City of Springs hosts regional training for municipal linemen

Reprinted with permission from the True Dakotan. Originally published Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The City of Wessington Springs, SD hosted an OSHA-required quarterly training earlier this month with linemen and electrical superintendents from area municipalities in attendance.

Photo courtesy True Dakotan

Focused on bucket rescue, Bruce Westergaard, Regional Safety Coordinator and JTS Instructor of Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association, conducted the training with attendees from Plankinton, Miller, Howard, Volga, Arlington, Parker and Wessington Springs.

“It’s good to get the area municipalities together with linemen from other towns,” Westergaard said. “Not only for making sure our electrical superintendents and linemen are well-trained for emergencies but also to establish those relationships in case they have to work together in a real-life emergency.”

CEO’s Report: Prioritizing Safety

Safety should always be a top priority.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. When doing the day to day work of a utility, it may be easy to get complacent.

But it only takes a split second for a potentially life-changing event to occur.

Safety should also be everyone’s concern. It is not only for those out in the field exposed to potentially dangerous situations. It should be the concern of utility leadership, finance officers, council members and anyone else involved in the electric utility.

It’s no secret the daily work at a utility can pose hazards. By creating a culture of safety at a utility, everyone should be able to sleep a little better at night.

For most Heartland customers, the size of the utility does not warrant a full-time safety coordinator, and it may be up to the employees themselves to advocate for and implement safe practices.

Fortunately, no utility has to do it alone. Heartland customers can improve safety training with help from an updated video series, available through the American Public Power Association.

The Safety Smart Video Series includes 22 short videos addressing topics and practices current and relevant to electric utility workers. Each video ranges 90 seconds to roughly three minutes long and is perfect for viewing in the field on a smart phone or tablet.

Videos cover a variety of topics including bucket truck rescue and self-rescue, climbing equipment inspection, meter safety, first aid, fall restriction training and more.

The videos cover a variety of topics appropriate for electric utility workers.

Videos reinforce the American Public Power Association Safety Manual, National Electrical Safety Code and appropriate OSHA standards.

The series was produced by the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association with help from a $100,000 grant through APPA’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments (DEED) program.

The best part is the series is available for viewing and download at no cost for DEED members. All Heartland customers are DEED members.

Not only are these videos beneficial to those in the field, it would be worthwhile for anyone involved in the electric utility to view them. A culture of safety cannot be created if everyone at the utility is not aware of the risks and threats those in field face every day.

I encourage you to take time to watch these videos. In fact, I would encourage you to watch them multiple times. While you may think you’re never going to need the information, you may be surprised when the moment arises that something you learned in one of the videos becomes crucial to your safety or that of one of your utility employees.

As the year draws to a close and we seek to make resolutions for the new year, it is the perfect time to make safety a top priority at your utility.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Situational awareness training highlights Winter Conference

Guest instructor shares tips to identify, avoid, reduce or mitigate hostile situations

Safety is paramount for utility workers. From investing in protective equipment to training and standards, utilities go the extra mile to ensure their workers go home at the end of the day.

Now, a growing problem in the United States is driving utilities to prepare employees for a new threat: hostile events.

Active shooter events and dangerous encounters are unpredictable and evolve quickly. In these situations, training and preparation are critical.

Heartland’s recent Winter Conference focused on this training with the help of professional speaker Stefan V. Salmonson, president of PROtective Services, Inc.,

Training crucial for workplace safety

Salmonson is a licensed deputy sheriff/tactical trainer, licensed private detective, international security consultant, experienced tactical specialist, contract government investigator, airline transport pilot and more. He and his team have provided executive and personal protection services, security related training and assessments, and consulting and risk management recommendations for hundreds of clients nationwide.

During his presentation, Salmonson defined and provided examples of hostile events, such as workplace violence, active shooters or angry customer encounters. He detailed how to spot potentially dangerous situations and modify your behavior for best response.

He also shared tips and best practices for utilities to implement at their workplace to help reduce risk.

“There was a lot of good information to absorb,” said Donna Klinkhammer, deputy finance officer for the city of Howard, SD. “Hopefully the city [of Howard] can implement some of his suggestions.”

Sponsors, attendance lead to successful event

Following the morning presentation, attendees enjoyed lunch and headed outdoors for the annual pheasant hunt. The group was also treated to dinner for additional networking with Heartland and industry professionals.

Now in its seventh year, Heartland’s Winter Conference offers insight on topics related to utility operations, such as safety, key accounts or load management. This year’s program targeted all utility employees and drew a record turnout.

“Our customer utilities have a long-standing commitment to workplace safety,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “Our Winter Conference aims to bolster this commitment by offering resources and training in a fun, relaxed environment.”

