Thompson retires at PUC


Dave Thompson spent his last day as manager of the Princeton Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.

Connie Wangen, longtime administrative assistant to Thompson at the PUC, took over the manager job.

Thompson has been the PUC manager since March 2002 and led the three-member PUC board in making big changes in the city’s electrical and water infrastructure.

During his nearly 11 years on the job, the PUC:

• built a second treatment plant for drinking water.

• installed two new city wells which involved a lengthy time of test drilling.

• constructed a major addition at the PUC’s electrical generating plant in 2005, complete with up-to-date computerized circuit-switch equipment, and upgraded the city’s electrical substation.

• extended a water main from the city’s main industrial park to the Rivertown Crossing development in the southwest quadrant of the interchange of Highways 169 and 95.

• extended a 16-inch trunk water main east along Second Street from Ninth Avenue to Rum River Drive and then north to North Elementary.

• extended a 10-inch water main to the north end of the city by going below the river after the roundabout intersection was completed in 2010. The water main had formerly hung below the old Dunn Memorial Bridge before it was torn down for replacement that same year.

• replaced a lot of overhead electrical lines with underground lines.

• converted the voltage in many electrical lines from 4,160 volts to 12,470 volts.

• provided for 20 years of water appropriation permits with the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Health.

Thompson had to convince the PUC members, in the early years as manager, that there was a need for such major upgrades, longtime PUC member George Freichels said. But it became evident that Thompson was not just planning for the present needs but for the city’s future, Freichels said.

As Thompson visited with people attending his retirement party at the Mille Lacs County Historical Society’s depot center on Dec. 28, he recalled the various electrical and water upgrades but also at least one event that was a headache.

He specifically mentioned the heavy rainfall one evening in June 2002, during which water seeped in through plywood over some windows that had been removed for work on the plant. From there, the water ran into the lower level and onto some circuit-switch gear, resulting in a fire that cause an electrical outage for some hours.

“It’s been a good venture and adventure,” Thompson said about his time at the PUC. “I’m looking forward to retirement.”

He added that when it rains, lightenings and thunders, he will no longer have to think about getting down to the plant or checking for damaged power lines or equipment anymore.

Thompson plans to remain in Princeton. He and his wife Mary will continue to operate a couple group homes they own in Albertville. He plans to continue his work with the Princeton Lions Club.