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The Carthage Press
  • CW&EP makes Diamond member in industry review

  • The reward for being a top utility are marked by a simple, yet complex achievement — residents come home, turn on the light switch, and the lights come on, consistently, all the time.
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  • The reward for being a top utility are marked by a simple, yet complex achievement — residents come home, turn on the light switch, and the lights come on, consistently, all the time.
    Carthage's city-owned utility, Carthage Water & Electric Plant, was recognized recently as one of the top publicly owned utilities in the country.
    The American Public Power Association honored CW&EP with its highest award, designating the municipal utility as a Diamond Level Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) at its 2014 Engineering & Technical Conference earlier this month.
    “Receiving this designation is a terrific testament to the hard work and dedication that our staff puts in each day for the benefit of our customers,” said CWEP General Manager, Bob Williams.
    Four criteria
    APPA’s RP3 program has recognized the nation’s top public power utilities in the Gold, Platinum, and Diamond categories that have demonstrated proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement. CWEP has been named a RP3 provider, which carries a two year designation, in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
    Williams said over the past decade, CWEP has undertaken a variety of projects to improve its system capacity and reliability including: system-wide power line tree trimming; procuring new base load sources; developing and implementing improved operating and management systems; and developing state of the art communication and control systems.
    “It is this type of dedication to improving and maintaining our infrastructure that has led us to this wonderful recognition today," Williams said.
    Nearly perfect
    Bryant said the American Public Power Association rates public utilities and awards 25 points for each of the four key disciplines.
    Bryant said CW&EP came very close to a perfect score of 100.
    "What is really amazing, and at the same time a little bit disappointing, is that we scored 99 out of 100 points," Bryant said. "You have to have a 98-100 to get the diamond level certification. We have 100 percent in reliability, we're at the top level in the country in reliability. We're at the top level in workforce development and system improvement. Those three categories we scored as high as we can go.
    "On safety we scored 24 out of 25, and it was an absolute oversight on our part, but it was not something that was unsafe. It was a fire drill practice that was not done. We've got the charts up, where to go in case of emergency and what to do, and the staff is trained on it, but it was not done in that time frame so we missed one point on maybe one of the easiest things you could do."
    The APPA's website, http://www.publicpower.org, lists utilities that make the three RP3 levels, Diamond at the top, platinum and gold.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the past 10 years, between three and seven utilities received the Diamond certification each year, but this year, 29 public utilities made that top levels.
    Carthage was the only public utility in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma or Arkansas to make that level.
    In Missouri, City Utilities in Springfield, Independence Power and Light, and Marshall Municipal Utilities made the platinum level this year, and City of Nixa made gold level.
    Why it matters
    Bryant said the training and preparation for this award allowed CW&EP to respond to storms like the May 20, 2013 tornado that tore up trees and damaged homes and power lines on the east side of Carthage from around Fairview Avenue to Palomino Road just east of town.
    That EF1 tornado left about 800 CW&EP customers without power, a number that had been cut to about 350 customers in less than 24 hours.
    "The things that we do to qualify for this reward are directly reflected in how quickly we can respond to those types of emergencies," Bryant said. "Without that preparation that goes into achieving this award, the response times would be slower, our coordination would be lacking, and the knowledge just wouldn't be there.
    "Then you take the aspect of tree trimming, if we didn't do that to the level that helped us get this certification, and maintain the system, then we'll start finding that not just that tornado, but any heavy wind event would cause massive damage across the system. They go hand in hand, our focus is not to get awards, our focus is to make sure that we're reliable, our employees are safe and we're providing low-cost, quality service to all of our friends and families here in Carthage."
    Bryant said the award is nice, but the goal of the utility is not to be noticed by its customers.
    "What we want is the customer to walk in their door every day and flip their switch, start using their appliances and not ever think of us," Bryant said. "We don't want to be in the mind of that customer, whether or not the electricity is going to work. In parts of this country and parts of many countries, that's not the case, you don't know if it's going to be there or not.
    "The customers we have are our family and our friends too. We see these folks at the ballfields and at civic groups and things like that every day of our life, our kids play together so we understand and they understand we're not just providing quality service to customers, we're providing it to our friends and family as well, so we're happy."

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