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Utility workers and services make life at home possible

Locations: News Published

Whether you, reader, are consuming this local news via the internet or a hard copy of the paper, I’m willing to wager that you are reading it at home. While the nation scrambles to find normalcy under the utterly abnormal circumstances brought on by COVID-19, communities are learning to adapt much of their public life into the limitations of the private sphere. 

From shifts in the landscape of home refrigerators to changes in the way colleagues meet, adaptations to home life rely on the consistency of the resources, services, and individuals who make it possible.  

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In-town residents will notice that ditch cleaning operations are underway, as usual. The Town of Carbondale is — as of Tuesday — still planning to open the ditches on April 15, according to Public Works Director Kevin Schorzman, whose department is responsible for streets, water, and wastewater. Turning on the ditches will, in fact, take pressure off the domestic water system, as those with ditch access can maintain yards and wash cars with ditch water. Refraining from flushing anything except toilet paper — including “flushable” wipes — will also help keep systems running smoothly.

In light of increasing unemployment rates, Schorzman pointed out a benefit of being in Carbondale is that “neither of our utility companies carry debt. We need to realize that normal has changed,” Schorzman said. The Town will continue to bill as usual, but for those who may struggle with bills, “I think you’d see quite a bit of understanding” Schorzman said. “People have enough to worry about.”

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Compost pickup will continue as normal, thanks to the work of EverGreen ZeroWaste. Owner Alyssa Reindel said that the company has a good stock of personal safety materials workers will continue to use. Pickups are changing as restaurants see a decline in operations but, “as a mom and pop business ourselves,” Reindel is sensitive to these changes. 

EverGreen hopes to hold its annual compost give-back event around Earth Day, but is prepared to implement a coupon system with Pitkin County Solid Waste Center, where all the compost is processed, in case of the event’s cancellation. 

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Reindel expressed an increased sense of responsibility to the public at this time. “It goes beyond doing something for the community and the environment,” she told me while on her collection route Tuesday. They’re now “actually doing something for the health of citizens.”

Carbondalians have companies like Holy Cross Electric (HCE) to thank for staying powered. Though he pointed out there is “no precedent” for current circumstances, Steve Beuning, Vice President of Power Supply and Programs at HCE, reported no changes on the supply side of operations. The company’s energy suppliers have assured him that “they’re protecting workers and infrastructure.” 

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Beuning has observed a 10 percent decrease in overall electric usage recently, mostly due to the shutting down of ski resort operations. Peak time for daily usage has also changed this month from a typical evening-time bracket to an average of 1 p.m. 

Holy Cross employees who are able to work from home are doing so and line workers are storing trucks at home to minimize trips to the office. Holy Cross has extended its “cold weather rule” of disallowing supply terminations. Those who may have difficulty paying their bills can reach out in advance to make a payment plan.

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Many locals rely on Xfinity by Comcast to stay connected to work, school, health information, and loved ones. Spokesperson Alison Busse said “our system is built for this,” noting that spikes in internet usage are “not dissimilar to the night of the Super Bowl.”   

Comcast implemented new 60-day policies on March 13 to keep customers and others connected. They’ve made their Xfinity WiFi hotspots free to everyone, paused data plans to give customers unlimited data, and they will not disconnect customers or charge late fees during this period. They are offering certain internet packages free for 60 days to new customers and have increased internet speed for existing customers.

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Remember to give thanks to those keeping our lives as normal as possible even if, for the time being, gratitude is best expressed through your front window.