Nearly three dozen Imperial Irrigation District employees who temporarily lived at their respective workplaces in Riverside and Imperial counties for three weeks straight as part of the utility’s coronavirus mitigation effort will conclude their shifts Friday evening as a new cohort prepares to start theirs.
Thirty-two employees previously volunteered to work 12-hour shifts every day for 21 days starting on April 25. Since then they have lived in trailers at their work sites in a bid to keep water and electrical operations up and running amid the coronavirus pandemic, district officials said.
“We are extremely proud of our dedicated employees who are heeding the call to voluntarily step up to serve the district and its customers during one of our most difficult times in history,” said Henry Martinez, general manager of IID.
A new cohort of 28 employees will arrive to cleaned trailers at 6 a.m. Saturday.
“I have to admit after day five, everybody says, `Wow. This is going to be a little bit more tiresome, and well just a little bit more of what we thought.’ Everybody is on day 20 right now, so everyone is excited to go home and see our families,” IID employee Jose Medel told KYMA.
“We all know how important it is to keep the power grid going, and the power to all our customers. So it was a no-brainer; it was our responsibility,” he said.
The second wave will continue for three weeks, and the district said at that point plans for the future will be announced.
A majority of the employees participating in the program are hourly, according to Robert Schettler, IID’s public information officer, meaning their paychecks will include time-and-a-half and double-time payments.
No visitors are allowed throughout the duration of the program, he said.
Impacted facilities include power plants, dispatch and electrical operations centers.
Employees will be fed during the program, and have access to entertainment and recreational opportunities, including television and gym equipment.
District officials announced in March that electricity would not be shut off for its power customers due to non-payment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The policy, which does not wipe out debts to the district, will remain in effect until further notice, officials said.