The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities marks Public Power Week from Oct. 7-11, joining more than 2,000 other electric utilities from around the country that collectively provide electricity on a not-for-profit basis to 47 million Americans.
"During Public Power Week each year," David Leathers, BPU general manager said, "we stop to consider how public power impacts our BPU electric customers. Public power makes a big difference in our community and we like to stop to reflect on the 'good' that public power brings to Jamestown and to our electric customers.
"Public power utilities are community-owned which means that our customers are included in the decision making process.
"Perhaps our greatest benefit is this local control.
"The BPU not only works for Jamestown and our electricity territory, but also, the BPU is Jamestown. The quality of BPU's hometown service is a reflection of the pride that our employees have in Jamestown."
Unlike private power companies, public power utilities such as the BPU are public service institutions and do not serve stockholders.
"Our main goal is to serve our customers," Leathers said. "We measure success by our reliability, our ability to provide electricity at affordable rates and by our response to customer concerns. Our loyalty is to our customers, not to stockholders."
Public power customers nationwide pay 14 percent less than the amount that for-profit electric companies charge their customers, according to the American Public Power Association. In addition, public power utilities return tax equivalent payments to schools and municipalities within the territories they serve.
While each public power company is different, citizens of public power communities have a direct voice in utility decisions and policies, both on voting day and in open meetings where board business is conducted publicly.
In Jamestown, the board is appointed by the mayor and approved by City Council. Two BPU directors serve from Jamestown City Council; one director represents the city's Department of Public Works; five directors are appointed as community members; and the mayor is a director, serving by virtue of his elected office. Monthly meetings are open to the public and monthly meeting minutes are posted online at www.jamestownbpu.com.
Further, the BPU website homepage changes frequently, posting most recent news about the utility and its services. The agenda of each meeting is posted on the day prior to the meeting. A monthly customer newsletter is mailed to customers with their billing statements. Facebook and Twitter pages include up-to-date utility news, especially in the event of electrical outages or water system concerns.
In the last year, the utility increased employee-giving to the United Way; raised more than $14,000 for the St. Susan Center; raised money for the BPU Good Neighbor Fund to help customers in good standing with utility bills; held blood drives every eight weeks; assisted customers in lowering electrical use through energy efficiency programs; supported a Salvation Army program at Christmas; and appeared at the annual city Labor Day festival and at job fairs throughout the community.
In past years, the utility has organized and assisted senior citizens with energy efficiency installations in their homes and hosted a home energy fair for customers. Employees annually appear at schools to educate children about electric safety and to speak about energy efficiency throughout the community.
Public Power Week is a national, annual event sponsored in conjunction with the American Public Power Association in Washington, D.C. The association is the service organization for community and state-owned electric utilities.
The BPU was created in 1891 and established as an independent organization by the City Charter in 1923. Today, it serves more than 16,400 residential customers, and just more than 2,750 commercial, industrial and other municipal customers.
"We are proud to have served Jamestown and our customers for 122 years," Leathers said.
"The BPU knows how vital electricity is for the people of our community. We continue to find ways to deliver it reliably, safely and with special attention to cost and the environment."