Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center has new owner

The Alturas Real Estate Fund has acquired the Parkway Plaza Shopping Center, in Idaho Falls at the corner of First Street and Woodruff Avenue. The property includes 75,300 square feet of retail property, including Planet Fitness, which opened in early January.

Several retail locations remain vacant within the property, but Alturas, a commercial real estate investment company based in Eagle, is working with the Thornton Oliver Keller leasing team in Idaho Falls to find occupants.

“With the proper investment it will once again be the excellent community asset it should be,” Travis Barney, president of Alturas, said in a news release.

Monday, February 26, 2018

'Space is the Place' for new INL engineer Amanda Gates

Amanda Gates, at INL Materials & Fuels Complex, where she is part of the lab's Space Nuclear Power Department.
NOTE: This is a story written for the INL.gov web site and posted Feb. 21, in recognition of National Engineers Week. I am reprinting it here in hopes of wider circulation and because I think the person it profiles, Amanda Gates, is a great example of the type of person INL is trying to attract to replace the generation that is retiring. Also, I wrote the story. I'll have another one tomorrow about another up-and-comer, equally interesting and appealing, Janine Lambert.

One of Idaho National Laboratory’s new generation of engineers, Amanda Gates, says she’s as surprised as anyone to be where she is.

“I love the people I work with. I enjoy coming to work every day,” said Gates, an engineer in INL’s Space Nuclear Power Department at the Materials and Fuels Complex.

A native of Snoqualmie, Washington, Gates said that when she was in high school, she had her heart set on a career in sports marketing. Based on the aptitude she showed for science and math, however, her teachers and advisers insisted that she consider a career in engineering. Eventually, she talked to some friends’ parents who were engineers.

“I decided maybe it was the way to go,” she said.

Gates pursued a degree in mechanical engineering from University of San Diego (a Catholic university not to be confused with the University of California, San Diego). During winter break in 2014, she was working as a housekeeper in Colorado, researching internships and snowboarding whenever she could, when she first heard of INL from a co-worker whose father worked at the lab.

Based on her résumé and application, INL’s University Partnerships office arranged a phone interview for her with Shad Davis, a mechanical engineer in the Radioisotope Power Systems Department. “Her résumé was spot on. She had a lot of hands-on experience with machining and tooling.”

When she landed the summer 2015 internship, Gates said she didn’t know much about the program or nuclear materials. But the manual aspects of the job appealed to her. “I like working with my hands and designing things, and I have an artistic side, too,” she said.

“For the short amount of time she was here, she was very proactive and persistent,” Davis said. “She bought a piece of equipment and wrote a test plan for it. She fit right in with our group, which can be hard to do with the dynamics and personalities of a dozen engineers.”

Gates worked on design teams that employed computer numerical control plasma tube cutting, using lathes, mills, drill presses, and three-dimensional computer-aided modeling, designing a robotics system and performing finite element analysis. Outside the lab, Davis was impressed with the passion she had for restoration work on her 1982 Ford Bronco.

“This knowledge of machining equipment and hands on was invaluable in coming up with a new drilling operation into some exotic materials that are used in our heat sources,” he said. “She was given the scope and goal of this project and she ran with it, completing it in the three months that she was here.  Her motivation was amazing and her attention to detail and desire to succeed made my mentoring job easy.”

Gates said the camaraderie of the group was an inspiration, and she liked eastern Idaho’s opportunities for outdoor recreation, too. After getting her degree in December 2015, “I bugged them enough to hire me full-time,” she said.

“When a full-time position was proposed, it was easy for me to submit her as a candidate because of the high impression she left on me, her co-workers, and manager,” Davis said. “Her transition to our staff as full-time engineer was seamless. I truly enjoy having her on our team as a peer.  She is a very capable and intelligent engineer. She is well-organized and her personality is a perfect fit. She is very active outside of work, and her excitement for life is contagious."

