He wears many hats, but one particular endeavor he has undertaken will play a vital role in London's future growth.

After 23 years with the London Utility Commission, Tommy Gray has filled many roles. But his interest in making the company operate more efficiently and effectively in mapping out all the city's water and sewer lines promises to be a vital component in how the city can experience more growth for future generations.

Gray came to LUC as a backhoe operator, having already worked in the construction arena after nine years with McKnight Construction. That is where he began surveying - one aspect of the construction field that he really enjoyed.

He soon got to utilize that ability, training with former LUC Maintenance Supervisor Carl Gregory.

"Carl hand-mapped all the utility lines and we knew when he retired we'd lose all that information," Gray said. "So a year or year and a half before he retired, we started putting all that information together and he started keeping all our maps. He took a lot of interest in doing that."

London Utility Commission Supervisor Steven Baker added that Gray picked up on what Gregory had done and has brought it to the highest possible level, using an advanced computer mapping system that allows LUC employees to access a specific area through an app on their cell phones.

"Tommy took what Carl showed him. Tommy is unique because he is always looking to make things better," Baker added. "We use AutoCad, a state-of-the-art program of interactive maps that we use now to operate. It not only helps us operate now, it helps us plan for future upgrades better."

Gray has attended various trainings to achieve that higher technological level to benefit the utility commission, always looking for more technology to assist the workers in better efficiency and to better the service for customers. He has traveled to Alabama, San Diego, California, and Nashville to learn the various programs and software available to continue to improve the infrastructure systems for London - programs will be used by future generations.

"No other city this size uses the technology we have," Baker added. "We even won an award from the Kentucky-Tennessee Water Environmental Association for the advanced system we have."

A prime example of some of the issues that have faced the city utility commission is the frequent flooding along Mill Street.

During that project to deal with storm water drainage, utility workers discovered water lines that had been installed - and still remained - in 1928. Another portion of the lines were installed in 1966 - both of which were in dire need of upgrades and repairs. Gray keeps a piece of pipe that came from a similar project - one rusted and clogged with debris that affects the water flow.

"This is some of what we deal with on the job," Gray said. "There may be a six-inch line but it may have debris in it that only makes it a three-inch line. That's why we flush out the lines sometimes - to try and keep the lines from being clogged up."

That flushing occurs at fire hydrants placed strategically throughout the city limits - and Gray knows exactly how many hydrants there are to deal with as well as how many manholes the city must maintain to access the water lines. He recites those numbers from memory, resembling a well trained student.

"There are 412 fire hydrants and 2,750 manholes in the city," he said. "The manholes are used so we can get to the lines. We use the phone apps so the lineman can know exactly where they need to be without even having to come into the office like they used to have to do."

Gray also serves as the Quality Assurance Inspector, going to sites and ensuring that the projects meet the standards for the city and state requirements.

But Gray's many hats also extend into his personal life.

"Several years ago, Tommy took up cycling," Baker said. "He didn't just go out and buy a bike - he started cycling in races."

That interest includes completing the Kentucky Century Ride a few years ago, in which Gray completed four 100-mile rides. Most recently he has built a Jeep that now sports a rooftop tent - a venture for which he and his wife are currently using for a two week trip to Arizona and other western states.

"A year ago, my wife (Geannie) and I started talking about what we would do when I retire in four years. It's 27 years for retirement with the city and I have 23 years and two months left. Then we thought why wait till retirement to do this? I have vacation time built up so we started building the Jeep and equipping it and are starting traveling now," he said.

Once back from his Jeep journey, Gray still has many things to achieve - one of which is being with his family that consists of his wife and two sons. But he is anxiously anticipating becoming a grandfather for the first time in coming weeks.

"I've got a grandchild due in nine weeks," he said, beaming with pride.

Between his job and his family, however, Gray still maintains a humbleness about the many opportunities he has had during his career.

"I guess I'm kind of mechanical minded," he said. "I've been blessed at the places I've worked because they've seen potential in me and put me in places where I could achieve."

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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