The event was made possible by a number of sponsors, including Duncan Weinberg Genzer & Pembroke, Tenaska, Bockorny Group, ISG Inc., NextEra Energy, Omni-Pro Software, Inc., DGR Engineering, Duncan Law Firm, GDS Associates, Fredrikson & Byron, and Dougherty & Company, LLC.

CEO’s Report: Focus on Safety

Safety was in the spotlight at our recently held Winter Conference.  Cody Raveling’s presentation, aptly titled, If it’s not grounded it’s not dead, provided eye-opening examples highlighting the effectiveness and importance of grounding.

Cody Raveling of the MMUA spoke about utility employee safety and the importance of grounding at Heartland’s recent Winter Conference.

Raveling is the training center coordinator and JT&S instructor with Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association. Having served as a lineman himself for ten years, Raveling is well aware of the dangers present when working with electricity.

The importance of grounding has increased over the years due to the higher fault currents on the electrical systems. This is the result of systems improvements, higher demands and increased reliability across the grids.

The purpose of temporary protective grounding is to provide protection for workers. This is accomplished by limiting currents through the worker due to exposure voltages at the worksite to acceptable values. Acceptable values vary based on different hazards.

Raveling walked through all the necessary steps to ensure grounds are in place for worker safety. He also emphasized the importance of personal protective equipment and showed examples of how that equipment has saved lives.

Raveling referenced the American Public Power Association’s Safety Manual throughout his presentation. He rightfully pointed out that each individual is responsible for his or her own safety. The manual states that before beginning a job, an employee shall satisfy themselves that they can perform the task without injury. If they are in doubt, they need to call this to the attention of their supervisor.

Heartland has ordered several copies of APPA’s Safety Manual and will be distributing them to customers as our staff make visits in the coming months. Safety of our customers is of utmost importance to Heartland and providing the manuals is just one small step we can take to help your workers stay safe. I hope you all take time to review the manual and continue to educate yourself on best safety practices.

Several customers stuck around after lunch to enjoy an afternoon of South Dakota’s favorite pastime: pheasant hunting. By moving this event from December to mid-November, we were able to enjoy some of our state’s better weather.

Winter Conference attendees are treated to an afternoon of pheasant hunting thanks to our event sponsors.

I certainly appreciated the opportunity to walk the fields alongside our customers as well as board members and event sponsors. It’s always gratifying to spend some downtime with our customers in a relaxed atmosphere. Events like these allow us to show appreciation for our valued partnerships.

I also want to add a thank you to all of the organizations who generously sponsored our Winter Conference, including: Duncan Weinberg Genzer & Pembroke, Tenaska Power Services, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., NextEra Energy, Omni-Pro Software, Inc., DGR Engineering, Zimmer Duncan & Cole, GDS Associates, Inc., and Dougherty & Company, LLC.

As I write this, I’m reminded that we’ve already reached the beginning of December. With that comes the busy holiday season and before we know it, we’ll reach the New Year. I hope you are all able to enjoy some extra time with friends and family this month and enjoy a relaxed Christmas and New Year’s.

I look forward to what the New Year brings for Heartland and all of our customers. We continue working to ensure a bright future for our company, and our customers.

Happy Holidays!

City employees given awards

Article originally appeared in the October 26, 2017 issue of the Volga Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

The employees of the city of Volga were presented Gold Level and Platinum Level Loss Control/Safety Achievement awards at the annual South Dakota Municipal League Conference in Sioux Falls earlier in October.

The awards honor employees for their efforts in protecting the assets of the city of Volga by making the workplace safer, reducing liability exposures and saving the taxpayers’ dollars through loss control.

The city was one of 27 utilities that received a gold in recognition for the loss control/safety efforts. This was the employees’ eighth year to receive this award.

The city was also one of 16 entities to receive a platinum level award. The South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance and the SDML Workers’ Compensation Fund presented the awards in recognition of their outstanding and comprehensive loss control/safety program, also for the eighth time.

City employees honored were Jameson Berreth, city administrator; Ashley Rentsch, city finance officer; Mary Ries, deputy finance officer; Chad Collins, electric superintendent; Kevin Steen, public works supervisor; and Jon Hauge, water/wastewater department.

Miller community mourns loss

Friday, July 8, two Miller, SD city employees were gravely injured when a water line trench in which they were working collapsed, trapping them. Terry Manning and Jim Bonebright were extricated and taken to Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital for initial treatment. Bonebright, 48, was transported to Avera McKennan Hosptial in Sioux Falls, where he would succumb to his injuries on Sunday, July 10, surrounded by family and friends. His obituary can be found here.

