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Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008 02:13 am

New faces at CWLP

Renfrow brings on new project manager, support staff

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Doug Brown stepped up to the plate last week as City Water, Light and Power's new project manager, and despite fears surrounding former manager Brian Fitzgerald's departure, he's not worried.

"Brian's definitely a loss for the utility, and he had more experience than I have — but that's nothing that I feel I can't make up for given a little bit of time," Brown, a 14-year utility veteran, says.

Fitzgerald moved on to a higher-paying private sector job in Michigan after aldermen struck down a July ordinance that would have increased his salary by nearly $60,000. Even though he took with him 19 years of experience at CWLP and six years of planning and construction work on the Dallman 4 power plant, Brown possesses his own well-rounded resume.

He graduated from the University of Illinois-Champaign with a degree in electrical engineering and immediately made his way to CWLP. At first Brown worked on such projects as electrical upgrades and installing switchgear transformers, but soon transitioned into larger projects. He followed Fitzgerald's lead on several assignments, including the installation of scrubbers on Dallman 31 and 32 and selective catalytic reduction — removing nitric oxide from the plant's emissions — in all three Dallman units.

When Fitzgerald moved to Dallman 4, Brown became the utility engineer project manager, responsible for the existing plants' projects and construction. In addition to a site improvement project, he led a $2.6 million Unit 33 chimney upgrade and currently oversees a $16 million boron mitigation initiative.

Brown's responsibilities will be more complex than his previous work, he admits, but he's eager to put his skills to the test. When asked about what he brings to the table, he responds — in Fitzgerald form — that he excels at "managing engineering projects within critical time constraints."

CWLP general manager Todd Renfrow told IT that promoting Brown, a bright engineer and a quick learner, he says, from within the utility saves the city time and money. Brown's salary has not been finalized, but it is expected to be less than the $175,000 that CWLP wanted to offer Fitzgerald.

"If you do a nationwide search, advertise in the journals, with the national association, have a screening committee — at the minimum, to really do it right, it takes six months," Renfrow says. "We didn't have six months, we had a few weeks."

CWLP initially contacted Burns and McDonnell, an engineering firm that has a $5 million consulting contract with the utility for construction of Dallman 4, for help with the search, Renfrow says, but was told that there were no engineers available. It would have cost the utility between $300,000 and $400,000 to contract with an interim project manager based on the steep rate of their pool of engineers, he adds.

In addition to Brown, Renfrow plans to bring Mike Hohenstein, an employee at local engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, Inc. and former CWLP plant manager, onto the Dallman 4 project. Hohenstein worked at the utility for 27 years — five as plant manager — and would assist Brown via a $350,000 contract until April 2010.

Even though several aldermen at Tuesday's City Council meeting expressed concern with hiring a new project manager and paying a hefty sum for support staff, Renfrow told them that his engineers want an adequate team in charge. He also said that one day of generating power at Dallman 4 would pay for Hohenstein's contract.

"We're on budget, we're months ahead of completion, and that's not done by chance," Renfrow said. "It's been done because we have a good team."

The measure was approved in a 6-4 vote, with Alds. Frank Edwards, Kris Theilen, Steve Dove, and Tim Griffin voting no.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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