about

A Past Powering the Future

CEL&P is locally owned and operated by our customers and governed by the Utility Service Board. Made up of 5 individuals appointed by the Mayor and City Council, the board governs company policies and oversees the financial affairs of the Utility.

Utility Service Board

Lyle Fogel

VICE PRESIDENT

Phil Garrett

Board Member

Phillip Goode

General Manager - Retiring 1/6/23

Monty Harris

Secretary

Allison Huenemann

General Manager after 1/6/23

Don Swearingen

PRESIDENT

Dan Taylor

Attorney

Donald Thompson

Board Member

Department Heads

Neil Brown

It administrator

John Douglas

Assistant General Manager

Rebecca Freiberger

Controller

Steve Gillan

Environment, Safety & Training Coordinator

Randy Hendrickson

Line Superintendent

John Keller

Electrical Inspector

Andrea McArthur

Accounts Payable / Social Media Specialist

Julie Ratcliff

Front Office Manager

James Rodewald

Engineering, Metering & Substation Superintendent

History of CEL&P

1890-1910

The Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power Company has a long and colorful history. The enterprise was officially formed as a publicly owned entity in 1890. Actually, the City of Crawfordsville was a pioneer in its desire to have a municipal light plant. History indicates that the justification for the city wanting to control its own destiny was due to its ongoing battles with privately owned firms that supplied the city with gas, electric lighting as well as water. Needless to say, the move by the city was a controversial political issue. Some citizens and elected officials questioned the city’s decision to own and operate such a facility. During this turbulent time, many other Indiana cities pushed for legislation allowing them to own and operate municipal electrical plants.

Although many political obstacles and legal battles that took place with the private companies had to be overcome prior to the operation of the city’s first plant, the first Crawfordsville plant was christened on September 9, 1891. Originally, the plant was built with the sole purpose of providing a cost-saving lighting source for the City of Crawfordsville. Immediately after the completion of the system, businesses and citizens of the community expressed a desire to have the city’s plant provide lighting to them as well. Later that year, an Indiana Supreme Court ruling overturned the previous decision by the Circuit Court that prohibited cities from providing electricity to local manufacturers, stores, and private dwellings. As a result of the legislative changes, CEL&P quickly moved to satisfy the needs and desires of business owners and residents in addition to the City. For the next two decades, CEL&P played a vital role in the growth of Crawfordsville.

1910 – 1930

The city grew very quickly during the period 1910 to 1930, and so did the demand for more electric lights and power. By the end of the decade, businessmen and manufacturers in the community wanted a new power plant in Crawfordsville.

On July 30, 1910, the city decided to purchase property east of Sugar Creek and build a modern plant at an approximate cost of over $100,000. A new site was essential due to the increased requirements for water needed by a larger generating facility. On July 3, 1911, the new plant began operations. Shortly after the time of completion and when the facility was operational, another controversy started to brew over the rate structure. As part of the initial justification of the new plant, businesses and the residents were advised that a more efficient plant would lead to a reduction in their bills. However, after the plant began production, no adjustments were made. The public and the local newspaper became quite critical. The cost of the new facility was $120,000 (20% higher than the original cost estimate). What surfaced was that during the construction of the plant, additional equipment was installed.

The Board had concluded, “Given the rapidly growing demand of electricity for household appliances, the growth of industry, and the recent annexation of a new area into the city, it was their responsibility to plan for the future by installing more equipment in the plant than was originally planned.” The size of the building was increased to accommodate a third turbine and a fourth boiler for whenever the growth in business is demanded. Sure enough, in 1919, the city needed a new turbine in order to handle the capacity needed by the expanding industry in Crawfordsville, and by 1928 another boiler was needed to handle the growing city. The Board, which took heat for making an economic judgment call, found their decision very insightful. The decision to upgrade actually saved the city a substantial sum of money over the long run.

1930 – 1940

As CEL&P entered the next decade, the organization was encouraged to find that the utility was earning substantial profits as a result of its prudent business practices and wise decision-making in the previous years. In January 1935, the utility reported a net profit from the previous year of over $97,000. In the February meeting of the City Council, the superintendent announced that he expected a reduction in the rate structure. City officials were enthusiastic about the publicized reduction. Lower rates would make the utility, which was already one of the lowest in the state, the most cost-effective source of electricity in Indiana. Later that year, the plant established a record of over 10 years of continuous service, which was considered to be unequaled in Indiana.

