable sewer services for our customers.”

The following measures have been put in place:

• Social distancing is encouraged to limit the spread of the virus. No full staff meetings in confined spaces will be convened.

• Additional cleaning of phones, door handles, reception area, bathrooms and the break room has been delegated and scheduled.

• TWSA has old laptops for home use for key employees to work from home, and will be purchasing at least one more.

• Employees are adequately cross-trained to cover each other.

• TWSA has an existing mutual aid agreement with Western Carolina University to provide each other with qualified employees if needed.

• Staff will not be allowed to come to work until they are fever free for 24 hours or until released by their doctor.

• Any confirmed case of COVID-19 among staff will require professional cleaning services of the building.