Blog Archive

Friday, November 30, 2007

You Found It!

Congratulations! You found the new blog we created to replace the paper newsletter we were sending out with our bills each month. The newsletter presented in this format is simply much cooler than the old paper version. For one thing, we can send you more timely information (often we have issues that come up long before the monthly bills are ready to go out), for another thing, you can talk back to us! That’s right, each post on The Red, Blue & Green is followed by a little link that says “comments.” (check it out below) If you click on that link, you can talk back, make comments about my posts, ask additional questions, argue with me, put me in my place, etc. Once you give this format a try, I think you will really love it.

This change in newsletter format is just a part of our bigger project to totally revamp the way we communicate with our customers. Our billing is going to change, most likely in February or March, to a totally new look which we trust you will find much easier to read and understand. Upon that change, we will likely start printing a brief summary of the newsletter information on the back of the new bills (that way those without access to a computer or internet will still be able to get some of the latest information about the EPB and the work we are doing), but that too will just be a short-term solution. The other part of our plan is to launch a new, full-color magazine which will be delivered quarterly (hopefully starting in April 2008). When this launches we will have much of the same information in it as we used to put in the newsletter, along with other timely and exciting items of interest to our customers. So, when all the pieces fall into place, we will be communicating with you via this blog (virtually daily), via our new billing format as extra text on the back of the bill, and finally through a new magazine that will be delivered four times a year. The really good thing about all of this is that we should be getting you much more information and still saving a lot of money over the way we have been printing the newsletter and mailing the bills in the past. This appears to be a win-win for everyone.

Electric Power Rate Change. If you get your electricity from the EPB, there is another matter we need to discuss a bit this month. Recently our Board approved a rate increase of about 2% for electric power, billed after January 1, 2008. If you are a regular reader of this newsletter, you have heard about our plans to reinforce the electric power grid in Glasgow by adding a second primary delivery point substation on the east side of town. The rate increase is designed to raise the funds necessary to build this project which is estimated to cost about $6 million. However, there is more to this story, and, amazingly, it means we are getting a lucky break (and after our recent run of bad luck relative to the November 5 storm that hit our buildings, we need a lucky break)!

Our luck comes in the form of the TVA Fuel Cost Adjustment (FCA). This is the mechanism whereby TVA adjusts our rates each quarter depending on their cost of fuel during the previous quarter. The good news is that the TVA FCA will result in an actual decrease on January 1. The really good news is that the TVA FCA decrease will be larger than the 2% increase that we need to put in place to finance our new substation. So, your electric rates will actually stay about the same on January 1, 2008! Merry Christmas indeed! Of course, all good things tend to come to an end and TVA will get another shot at the FCA in April, but until then enjoy the electric power rate stability.
Friday, November 23, 2007

Bill Moyers on Franklin Roosevelt and his Father

The Glasgow EPB is owned by the people of Glasgow. That makes it a "public power" system. The idea of publicly owned electric systems was not invented by Franklin Roosevelt, but he sure championed the idea and had everything to do with creating TVA and the network of 160 public power systems that were born to distribute TVA power. But FDR did a lot more for our country than that.

Recently Bill Moyers, one of the last of the dying breed of real journalists who consider their craft a responsibility to the rest of us to deliver the unvarnished truth, was given a Freedom of Speech Award at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. His poignant remarks follow:

Thank you for this recognition and the spirit of the evening. Thanks especially for giving me the chance to sit here awhile thinking about my father. Henry Moyers was an ordinary man who dropped out of the fourth grade because his family needed him to pick cotton to help make ends meet. The Depression knocked him off the farm and flat on his back. When I was born he was making two dollars a day working on the highway to Oklahoma City. He never made over $100 a week in the whole of his working life, and he made that only when he joined the union on the last job he held. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt in four straight elections, and he would have gone on voting for him until kingdom come if both had lived that long. I once asked him why, and he said, "Because the President's my friend." Now, my father never met FDR. No politician ever paid him much note, but he was sure he had a friend in the White House during the worst years of his life. When by pure chance I wound up working there many years later, and my parents came for a visit, my father wanted to see the Roosevelt Room. I don't know quite how to explain it, except that my father knew who was on his side and who wasn't, and for twelve years he had no doubt where FDR stood. The first time I remember him with tears in his eyes was when Roosevelt died. He had lost his friend.