Our hearts are pouring with love, support and sympathy for Bonebright’s family, friends, co-workers and the entire community of Miller.

The article below originally appeared in the Wednesday, July 20, 2016 edition of The Miller Press. It was written by Will Page and reprinted with permission.

JIm “Boney” Bonebright

Sunday morning, July 10, the people of Hand County lost a good man.

“There are no words that can truly express our sorrow.” Those are some of the many heartfelt words written in remembrance of James “Boney” Bonebright on a poster in the window of the Main Street Lunch Box pizzeria.

That morning as the church congregations in Miller gathered to worship, many started with a prayer for Boney and his family. Some of the people reading this are alive because Boney saved their lives. As an EMT, Boney saved many lives and comforted many more when they were injured or dangerously sick.

Sheriff Doug DeBoer said Boney had an uncanny ability as an EMT to calm people as he treated them. He always maintained his composure under stress.

The best measure of a man’s life is the way he is remembered by his family, friends and neighbors. He was friends with everyone. He did everything with humor. Even the people who disagreed with him liked him. Those are some of the descriptions Boney’s neighbors have given of him. People liked Boney.

One Monday evening at a city council meeting when the potential lottery payout was past $100 million dollars, Boney had just reported to the city council on the upgrades needed to the city’s water and sewer system. Boney was heard to say, like several million others, “I want to win the lottery.” He went on to state, “if I won I would just pay for upgrading the city’s water and sewer system.” That is exactly what he would have done.

He was a community leader who led by serving his neighbors. He was the city’s water department superintendent and airport manager. He was an EMT and a volunteer fireman. He was a trusted businessman who, with his family, owned and ran Boney’s Parts Plus (a small engine repair shop), Main Street Lunch Box as well as being a partner in Midway Drive-In Theater.

He was a husband, father, grandfather and friend to many. Boney was a public servant in every sense of that title. He served the people of Miller and Hand County. He always did more than was expected and did it with a pleasant sense of humor. Through his humorous personality, untold acts of kindness and competence Boney made the world around him a better place to live in, without him the world will be a diminished place.

He leaves a legacy of saved lives, many friends and a family he loved. There truly are no words that can express our sorrow.

Featured image: One of the many public expressions of condolence for the family of Jim “Boney” Bonebright in a wheat field south of Miller. Photo courtesy The Miller Press.

Utility grant funding available through DEED program

Utilities looking for help funding an innovative project or interested in hiring a student intern can apply for funding from the Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments (DEED) program, available through the American Public Power Association (APPA). All Heartland customers are currently members of both DEED and APPA through membership fees paid by Heartland.

Heartland customer utilities can apply for grants of up to $125,000 to help finance projects to improve utilities by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, investigating new technologies, offering new services, and improving processes and practices to better serve customers. Scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 are available for hiring student interns.

Grants typically range from $25,000 to $50,000 and can support pilot projects, the development of best practices or new technology. Any issue encountered by a utility such as reliability, safety or energy efficiency is an appropriate topic for a grant. Applications are available online in a web-based grant management system. DEED has kept the application process as simple as possible so even those utilities with minimal staff resources are able to apply quickly and easily for project funding. Applications are considered twice a year with deadlines of February 15 and August 15.

Scholarships serve as a link between communities and utilities. They provide a way for utilities to attract new talent as well as mentor a student. Either a student or the utility can apply for the scholarship. Students must have a DEED member utility serve as a mentor for their scholarship. Utilities may apply with or without designating a specific student on the application. Deadlines to apply are February 15 and October 15.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, DEED was created with the belief that by sharing information and resources, public power systems could make great strides in researching, developing and demonstrating near-term, practical solutions to utility challenges. All APPA members are eligible to join the DEED program and receive funding.

“Heartland offers APPA and DEED memberships to our customers in order to help them improve utility operations,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “We encourage all of our customers to take advantage of this funding as well as the wealth of information the program provides.”

DEED-Microsite-BannerDEED members receive a number of benefits other than grants and scholarships such as complimentary and at-cost products from the APPA Product Store including publications, software and videos. They also have easy access to more than 400 past and present DEED research reports, can attend free webinars to learn about projects funded through DEED and also earn points toward the Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) designation.

Some innovative, valuable products DEED has helped develop since 1980 include:

  • reliability tracking software
  • safety videos and software
  • publications on developing and evaluating energy efficiency programs
  • the first guidebook for municipal utilities on telecommunications
  • a series of primers on the smart grid concept and related issues
  • NERC compliance plan guidelines and customizable template
  • energy-related materials for teachers and students, including curriculum, website content, educational gaming software, etc.
  • E-learning course for customer service staff

Contact for access to the online applications or visit for more information.