In the morning session, I sat in on the "Regulations Update", which concentrated on the three dockets of changes to the Wisconsin Administrative Code PSC 184 and 185 that the Division of Water, Compliance and Consumer Affairs of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has introduced. The changes concern conservation, retention of meters, and a general update of PSC185. Bruce Schmidt shared the proposed changes, including the reasons behind the changes and the stage of implementation the rules are in. I always enjoy sessions such as these. Although we may not be the direct implementors of the regulations, we certainly consider ourselves partners with the operators in ensuring compliance. Understanding reasoning behind changes and new regulations helps us understand the needs of our customers, and this shared understanding helps us to move forward most effectively.
To my surprise, I found the next class "Understanding and Complying with Wisconsin's Open Meeting and Public Records Laws" fascinating. While there is no direct application for open meeting and records laws in our business, I was nevertheless very interested in this presentation. Claire Silverman shared the exact wording of laws, and explained important segments and case law behind it. While these laws seem rather straightforward, she showed how commonplace occurrences can become more complicated and tricky. This was certainly a session where the presenter's enthusiasm for the subject showed through, and I found myself captivated through the entire presentation.
I was unable to attend the "Financial Management Potpourri" session because the Expo committee meeting met during this time. The Expo held in August was another successful year and we were happy to see that we saw a growth in attendance yet again. One thing we hope is that we don't reach a point where we remain stagnant, and are looking for ways to keep the Expo fresh and interesting for all attendees. If you have any ideas, let me know! Don't worry if they're different or weird; we did a dunk tank this year, so we're obviously up for trying different things!
After lunch, there were two classes that concentrated on funding of projects. The first class, "Procuring Grant/Loan Applications & Administration Services", concentrated on handling the time and expenses of pursing project financing given the current environment of tight local budgets and dwindling and fierce competition for financial resources from state and federal grant and loan programs. The biggest takeaway for me was the importance of working closely with the grant/loan agency and finding the right person within the agency to help assist with the process. There are experts who administer these funds, so it can save a lot of headaches to go straight to the one who knows a program in and out.
The last class of the day, "I Have a Project - Where Can I Get Funding?" gave the different funding agencies the opportunities to highlight their programs and ability to fund different projects. It is interesting to see the diverse places funding can come from. Although funds are tight, it is good to see that there are agencies that are trying to work with cities, towns and municipalities to help keep the critical water and wastewater infrastructure up to par. Another takeaway was that there are a lot of possibilities for funding of projects, and if you don't meet the requirements of one program you still have others that may help.
It was a great way to spend a day. I had my embarrassing moment of the day as a walked in just a few minutes late and knocked over a glass of water on the table behind me. Thankfully it didn't end up all over someones lap, but I was still red. Besides that, overall the conference was pertinent, timely and well-planned.