We can't revive the man and certainly we wouldn't want to revisit the times, but we can rekindle the spirit. There are 37 million people in this country who are poor; there are 57 million who are near poor, making $20,000 to $40,000 a year--one divorce, one pink slip, one illness away from a free fall. That's almost one-third of America still living on the edge. They need a friend in the White House. My father, with his fourth-grade education and two fingers with the missing tips from the mix-up at the cotton gin, got it when Roosevelt spoke. "I can't talk like him," he said, "but I sure do think like him." My father might not have had the words for it, but he said amen when FDR talked about economic royalism. Sitting in front of our console radio, he got it when Roosevelt said that private power no less than public power can bring America to ruin in the absence of democratic controls.

Don't think for a moment he didn't get it when Roosevelt said that a government by money was as much to be feared as a government by mob, or when he said that the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. My father got it when he heard his friend in the White House talk about how "a small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor--other people's lives." My father knew FDR was talking for him when he said life was no longer free, liberty no longer real, men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness--against economic tyranny such as this. And my father listened raptly when his friend the President said, "The American citizen"--my father knew the President was speaking of him--"could appeal only to the organized power of government."

So thank you for reminding us that liberalism is less about ideology and doctrine than about friendship and faith--the bond between a patrician in the White House and a working man on the Texas-Oklahoma border and their mutual belief in America as a shared project. Thank you for this reminder of how we might yet turn the listing ship of state. My father thanks you, too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thanks Glasgow!

We knew it was supposed to rain on Monday, November 5, but we, along with the rest of Glasgow, were a bit surprised when the cold front also dealt out micro bursts and down bursts of wind that exceeded anything we had ever witnessed in this part of town. Still, while violent and destructive, the storm opened our eyes to a lot of good.

Like everyone in town, the recent dry vs. moist campaign had made me feel like Glasgow was a community prepared to go to war with itself. I wondered if we were so different from other parts of the world where arguments about religion eventually result in battles of flesh. But several marvelous things happened in the aftermath of the great wind that made me feel we are going to be OK.

As we looked out our windows at the EPB around 4:30 p.m. on November 5, the rain quickly became some sort of semisolid mass of energy and visibility out our windows dropped to about 12 inches. Immediately we decided to gather up the customers who were in the lobby and everyone on the staff and make our way to our new Jama M Young Technology Center for refuge. Once in the bunker we quickly opened our “war room” and got folks set up to answer phones and dispatch our repair crews. As we awaited to hear from our technicians about what vehicles were mobile, we ventured out of the bunker to take in a horrifying sight. The warehouse building which housed many of our vehicles and our inventory of hardware that we would need to start affecting repairs on our networks was totally destroyed! So, job one for our team became figuring out how to free up our vehicles so we could go about our work of repairing Glasgow’s energy and information infrastructure. As I watched, members of the EPB who were highly trained linemen and telecommunications technicians, suddenly morphed into search and rescue personnel and they invented many ways to peel back the remains of a damaged building and rescue the equipment necessary to go about rescuing the lifestyle of the community. It was a beautiful thing to behold. Further, as the evening went on, contractors and construction experts began to arrive and help us make sane and safe decisions about what other equipment could be rescued from the building. Clearly, Glasgow was starting to function as a community again instead of an association of warring factions.