Being focused on the 2020 Mars mission, Gates says it’s easy for her to talk to people about what she does. “You can talk to anyone about that,” she said. “People ask me if I am going to Mars. Sometimes they’re serious, sometimes not.”

Her experience with the MMRTG (Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) hit home when she watched “The Martian,” particularly the scene when Matt Damon’s character digs up the generator to keep himself warm while riding across the frigid Martian landscape.

“It looked just like what we’re working on,” she said. “Hollywood got something right for once.”
Gates said she tells her friends and former classmates all the time about the opportunities for work and recreation in eastern Idaho. She’s very eager to learn everything she can, and anticipates things will only get busier as the 2020 launch date for the rover approaches.

“Amanda’s excitement is contagious,” Davis said. “It really kind of rubs off on all of us. I have no doubt that as she gains experience, she will soon be in charge of more projects and tasks.”

The University Partnerships Organization at INL leads recruiting efforts at universities and students interested in participating in an internship or in the lab’s postdoctoral or graduate fellowship programs can apply or find more information at https://www.inl.gov/inl-initiatives/education/.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

EIRMC, HCA announce annual Award of Distinction winners

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and its parent company, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) have announced their annual Awards of Distinction. These awards are intended to honor exceptional individuals whose work and lives reflect the corporate values upon which HCA is founded.

Dr. Michael Lemon
Frist Humanitarian Award (Physician) – Michael Lemon, D.O., general and trauma surgeon

Dr. Michael Lemon is a board-certified general and trauma surgeon who has been a member of the EIRMC medical staff since 2013. He quickly built a reputation as an excellent clinician and in January 2016 was asked to chair the Department of Surgery. His positive influence and leadership have helped to improve the culture in the operating room, engage physicians in operational decisions, launch improved patient care programs, and to recruit new physicians to our area.

In addition to his dedication to patients, Lemon has demonstrated exceptional commitment to community and global service. He serves as a Scout advisor in the Grand Teton Council of the Boy Scouts of America, working with boys age 12 to 14 years, including several boys with special needs. He spends two hours with the boys each week, goes on campouts every other month, and attends a weeklong summer camp each year.

On the global front, Lemon was a founding board member of ZimbabWEcare, a non-profit, all volunteer organization with 100 percent of funds going towards providing health and humanitarian services to people in southern Africa. In addition to his role as founder, he has been a board member, medical director, and was the first and only physician to embark on the inaugural mission to Zimbabwe in 2014. Lemon has continued to make yearly trips to Zimbabwe to provide necessary medical treatment, prescribe medication, and provide medical supplies, clothing, and food to the people. This is done through clinics set up in fields, under trees, and out of the back of vehicles, in the most remotest areas of Zimbabwe.

As a trauma surgeon, Lemon’s skill set has been uniquely valuable when the team has happened upon bus rollovers, car accidents, burn victims and even the resuscitation of a lifeless newborn infant.

As a Frist Award winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Lemon’s name to his charity of choice, ZimbabWEcare.

Nicole Willey
Frist Humanitarian Award (Employee) — Nicole Willey, R.N., Ambulatory Surgery

Nicole Willey is a Registered Nurse in the Ambulatory Surgery Department at EIRMC. As a member of the EIRMC team, she maintains a high level of selflessness while being a model employee. She is described as having outstanding leadership potential, and being caring, compassionate and a humanitarian.

Willey has dedicated over 15 years to the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) program, dedicated to teaching leadership skills to high school sophomores in addition to instilling in them an attitude of service and innovation. She has been instrumental to the growth of HOBY in Idaho and also serves on the national planning team for volunteers across the nation. She recruits and trains volunteers, plans activities and retreats, and leads staff in addition to working on the front lines directly with the youth.

Willey even opens up her home to youth in the community, providing a safe space to hang out, and is even available for 2 a.m. phone calls. She serves as a volunteer with Watersprings Church through a program called “Thrive,” working with troubled youth.

