If medals were given out for water treatment as they are for the Olympics, every person who works in that capacity for the city of Mount Airy would be wearing gold.
As it is, each municipal treatment-plant employee — all nine of them — has been state-certified to the highest degree, and in doing so achieved a unique honor as a team.
“They’re all certified to the A-level, and that’s just an extremely rare situation,” explained city Public Services Director Jeff Boyles, who oversees operations at Mount Airy’s two treatment facilities, the F.G. Doggett and S.L. Spencer water plants.
Different municipalities might have employees at varying levels — A, B or C — but it is truly unique for a single city in North Carolina to have all its treatment personnel on the “A-list,” Boyles said.
“As far as we know, and we’ve done an informal survey,” the public services director added, “we’re the only municipal treatment group certified to the A-level other than Madison, and they have only four (with that status).”
This distinction is even more noteworthy when compared to the large treatment staffs of a city such as Winston-Salem, for example. “As big as Winston-Salem is, they only have eight,” Boyles said of its employees with A-level certification.
The overall breakdown shows that both Winston-Salem and Greensboro have a number of other workers scattered among the “B” and “C” classifications, much like the Olympics medal distributions of gold, silver and bronze for competing countries.
“We’re the gold medalist for sure,” Boyles said of the local water-treatment unit’s nine employees. “Everyone over there is certified at the A-level.”
Andy Utt is the latest of the city employees to attain the top certification, which came earlier this year. Other members of the department gained theirs some time ago.
“He was the last one, and he got us back to the level we have been at before,” Boyles said of Utt.
Since Utt replaced a retired employee who held A-level status, he had to go through an extensive procedure to bring himself to that point. While future retirements will mean undergoing the process again, Mount Airy is presently batting 1.000 in this regard.
To even be certified at the C-level, a treatment worker must have at least six months of on-the-job experience, then take a week-long class (typically held in Raleigh) and pass a four-hour examination.
Achieving B-level status requires one year of experience, along with another week-long class and an exam. That process is repeated to reach the “A” designation.
“It is a commitment,” Boyles said of the tremendous effort that goes into achieving the top level. Knowledge of chemistry and mathematics is stressed in the certification criteria, due to the process that water treatment involves.
But the public services director indicated that every individual takes pride in working as a team, with the quality of water that comes from the taps of city utility customers their ultimate satisfaction.
“It doesn’t guarantee that we’re never going to have a problem,” Boyles said of the team-wide certification.
“But I feel like it improves our odds,” he added. “With anything as important as the water system, we want to do the very best job we can to ensure we deliver the highest quality to the community.”
In addition to Andy Utt, the water-treatment staff includes Supervisor David Puckett, Assistant Supervisor Marty Semones, Phillip Easter, Brian Tickle, Paul Hensley, Stan Goins, Jon Stickel and Bobby Titan.
They received special recognition during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last week.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.