For several hours after that, most of the EPB staff was in a windowless bunker poring over information from our computer systems, directing repair efforts via radio, inventing plans to feed energy around damaged and missing portions of our network, and talking with our customers. However, the community was coming to our rescue in other ways without our even knowing it. Perhaps three hours into the event I emerged from the war room to just look out the windows, and I saw this wonderful sight. Local DES folks had already found mobile lighting systems, delivered them to our site, and taken over the job of rerouting traffic along the 31E Bypass in front of the EPB building. You see, four transmission poles had been snapped off and were still lying along the Bypass, and there were hours and hours of work to be performed in trying to set that portion of our network right. While we would have eventually gotten the job done, it would have taken several days longer if we had not had the help from local emergency services folks in controlling traffic and providing a safe area for us to work. Again, Glasgow was emerging as a unified community.

Our efforts to repair the damage were met with great fortune in many ways. Obviously, the amount of damage far exceeded our in-house staff’s capacity to repair quickly. Luckily, we already had crews from Pike Electric and Bowlin Energy doing planned improvements to our electric system. They were willing to drop that planned work and help us accomplish this new amount of unplanned work. We were so lucky to have them here!

Another great twist of fate was that the damage to our fiber optic network was minimal. Those poles in front of our office carry hundreds of fiber optic circuits. If they had broken in a slightly different manner, we would still be out splicing our fiber. However, after it was all said and done, only about 24 fibers were damaged and they were in parts of town other than right in front of our office. As a result, most everyone in town had cable television, telephone, and internet service restored with their electric power. Those that did suffer interruptions were all generally back in service within 24 hours. We count this as a blessing as well. Another indication that Glasgow people had decided to put away their differences and work together was that our customers were very understanding throughout this whole event. Even though a UK basketball game and critical election results were in danger of being missed due to broken fiber cables, folks were content and many local businesses even used the time to fix us food and drinks and do other things to comfort our hard-working folks in the field.

All told, this event was a demonstration that we need to be ever-vigilant in designing our infrastructure to withstand harsh and unexpected events. We do a lot of that. We build redundant circuits so we have options to serve our customers even when the planned routes become unavailable. We are also quite proud of our vision to build the new Technology Center. There were critics of this move. I remember reading comments from one fellow that said our decision to build the bunker was foolish because everyone knows that if a tornado should hit our campus, all of our other pole-mounted facilities would be destroyed anyway, so the building was a waste. I wish I could recall who that was now, because he was dead wrong. Most of all I am happy with the performance of my team and the community as a whole. The EPB team seems to have most of its communications with customers when they are mad or upset because something is not working or going well for them. As a result, we sometimes slip into feeling that our efforts are not often appreciated and that our constant planning for events that are “over the horizon” is just overkill. Then, along comes an event like this when the community proves that we are appreciated and that our plans provided the continuity of service that we had in mind, and we fall back in love with Glasgow all over again.

So, I thank my team for being an amazingly talented group of public servants. My team thanks you, our customers, the YES’s, the NO’s, the big, the small, the short, and the tall, for understanding our plight after the storm and doing everything that you did to help us through it. We will keep building networks that deliver you the standard of living you asked us to provide and we will love doing it!
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Okay...that was close enough!

Any of you who were around the south part of Glasgow on the afternoon of November 5 know that the EPB campus was ravaged by some sort of ferocious down burst wind. It destroyed one of our building and toppled 4 - 75' transmission poles along the Bypass. Luckily, we had taken refuge in our new tornado proof bunker facility and no one on the team was injured. Can't say the same for the stuff we had in the destroyed building. Best part was that all of the technology equipment was safe in the bunker and services were quickly restored to the people of Glasgow. Still, we don't want another test like that any time soon!
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Green Market Cooperatve, the Beginning of Glasgow's Food Utility?

Fifty years ago a group of forward-looking individuals came together to discuss Glasgow’s energy future. That group came to the conclusion that electric power would be a lynchpin in the success of Glasgow over the coming decades and they reckoned that local ownership and control of the electric power grid would be the best way to make sure that Glasgow’s energy resources were properly developed to serve the local citizens instead of the stockholders of some distant power corporation. After a while that discussion crystalized and became the Glasgow Electric Plant Board.