As a Frist Award winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Nicole’s name to her charity of choice, Old Faithful Christian Ranch.

Chaz Houpt and Milli
Volunteer Frist Humanitarian Award – Chaz Houpt and Milli, Pet Partners Team

Chaz Houpt and Milli have been volunteers at EIRMC since 2012, and have volunteered nearly 600 hours during that time. Milli, a corgi and Intermountain Therapy Animal, and Chaz make up a Pet Partner team and spend their time visiting with patients, often playing an active role in their recovery.

At the EIRMC Behavioral Health Center for example, Milli and Chaz participate in weekly planned group therapy sessions. Adolescent and adult patients are able to interact with her, ask her to do tricks, and draw comfort from her. Many long-term patients get to see Milli for several weeks and look forward to her visits.

Besides the BHC, Chaz and Milli spend time at the main hospital campus with speech and physical therapy patients and pediatric patients. In addition to their work at EIRMC, Chaz and Milli visit residents in area retirement communities. Chaz has served on the Crime Stoppers board for 30 years, a group that works with county and city law enforcement and community informants to solve crimes. He also volunteers with the Field of Honor, which honors veterans with a display of over 1,000 flags each Memorial Day. Milli was awarded the AKC Distinguished Therapy Dog Award in 2017 and the Silver Medallion Working Dog, the highest honors a dog can receive.

Together, Chaz and Milli participated in a Therapy Animal Intervention Pilot Study, published in the Human Animal Bond Research Institution Research Library, which studied gave weight to the positive effects of therapy animals in physical therapy.

As a Frist Award winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Chaz and Milli’s names to their charity of choice, the Intermountain Therapy Animals.

Bevan Burnell
Excellence in Nursing, Professional Mentoring – Bevan Burnell, BSN, RN, CEN, manager of Perioperative Services

Bevan Burnell is the manager of Perioperative Services, a role he has held since 2016, but his history at EIRMC stretches back to 2003. Bevan has held positions in Cardiac Care, Float Pool, and the ER and now in Surgical Services. He started as a CNA and has continually pursued higher education earning first his LPN, then associate RN, followed by his Bachelors of Science in Nursing RN in 2017. Bevan has plans to pursue an MBA in 2018. As the manager of Perioperative Services, Bevan has lead his department to reach new heights by not only improving both patient satisfaction, but by strengthening his team and employee morale. Bevan was nominated by two of his employees for this award, who each shared touching accounts of the ways that Bevan has created a strong and supportive team, and encouraged them reach new heights as individual healthcare professionals.

One nominator shared, “This summer I started feeling like I needed a change in my career. I noticed an opening in Bevan’s department.  After meeting with him and getting specifics, I felt that the move was what I needed. I am so glad that I did.  Being in this department, I have seen what a true leader Bevan has become. He has changed a struggling department into a wonderful place to work.” After seeing potential in one of his nursing staff, Bevan encouraged her to take on leadership roles and helped her to find confidence in her skillset despite her own doubts. She says, “He told me he believed in me even if I didn’t believe in myself. That simple statement changed my life.”

As an Excellence in Nursing winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Bevan's name to his charity of choice, the Haven Shelter.

Tamara Lewis
Excellence in Nursing, Compassionate Care – Tamara Lewis, RN Cardiac and Progressive Care Unit

Tamara Lewis has been a member of the EIRMC team for 10 years. Though she is now a registered nurse on the cardiac unit, Tamara started out in the IT (Informational Technology) department. Throughout her career, no matter her role, Tamara has always been a compassionate patient advocate as evidenced by her multiple Daisy, Nursing Excellence, Award Nominations through the years. Time and time again patients, patient families, and coworkers have shared experiences where Tamara has shown exceptional respect, understanding, and compassion towards her patients, while also demonstrating exceptional patient care abilities. One patient’s family member shared an experience where Tamara exceeded her expectations by working closely with the patient to explain the importance of rehabilitation and a no-salt diet to his cardiac health, despite his reluctance to change his life style. The family member said, “She truly made a difference in my father’s recovery and future health. Thank you.”

