Utility Business Opens Doors for Drive-Through COVID Testing
To help keep the community of Sidney, Neb. safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheat Belt Public Power District opened their old headquarters building for drive-through testing.
In these challenging times, our cooperative principle of Concern for Community has greater meaning than ever before. Across our cooperative family, amazing work is being done by businesses, organizations, and individuals to support our communities in this time of need. As part of this series, we highlight those outstanding people who have gone above and beyond.
Wheat Belt Public Power District had plans to sell their old headquarters before the COVID-19 pandemic. As business protocol shifted, they realized they needed to keep employees separated to stay safe while they continued to provide reliable service. While one-third of employees were able to work remotely, the remaining employees were split between their new facility and the old headquarters building.
Once testing services were deemed necessary for the Sidney, Neb. community, the Panhandle Public Health District began looking for facilities that could host a drive-through test site. Wheat Belt PPD's old headquarters was identified as one of the very few buildings in the city that could accommodate such a request. In partnership with the Sidney Police Department and the National Guard, the community of Sidney was able to get the necessary testing they needed to monitor the virus and help gauge how this rural community could open back up.
To learn how Wheat Belt PPD served their community beyond providing energy to the consumers they serve, watch the video below.
Read How One Community Worked Together in Response to COVID-19
"The real core of why we succeed the way we do is because we work together. And we've had plans for items such as this on the books for many, many years. So it was nice to see in the midst of an actual emergency that we were able to take those plans and seamlessly implement them." - Tim Lindahl
Tim Lindahl, General Manager at Wheat Belt PPD: Wheat Belt covers 3,600 square miles in the Panhandle of Nebraska. Our primary responsibility is, of course, to provide energy to the consumers we serve. In addition to that, we really have a commitment to community. We're all local people. Most of our employees serve on volunteer fire departments. They're on the school boards. So we have a strong desire to see our community prosper.
We were contacted about the possibility of doing some drive-through testing for coronavirus in our old headquarters building within the city of Sidney, Neb.
Kim Engel, Director for the Panhandle Public Health District: When the coronavirus threat first started, it was at that time testing was pretty limited, and Ron took on the task to find a location for that to happen.
Ron Leal, Director for Region 21 Emergency Management: I looked around in Sidney for a building that we could actually drive through. So I reached out to Police Chief, Joe Aikens, and asked him. And he's the one that contacted Wheat Belt.
Joe Aikens, Chief of Police for Sidney, Neb.: Wheat Belt's always been a great partner with the community. We've had an opportunity to use the inside of that building before, so I kinda knew what the layout was. Gave Tim a call our of their new office and asked for permission to use it, and he just rolled out the carpet and away we went.
Tim: The police chief was looking for facilities that had the indoor capability to do drive-through testing in an indoor environment. And we were one of the very few buildings in the city that a would have that capability.
We were currently using that facility, and we were able to segment off the warehouse portion to make sure that there was no interaction between both the healthcare workers and our employees who were staged down at the facility that we did the testing at.
By having the community-based testing, it really allowed us as a state, and more in particular as a local community, to open quicker because we had the ability to put the testing procedures in place.
Kim: If you don't have testing, you don't really know what the activity of the virus is, and so we wanna make sure that testing is available and access is easy.
Joe: I think our community steps up when it comes to crisis like this, and everybody works together great.
Tim: The real core of why we succeed the way we do is because we work together. And we've had plans for items such as this on the books for many, many years. So it was nice to see in the midst of an actual emergency that we were able to take those plans and seamlessly implement them.
Kim: We're really all in it together, and that's great when a private business like the utilities company can pitch in and help out like they did with their building.
COVID-19 Community Response
As a family of electric cooperatives and public power districts, our distribution members reach consumers at the end of the line, many of whom have been directly impacted by COVID-19. To learn about our response, how our members are responding and the amazing work being done in communities across the West, watch our videos and read the articles here.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42 member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.