'Infrastructure for the city': Dickinson's utilities manager details the importance of his department

·5 min read

Jun. 22—DICKINSON — The City of Dickinson has 30 departments with 18 department heads leading their team. Departments range from public works, fire and police to engineering, buildings and more. However, not many know that the utilities department oversees much of what holds the city together.

Enter Duane Zastoupil, the utilities manager for the City of Dickinson.

"As utilities manager and for the water utilities, one of the biggest things that I don't feel like the public really realizes is that we set up the infrastructure for the city," Zastoupil said, adding, "We supply the water for the fire department. We collect the water from all the houses so that their wastewater systems work. They flush the toilets, they don't know where it goes — we take care of it. We protect the city's streams (and) the waterways... We protect the water going into the rivers so that we're not polluting them and making it better for the citizens."

The same principle goes with drinking water. Though the City of Dickinson doesn't treat drinking water, Zastoupil said they are responsible for distributing it to all residents and making sure that when they turn their faucets on, that they have adequate pressures such as a person's shower. He noted that they do treat wastewater.

"... So once we treat it, we have to discharge it into the river. Well, we want safe, clean water when we're discharging. So knowing our job (is crucial)," he said. "... A lot of people don't realize everything that we set up for everybody else."

As the utilities manager, Zastoupil manages four different departments — wastewater treatment, water distribution, wastewater collection and stormwater collection. Fully staffed at 14, Zastoupil noted that his position can be daunting.

"It's a lot at times. If you understand what's going on and you get the right people under you, they kind of take care of themselves. But if you're not on top of it, it could fall fast," he added.

In 2011, Zastoupil started his tenure at the City of Dickinson as an operator. From there, he moved into a senior operator position for water, then chief for stormwater MS4. After working some time in that position, he became the chief of wastewater collections and worked his way up to utilities manager. He began in this position as the interim utilities manager in February, and about a month later, he assumed the position.

"So starting as an operator, it's actually a whole new area for me because prior, I was a store director for Albertsons and then moved back to Dickinson to be with my family more. And it was during the oil boom and it was kind of chaotic in the beginning," he said. "And so, there was a lot of learning (and) a lot of test taking to move forward."

A typical day in the life of a utilities manager, Zastoupil joked that it's "a lot of phone calls." Though each day has a new challenge, part of his job requires being proactive in making sure each department that's under him is running smoothly.

"I love working with my operators. I like the versatility. It's not the same thing every day. I learn something new every day," he said. "I enjoy working with the public. I feel like I make a difference. I'm working with stormwater, wastewater. It's not just the infrastructure in the ground, but I work with the homeowners and the people in the construction and the engineers. So there's a lot of diversity there."

When he arrives at the Public Works Building in the morning, Zastoupil will meet up with his chief water distribution person — observing how the operators have been lined out for the day. If there are any issues that need some problem solving, Zastoupil will help tackle that.

Later in the day, Zastoupil will go out to the Dickinson Wastewater Treatment Plant, speak to those supervisors and make sure everything is up to par. From there, he'll spend the rest of his day in meetings for programs or projects that are moving forward, receiving updates on what's happening in Dickinson.

"We work on projects for the city to kind of pre-plan and then move forward to make sure that they're all being executed properly," he noted.

Walking over to the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system, Zastoupil noted that they're able to monitor 24/7 the city's water utilities through this program, such as checking tanks and booster stations.

"... It's hard to justify a department and what they do. My daily basis when I look at this, I monitor this daily with my operators to make sure that everything's working," he added.

With the nationwide shortage of truck drivers, a lack of available warehouse space and rising consumer demand, Zastoupil noted that the City of Dickinson has not been untouched by the ongoing supply chain challenges, especially with trying to obtain products to fix equipment.

"So if something goes down, instead of taking a week to fix, now it's six months," he said, explaining that it can be difficult to stay on top of all maintenance while still making sure everything is running properly. "... So that's been a huge challenge."

Taking on the Dickinson Wastewater Treatment Plant has also been a new obstacle for Zastoupil. He added that being more heavily involved in city projects than before is also new territory as he's working more with the engineering process and setting up the initial stages of those projects.

Though he's just getting settled into his position, Zastoupil hopes to "get everything working in unity" and continue learning and growing as a utilities manager.

"I know my job, but there's so much more," he said. "I want to fine-tune what each one is doing and to train my operators under me that they can move up into their positions and move forward."