UniSource Energy Services gas employees expected to see a slowdown when the financial and health crisis hit earlier this year.
Instead, new housing developments and public improvement projects forged ahead, keeping our crews active and bolstering the economy in some northern Arizona communities.
“There’s just a tremendous amount of growth and it continues even through the pandemic,” said Teresa Inman, District Manager of the UniSource Prescott office.
In addition to large developments, UniSource has seen signs that residents are pursuing more home improvements. The company experienced a 10 percent increase in requests to locate gas lines on private property – often a first step to start a renovation or expansion.
“People are at home, so they are doing more projects around the house,” said Kristy Rees, Public Awareness Compliance Specialist based in Flagstaff.
Growth has been particularly great in the Prescott Valley and Chino Valley communities. Between January and July, more than 300 new customers were added – keeping up with the surge in residential demand that the region has experienced in recent years. The district has about 53,000 customers.
In addition, crews are assisting with new public improvement projects, including upgrading water storm systems.
“The developers and land owners want to get the gas in the ground and get those lots sold. We’re really proud of the role we play in supporting economic growth,” Inman said.
In Flagstaff, crews are normally busiest during warm seasons as developers try to finish up before winter. This year was no different: In the first half of 2020, more than 140 customers were added. The Flagstaff district has about 32,000 customers.
“We kind of thought that maybe we’d see a reduction in hours, but that hasn’t been the case,” said Jason Garrett, District Manager of UniSource’s Flagstaff office. “It’s been steady and busy all year.”
The Show Low area is on pace to exceed the number of new residential hookups this year compared to last year, said Phillip Rose, District Manager. The Show Low district, which includes Holbrook and Winslow, has about 20,400 customers.
“People are still building houses,” he said. “With everything going on, that’s the overall surprise.”
Other areas, including Santa Cruz, Mohave and parts of Yavapai counties, are slower, but crews are continuing to work in the field.
While working, crews are taking strict safety precautions related to the pandemic. Field workers must wear face coverings, follow social distancing guidelines, clean tools and equipment regularly, and limit vehicle sharing, among other steps.
“It takes a little more time and planning, but it has become part of the routine,” Inman said. “It’s just part of the process out there now to keep everyone safe.”