By Melissa Hancock
Jeff Lamar, distribution manager at Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority, has seen a great many changes over his 31 year career in the water industry, including most recently, a great downturn in damages thanks to their membership in Alabama 811.
Jeff’s career has seen plenty of changes over the years, as well. “I started out in maintenance, setting up the maintenance program in 1988. From there, I became a supervisor over a crew that fixed the water leaks and laid new lines.” His next position was in the lab and from the lab he moved into customer service. From customer service, Jeff found himself in inspection and from inspection, he moved into his current position as the distribution manager over field force.
“Limestone County Water serves 24,300 customers and is growing every day,” says Jeff. “We have 1,141 total miles of water line in the ground—and that’s growing every day, too!” They also provide sewer to a portion of the county. Jeff’s vast experience gives him a unique perspective on all that is involved in the running of Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority and an awareness of the necessity of getting a locate before you dig. Damage prevention is high on his list of priorities.
After attending the Alabama Damage Prevention Summit in 2017, Jeff brought Limestone County Water on as a member of AL811 and attended the 2018 Summit, where he spoke on a panel about membership and its benefits. Jeff explained his motivation to become a member of Alabama 811, “We were getting a lot of damages—every few days we were getting damage. I would ask, ‘Why didn’t you just call us [Limestone County Water] and get a locate?’ They would say, “Well, I called 811…,’ but we were not a member of 811. That sure made it easy to get the board to approve Limestone County Water becoming a member.
To Jeff, the advantage was obvious. Thanks to a real effort on AL811’s part to educate both the contractors and individuals about the importance of calling before you dig. Pretty much all of the contractors already know to call 811 for locates and most people who live in the county know to call 811. If you live at the edge of town though, you might call the city. ‘I called the city,’ they’ll say. The problem is the city only knows what’s in the city, but it might be county. AL811 makes it easier for people. It simplifies things. People can get it taken care of in one call.
Before being part of AL811, Limestone County Water did their own locates. “I guess the most difficult step in the change-over was relying on another company/organization to let you know a locate was needed. I really didn’t know how long it would be before we would get the message. But, boy was I surprised! It worked out wonderfully!”
“Damages dropped 50%. Initially we saw a 30 to 35% drop, but now it’s even more—we have seen a 50% drop in damages! I think it’s amazing!” The drastic reduction in damages was by far the biggest surprise for both Limestone County Water and Jeff Lamar on becoming a member of AL811. When asked if, in his experience, the dollars saved in damages have paid for the cost of membership, Jeff’s response was an affirmative. “Oh yes, definitely. At first it was kind of close, and kind of close is good. But over time it has absolutely paid for itself.”
Jeff has some great advice to other water operators in regard to becoming a member of AL811, “Your locates will definitely increase. The amount of damage will definitely go down. And if you try it, just on a trial basis, I guarantee, you’ll stay with it. Without any question, it is one of the better things that we have done at Limestone County Water.”
When asked what he likes most about his long career in the water industry, Jeff took a moment to pause and reflect, and then he summed it up nicely. “Sticking with something, watching it grow and knowing you’ve been a part of it. That’s pretty cool.”