After a really rocky process of gestation, the Glasgow EPB was born and then took over the facilities formerly owned and operated by Kentucky Utilities and began the process of building and operating a power grid with the purpose of assuring abundant and low-cost electric power to serve our population. Now, it seems like a very simple idea that no one would quarrel with, but in the late 50's, it was quite controversial. Still, the idea of operating an electric grid as a tool to spur local economic development and to facilitate a sustainable and durable economic future for Glasgow finally won all the arguments, and most of the local citizenry would now agree that it was a great idea.

Twenty years ago the EPB started discussing the idea that robust broadband networks would likely be another crucial element in the future success of our local economy. Like the discussions fifty years ago which lead to the creation of the EPB, those discussions started small but soon developed into a full-blown vision of a new way to assure the long-term vitality of our local economy. As that vision was adopted by the EPB and recommended, controversy, not unlike that which accompanied the initial birth of the EPB, came rather quickly. A locally owned and operated broadband network meant full-blown competition with incumbent cable television companies and telephone companies. They howled and complained and, filed lawsuits. Still, the EPB built the first municipally-owned broadband network in the US, and it is still building it and refining it today. This network, like the electric network which proceeded it by thirty years, has become an essential element to our local economy and to our daily lives.

However, electric power and broadband telecommunications cannot, by themselves, provide us a safe and happy existence in Glasgow. Other commodities like water, food, and jobs are also necessary. It is certain that the fine folks at the Glasgow Water Company are doing a great job on making sure we have a plentiful supply of water. It is also certain that, if we provide a robust electric power network and broadband network and water/sewer systems, industrial and retail jobs will continue to come take advantage of those systems. But, have you thought about our position relative to assuring our food supply? Well, until recently, I’m not certain any of us were really thinking about that, but the same genetic strain of good will and intelligence that started those folks fifty years ago thinking about Glasgow’s energy future is still alive and flourishing in our community!

There is a group among us, lead by one Kimberly Page, that is worrying about sustaining our food supply in the face of a future fraught with great change and uncertainty. We should all be thankful and supportive of the work they are doing. Just to help illustrate how important this work is, let’s just review a few startling facts about the way we eat today. It is certain that everyone reading this is painfully aware of the spiraling cost of gasoline, diesel fuel, and electric power. However, did you realize how all of this comes together to threaten our food supply? Did you know that average bite of food that we eat has traveled fifteen hundred miles before it reaches your lips? Well, it is true, and therein lies the reason that communities like Glasgow should be looking at establishing local ownership of a food delivery system which is not solely reliant upon super farms in remote areas growing and processing our food to be shipped to us on a truck. Thankfully, this local group, which is now calling itself Green Market Cooperative (www.greenmarketcoop.com), is taking on this problem on our behalf.

A few months ago a friend recommended that I read a book by Bill McKibben, Deep Economy. I recommend you all do the same thing. It is available at the Mary Wood Weldon Memorial Library. But until you take in the whole book, let’s share some information from it just to whet your appetite.

Modern agriculture produces a lot of food, and produces it cheaply, two feats that people have spent all of human history trying to achieve. The engine of this achievement has been, for a century, relentless consolidation and concentration, a process that is by now very nearly complete in the United States and is still accelerating elsewhere. Four companies slaughter 81 percent of American beef. Cargill, Inc., controls 45 percent of the globe’s grain trade, while its competitor Archer Daniels Midland controls another 30 percent . . . Eighty-nine percent of American chickens are produced under contract to big companies, usually in broiler houses up to five hundred feet long holding thirty thousand or more birds. Four multinational companies control over 70 percent of fluid milk sales in the United States, and one Ohio “farm” produces 3 billion eggs per year. Four firms control 85 percent of global coffee roasting, and a small group of multinationals handles 80 percent of the world trade in cocoa, pineapples, tea, and bananas. The merger of Philip Morris and Nabisco in 2000 created a food conglomerate that collects nearly 10 cents of every dollar an American consumer spends on food. Meanwhile, five companies control 75 percent of the global vegetable seed market, and their grip on the market is tightening as the seed companies patent more and more genetically modified varieties and prevent seed saving. As a former Monsanto executive boasted not long ago, “What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain.”

