Carthage Water & Electric Plant (CW&EP) is a municipally-owned, locally controlled, not for profit electric utility company responsible for operating and maintaining the municipal electric, water, and communication systems of Carthage, Missouri. CW&EP has made it a priority since 1898 to provide the most reliable, efficient, and cost effective utilities to our families and friends in the Carthage community, and will continue to do so.
As technological advances rapidly spread throughout the U.S. during the 1890’s and Carthage, Missouri was one of the few hundred communities in the country to embrace the relatively new concept of a municipal light plant during that decade. On Nov. 22, 1898 there was a special election held in Carthage, MO on the proposition to issue $25,000 in bonds for the erection of an electric light plant, by the city. This election resulted in an overwhelming majority in its favor, when only a two-thirds vote was necessary. This insured thorough lighting of every part of the city just as soon as the plant could be constructed.
The original plant, built near the location of the present CW&EP power plant just north of Carter Park, housed two 90 kilowatt dynamos with a capacity that was estimated to supply current for fifty 2,000 – candle power arc lights for street lighting, one hundred fifty 50 – candle power incandescent lights for street lighting, and 2,600 16 – candle power incandescent lights for commercial lighting. The high cost of meters at the time, led to a rate structure based on the number of light bulbs used at any location.
In 1907, a dissatisfaction with the private water plant led to the passage of a $220,000 bond issue for the construction of a municipal water plant and distribution system. At this time the electric plant was placed under the jurisdiction of the newly created Board of Public Works along with the water plant.
Improvements to the electric plant at that time brought the total capacity to 600 kilowatts. In 1907 a bond issue of $100,000 was voted and in November a 750 H.P. diesel engine was purchased. The plant turned a profit of $48,375.85 the first year the diesel engine was in operation. The installation of a second 1250 H.P. diesel in 1923 allowed the operation of the steam plant to be discontinued and the steam equipment was disposed of in 1925.
After determining that further expansion of the original power plant was not feasible, the construction on the current location of the CW&EP power plant began in 1927. By 1930 all generation was produced in the new building. This expansion of structure and increase in generating capacity allowed CW&EP to supply the electrical needs of Carthage from this plant up until 1981. By this time, it became more feasible to purchase the majority of power from large generating facilities. The plant currently has been maintained since that time and stands ready to provide power as needed.
CW&EP’s commitment to providing a dependable supply of power to business and residential customers was once again illustrated in the mid 1990’s The Board of Public Works initiated an expansion of the supply lines that formed a “loop” around the community. This system, which includes enhanced switching capabilities, allows power to be redirected around any major break in service. The investment by CW&EP represents more than just a convenience. The consistent delivery of power means schools, factories, and other business enterprises can operate with the highest level of confidence. The availability of a secondary rout for power is also reassuring to health care facilities and individuals depending on life support devices. These factors, a long with the growing dependence on technology, acting as a constant reminder of the economic impact of even brief interruptions of electricity, play an important part in the high quality of life enjoyed by all in the community.
CW&EP also continued its role of planning and providing for expanded water and wastewater services. In 1996 the community once again realized the importance of this role and approved the issuance bonds to expand the water storage and distribution system and wastewater plant capacity. Improvements made possible by this bond issue and a commitment by CW&EP to invest an additional $6 million will assure the community has ample water to meet its needs. Improvements to the wastewater treatment facility increased capacity to a level that has carried Carthage well into the 21st century.
Popular support has historically allowed CW&EP to routinely improve its capability to provide the community with a consistent and cost effective supply of electrical power for the last century. Today, a fully capable power plant stands ready to supply a majority of the community’s electricity and has frequently been brought on line to help keep the cost of power in Carthage consumers low. The power plant has also had occasion to sell quantities of electrical power on the open market during shortages in other parts of the state and country. This capability helps keep local rates well below the national average.
CW&EP has always taken pride in the high quality and dedication of its employees and the benefits to the community are obvious. During severe weather CW&EP has always had the reputation for minimal inconvenience due to power outages. Crews react quickly and stand ready for any emergency. The experience and knowledge of a staff and management rooted in that history is reflected in the community’s calm confidence that when the faucet is turned, there will be an ample supply of clean water. And when there is a need to brighten a room, or log on to the internet, electrical power will be available at a reasonable cost.