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17 years of service

Roos has seen a lot of change in Marshall’s power and water systems

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall Municipal Utilities General Manager Brad Roos will be retiring at the end of this week after 17 years with the municipal utility. He’s overseen some major projects in that time, like the development of a new city well field and water pipeline in 2014.

A lot of the time, Marshall residents might not notice his work. But that’s not a bad thing, according to Brad Roos.

If people can take electricity or water service for granted, it means things are going well with the city’s utility systems, he said.

As general manager of Marshall Municipal Utilities for the past 17 years, Roos has been involved in making sure the city can meet power and water needs for its homes and businesses. Now he’s retiring after a career in public utilities going back more than 45 years. His last day of work is Friday.

“I really can’t believe how fast a career goes by,” Roos said. “Marshall’s been a wonderful community to live in and work in.”

Roos said he’s been fortunate to work with the staff and crews at MMU, as well as the city of Marshall.

In some ways, public utilities run in Roos’ family. His grandfather and father both worked managing public power utilities. But Roos said his own career choice wasn’t so much about carrying on a family tradition than it was about doing something he was interested in. He got his start as summer help for the municipal utilities in Orange City, Iowa.

“I got an appreciation for what it took” to make an electric utility work, Roos said.

Over the years, working in public utilities took Roos from Iowa to Marshall. He became MMU’s general manager in 2003.

A lot has changed over the time that Roos has been with MMU, including some big projects that have shaped Marshall’s public infrastructure.

“One of the things we’ve done here with the electrical distribution system is we’ve put it underground,” Roos said. When he first started working at MMU, Marshall had a mix of buried and aboveground power lines. Newer areas of town were developed with underground lines, he said, “But the old, core areas of town were above ground.”

Aboveground power lines were vulnerable to damage from storms and from ice in the winter.

“Probably every third or fourth winter we would have a significant ice outage,” Roos said.

Utility lines were put underground in phases over 10 years, and the move has made electricity much more reliable in Marshall, Roos said.

“The benefit was really highlighted on July 1, 2011,” he said. That was when a derecho storm toppled trees with straightline winds and damaged buildings all over town. Through it all, however, “We had very few power outages.”

“We pride ourselves on really having a reliable system,” Roos said.

Some of MMU’s major projects in recent years have included developing a new well field for the city in Sandnes Township, Yellow Medicine County, and building a 27-mile pipeline to bring the water to Marshall.

“We talked about that project for a long time. Five years,” Roos said. The new water source was needed to help meet the needs of Marshall residents and businesses, as well as state environmental standards, he said.

Construction on the pipeline started in 2014, and the first water from the Sandnes well field was blended into the Marshall system in April 2015.

Last year, MMU started on another major project at the city’s water plant. MMU will be pre-softening city water to help cut down on the use of softener salts that wind up in city wastewater and the Redwood River. A $7 million state grant helped make upgrades at the water treatment plant possible.

“We were fortunate to get that,” Roos said.

The water softening project is now 60 to 70% finished, and will probably be working next year, he said. While the project won’t be completed under his tenure, Roos said he wasn’t disappointed.

“There’s never a time when all the projects are finished,” he said.

After his retirement, Roos and his wife Patty plan to move to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to be closer to family. He said he’s looking forward to spending time with his children and grandchildren.

MMU’s new general manager, David Schelkoph, started transitioning into the role earlier this month. Schelkoph formally introduced himself to members of the Marshall City Council at their regular meeting last week.

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