As an Excellence in Nursing winner, EIRMC will make a donation in Tamara’s name to her charity of choice, FREEMED.

Monday, February 12, 2018

INL wins Green Spirit Award for transportation program

Idaho National Laboratory buses lined up and ready to roll.
The American Bus Association (ABA) Environmental Committee has selected Idaho National Laboratory as a winner of the 2018 Green Spirit Award in the “special recognition” category. This award is given to companies that demonstrate the greatest commitment to environmental stewardship in all areas of its business and community.

ABA is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motor coach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services.

The Green Spirit Award, co-sponsored by leading bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries (MCI), is based on three aspects of a company’s operations: administrative, maintenance, and equipment and facility practices. INL was among three winners of the award from across the nation, along with Badger Coaches of Madison, Wisconsin, and Premier Transportation of Dallas, Texas.

INL Transportation Services – which operates the largest bus and light vehicle fleet in the U.S. Department of Energy complex – has long been a supporter of investigation into improving sustainability of bus and vehicle systems. INL pursues ongoing efforts to conserve fuel, including a stringent idle reduction program. Drivers and mechanics attend annual driver safety training, which incorporates fuel-efficient driving techniques into classroom and on-the-job training.

Further reductions in petroleum fuels are anticipated through the implementation of a “no-idle” battery electric auxiliary power unit (APU) with a high performance solar energy system on INL buses. With funding support from the Department of Energy’s Sustainability Performance Office, INL formed a working partnership with Bergstrom, Inc., a prominent cab climate systems designer/builder, and Motor Coach Industries, to design and modify a bus cooling-ventilating system to sharply reduce idle emissions. In August 2017, a pilot proof-of-concept no-idle HVAC project was completed with the installation of the Bergstrom battery electric APU with solar, and motor coach industry representatives attended a demonstration and technical review at the Energy Innovation Laboratory. The system is now being tested on INL fleet vehicles.

ABA presented the award to leaders of INL's Mission Support Services Division, which manages Transportation Services, at the association’s annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Jan. 29.

“We are truly honored to receive this award from our peers in the motor coach industry,” said Scott Wold, INL Mission Support Services director. “The award recognizes INL for many years of investment in environmentally responsible equipment and the adoption of green business practices, including collaboration with the motor coach industry to find cleaner, more energy-efficient technology.”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Former councilman hired by Idaho Falls for accounting position

David Smith
Former Idaho Falls City Councilman David Smith has joined the city of Idaho Falls’ accounting team, filling a budgeted position the Municipal Services Department that had been vacant.

The job’s focus is on supporting accounting functions for the electric utility, and although the position reports to the city controller in the Municipal Services Department, Idaho Falls Power pays the salary and benefits from the city’s enterprise fund.

A certified public accountant, Smith has more than 30 years of accounting, auditing, tax, and business consulting experience, with a professional focus on forensic accounting. He was appointed to the Idaho Falls City Council in 2015, and served until January. During his time on the council, he served as liaison to Idaho Falls Power and also on the Policy Makers Council for the American Public Power Association.

Idaho Falls Power and Municipal Services began evaluating the accounting needs for the utility in summer 2017 and recommended in early October that a senior accountant be hired. The job description was finalized in early November and the position was advertised regionally in mid-November, closing on December 15.

Including Smith, there were six applicants who applied for the position, none of whom were internal candidates. The selection committee identified three candidates to advance to the interview process. Due to the holidays, interviews were scheduled in mid-January, with a job offer made to Smith shortly thereafter.

The city does not have a policy with respect to hiring past City Council members, said Bear Prairie, assistant general manager for Idaho Falls Power, who represented the utility on the interviewing panel. “(The) standard hiring protocols were followed, with the objective of hiring the most qualified candidate. We interviewed other qualified CPAs, but no one had his (Smith's) level of experience.”