By Abby Bell
Cloverland’s team of staking technicians turns dreams into reality for members’ energy needs by designing new electric infrastructure for home builds, business expansion, upgrades and relocations. In the field, staking technicians assist with design of overhead and underground distribution lines, prepare construction drawings, survey and set field stakes. Behind the scenes, technicians work directly with members ensuring all approvals, easements and documents are filed with the cooperative. Cloverland’s six-person staking technician team works in the cooperative’s engineering department, under the leadership of Director of Engineering Brian Lavey.
Cloverland’s online application is the first step in any new electrical project. Therefore, members are encouraged to relay as much information as possible while completing the application, so staking technicians can understand the member’s ultimate goal of the project.
“A member may complete the application for a stanchion, but their ultimate goal for the property may be a large home with a garage,” staking technician Megan Atkinson states. “Determining the ultimate goal for the member helps save costs and build the infrastructure the member wants long term.”
Once the application is complete, a staking technician works with the member to complete a project plan for the site. When possible, staking technicians will factor in any special member requests or preferences for the electric build layout into the project. In addition, some property owners may need easement signatures from neighbors or approval from stakeholder agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the county road commission. Obtaining required approval and permits may be a lengthy process, and Cloverland encourages members to begin as soon as possible so any unexpected interruptions do not delay construction on the project.
“We’re often working with many different stakeholders who have requirements that must be completed before our work can begin,” staking technician Jacob Mitchell explains.
“It helps when members start talking to us about their project as soon as possible.”
At the start of the staking process, technicians use physical measurements in the field and mapping programs to determine how many utility poles, feet of line and the transformer size needed to manage the member’s energy needs. First, staking technicians physically place stakes in the field using range finders and measure each piece of the project as it progresses. Then, staking technicians put the data into a mapping program using cooperative vendor, National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC). Once the project plan is complete following engineering approval, the staking technician will provide a cost estimate to the member. When the member pays the invoice, the project moves to the cooperative’s line department for construction.
Staking technicians may work on 10 - 40 different projects at any given time. This intense project load requires staking technicians to always utilize strong time management, communication skills and a keen eye for details. While each staking technician covers his/her own section of Cloverland’s territory, they all work together as a strong team to survey, design and create the infrastructure needed to meet members’ unique energy needs.
“Along with Cloverland’s member services team, staking technicians are often the first individuals to meet members; often face-to-face. Our stakers are focused on serving our membership with quality experiences and work with regional electrical contractors to ensure that a reliable system is designed to meet their electrical service needs,” Lavey states.