Mr. Gish began his tenure in 1986 as a seasoned administrator and as an active licensed professional engineer in the water and wastewater industries. At this time many significant problems and critical issues plagued the utility, although the financial condition was good. The rate structure was one of the lowest in the state which was maintained throughout his tenure.
Mr. Gish retired as General Manager in April 1998, after 12 years at the helm. He returned in February 2007, this time serving as Director of Engineering until July 2008.
Some of Mr. Gish’s major accomplishments during his terms as General Manager and Director of Engineering include:
- Expansion of the North Water Treatment Plant (NWTP) from 6 MGD to 12 MGD. This was accomplished by converting the existing flocculation/sedimentation basins to high rate solids contact clarification followed by polishing with tube settlers, and then by upgrading the filters from slow sand filtration to high rate mixed media filtration. The capacity of the plant was able to be doubled within the footprint of the existing structures. The NWTP has treated an estimated total of nearly 45 trillion gallons of water since the 1989 expansion. The North Water Treatment Plant (and the North Wastewater Treatment Plant as well) earned awards for operating excellence in the early 1990s.
- Development and implementation of the utility’s initial GIS Digital Mapping and Automation Systems. The automation system now provides 24/7 monitoring and operations control of plants, pump stations and tanks, out to approximately 25 mile radius.
- Design and construction of the South Water Treatment Plant (SWTP) and the Tyson water tank in 1994. This project also included the construction of approximately 20 miles of water line. The SWTP has run almost 24/7/365 since 1995, treating an estimated total of nearly 18 trillion gallons of water. In addition, the design and construction of the South Wastewater Treatment Plant (SWWTP), also in 1994. This project also included the construction of force mains and three pumping stations. The South plants, water lines, force mains and pump stations were built for less than $0.50 per gallon (super low cost), in a very short period of time.
- Initiated and directed the refinancing and retirement of the original 1954 bonds that contained many restrictive covenants that presented numerous obstacles to efficiently operate the existing systems and would have resulted in significantly higher capital costs for the many critical system improvements that were necessary. The restrictive covenants were replaced with a new bond ordinance that contained covenants which would enhance and facilitate efficient and cost effective operations and reduce future capital construction costs and allow for quicker construction schedules.
- Developed plans to create a Stormwater Utility and transfer stormwater responsibility to HWU in order to address numerous issues of flooding in and around the city. A major portion of the issues were related to the eventual need to separate the storm and combined sewer systems. Over the years since, many of these issues including some major projects have been accomplished.
- Obtained an option to purchase a large piece of agricultural property adjacent to the south side of the city, which the city eventually purchased and developed. Today this property has become Henderson Corporate Park, and is home to several major industries. This acquisition allowed the city to attract a large paper industry which has become HWU’s largest water and wastewater customer in the city. This was the anchor industry and made way for the rest of the park to develop out and become one of most successful economic development projects within the city.
- Initiated the development and implementation of a first class safety program for the employees of HWU.
- Implemented many improvements in the Human Resources and Financial Information systems.
- Worked with several local and state government and economic development entities to provide the incentives necessary to attract a large poultry processor to build a new processing plant in the south end of Henderson County. This project required the preparation and approval of many agreements, contracts, permits, easements, etc., plus design engineering, cost estimates and funding approvals to construct all of south water and wastewater infrastructure required to serve this industry within a period of less than 18 months. Mr. Gish, acting as the design engineer of record, was also the key person who worked on all of these aspects to bring this project to a successful completion. The south facilities have contributed significantly to the financial health of HWU.
Additional accomplishments include:
- Construction of the South Booster Station.
- Installation of belt presses at the North Wastewater Treatment Plant (NWWTP) to take care of the sludge that the drying beds would not handle.
- Design of the expansion of the NWWTP from 5 Million Gallons per Day (MGD) to 10 MGD.
- Construction of the Vine Street water tank, Green River Road water tank, and Graham Hill water tank.
- Construction of the Atkinson Street Pump Station and force main.
- Installation of a 16” water line from Palmer’s Market (1850 Second Street) to the Graham Hill water tank.
- Design and construction of the Bobby Gish Administration Building at 111 Fifth Street.
- Design of the rehab of the Atkinson Park water tank, including painting, and reconstruction of the tank roof.
- Design and construction of the current International Paper Pump Station and force main (then known as MacMillan Bloedel).
- Purchase of the old Safeway Lumber Company building at 230 North Alvasia Street, and transformation of the building into the HWU System Operations Center (SOC).