But there’s also another potential cost to our food system, one we’ve just begun to understand in the wake of 9/11: any enterprise so centralized is exquisitely vulnerable to sabotage.

. . .We assume, because it makes a certain kind of intuitive sense, that industrialized farming is the most productive farming. I mean, if I sit on my porch whittling toothpicks with my Swiss Army knife, I can produce a hundred in a day. If I install a toothpick-whittling machine, I can produce a thousand in an hour. By analogy, a vast Midwestern field filled with high-tech equipment ought to produce more food than someone with a hoe in a small garden. As it turns out, however, this simply isn’t true. If all you are worried about is the greatest yield per acre, then smaller farms produce more food. Which, if you think about it some more, makes sense. If you are one guy on a tractor responsible for thousands of acres, you grow your corn and that’s about all you can do: one pass after another with the gargantuan machines across your sea of crop. But if you’re working on ten acres, then you have time to really know the land, and to make it work harder. You can intercrop all kinds of plants: their roots will go to different depths, or they’ll thrive in each other’s shade, or they’ll make use of different nutrients in the soil. You can also walk your fields, over and over, noticing. As one small farmer recently wrote in Farming magazine, spending part of every day in the pasture gives you a “grass eye,” “a keen awareness” of where small seeps of water are muddying the fields, or whether “earthworms and other soil life are properly disposing of cow pies.” Yellow clover leaves signify a sulfur deficiency; an abundance of dandelions means a shortage of calcium. “Every spot or plant in the pasture,” he says, “is trying to tell us something.” Does this sound like hippie nonsense? According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, smaller farms produce far more food per acre, whether you measure in tons, calories, or dollars. They use land, water, and oil much more efficiently; if they have animals, the manure is a gift, not a threat to public health. “In terms of converting inputs into outputs, society would be better off with small-scale farmers, “writes Brian Halweil. “As population continues to grow in many nations, and the amount of farmland and water available to each person continues to shrink, a small farm structure may become central to feeding the planet.”


I quote that much of the book to make a point. Just what is Glasgow surrounded by? We are surrounded by an abundance of fertile and beautiful land which is generally split up into small farms. We have been granted this marvelous natural resource and this new initiative by the Green Market Cooperative folks here in Glasgow may be just what we need to capitalize on this asset. Their initial idea is to create a place where local produce and customers can come together for commerce. But the hope is that this will become the catalyst for a new relationship between local consumers and local producers. Hopefully the place will give way to new decisions by local farmers to change production from corn, tobacco, and other products which are transported great distances and return little of the final product cost to the producer, to the production of fruits, vegetables, dairy, beef, poultry and grains that can be sold locally and directly to the end consumer. That will cut out the WalMarts of the world and preserve most of the money for the producer instead of an endless row of middlemen. Such a system would help us declare independence from the Cargills and Archer Daniels Midlands of the world. Instead we might create a system which would give Glasgow a locally owned and operated food utility which could become just as important to Glasgow's success as the EPB has been for electric power and broadband communications.

So, be thankful for the folks at Green Market Cooperative. Go to their web site at www.greenmarketcoop.com and read more about them. Become a member. Help them become the next great idea that results in a durable future and comfortable lifestyle for our community. While it seems hopeless for us to convince the whole world to think like we do, it is completely possible for us to operate sensibly in our own back yard. These dedicated folks are already out back mowing it and planting flowers. Let’s all pitch in and help!

Read more about this concept at http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/344/index.html

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