By the end of 1938, it was again time to consider increasing the generating capacity of the plant and upgrading the equipment. As a result of the successful financial operation of CEL&P, it was determined that the upgrade could be handled without the need for a bond issue. Most of the funds were available in the depreciation fund, which was established specifically for the replacement of obsolete and inadequate equipment. By the end of 1939, the plant upgrades had been completed making it once again one of the most modern plants of its kind. In fact, on the company’s fiftieth anniversary, city officials publicly gave credit to those, “with the pioneering spirit, that had the courage and the leadership to pursue a vision.” They said, “Our everlasting debt of gratitude is due to those foresighted and public-spirited men who conceived and directed the institution of CEL&P through the first years of its uncertain existence. Time has proven the wisdom of their actions. “By the end of this period, not only had the utility served the needs of this community but had also supplied electricity to eleven other towns and villages surrounding Crawfordsville.

As a side note, CEL&P had been of great value to the community beyond just providing electricity. In fact, the retained earnings of the utility had been used to invest in the modernization of other areas of the city, even during a time in which the rates were among the lowest in the state. In short, the utility had been used to advance the city and make it a better place to live.

1941 – 1950

During this decade many challenges faced CEL&P. Some of these included:

  1. Federal government orders to conserve energy during WWII

  2. Political battles between the Board of Works and the Crawfordsville City Council

  3. Discontinuance of providing power to The Montgomery Electric Light and Power Company

  4. Selling of CEL&P assets to Public Service Company (now Cinergy / PSI)

Consumers of power were asked to drastically reduce the amount of electricity being used during the early 1940s. The results of those orders were “Brown Outs”. Even during this time of conservation, requirements for more generating capacity were evident. New improvements were needed or the plant capacity would not be able to handle the needs of the community within 2 years. Consequently, a systematic plan was proposed for improvement over the next three years. The estimated cost of the improvements would be $750,000. The improvements would include a new turbine, new condensers, a de-aerator, an induced draft fan, and a physical expansion of the plant. It was conventional wisdom that when the upgrades would be completed, CEL&P would be the most efficient and the most financially healthy municipal electric light plant in the Midwest.

Because of the commercial growth in Crawfordsville and the increasing load on CEL&P, the utility requested to be released from its obligation to provide power to the Montgomery Light & Power Company which served towns in the northern part of the county. These cities include Linden, New Richmond, Wingate, and surrounding rural areas. By April of 1948, the state regulatory commission approved CEL&P’s yearlong request and ordered PSI to begin providing the power to the Montgomery Company as soon as possible. In June of that year, the council approved the sale of the CEL&P Lines running to Alamo and Wallace in the southern half of the county.

1951-1970

During the next two decades, challenges continued for CEL&P. In January 1951, the city again was facing a power shortage despite increased investment in the generation capacity of the existing plant. This need was due to the power requirements requested by a new company moving into town called Raybestos-Manhattan. Raybestos announced that it would build a new plant at the edge of Crawfordsville.

Rather than making another large investment in the plant, the city opted to sell more of its rural lines to PSI. PSI in return was to construct a tie line to the City in order to secure a backup source of power for the city and give CEL&P enough power to supply new business in town. During this time frame, the utility installed a loop around the city designed to have 4 substations. The advantage of the loop would be that the new system would be able to energize all parts of the city from the plant from either end of the circuit. Therefore, if weather-related problems knocked down a line, it would drastically reduce the number of customers from being affected by a power outage.

In November of 1960 during a general election, the voters of Crawfordsville officially decided to create a Utility Service Board to govern the electric utility. One of the first acts of the Board was to approve the expansion plans that had already been outlined. The board determined that the rates should be modernized and the utility should be run like a business in order to be competitive. In 1968, the Utility Service Board also announced another agreement with PSI for an inter-connect agreement. The purpose of the interconnect was for the city to secure an instantaneous supply of power if a catastrophic plant failure occurred. Along with this agreement, CEL&P was able to draw resources from PSI for the future needs of the city without another costly investment in the local plant.

In 1965, CEL&P celebrated its 75th year of operations.During this time it grew from a tiny system serving a few hundred incandescent lights to a modern utility serving over 6500 customers including several major industries. Also notable during this time period, with the exception of $55,000 of bonds sold for the initial construction of the plant, the utility had been financed from its own earnings. It had a plant generating capacity of 40 megawatts and an advanced transmission loop of 13,800 volts via distribution substations. It also had a rate structure that was competitive with any community in Indiana including those served by private utilities. The local newspaper also commented that the local electric light plant contributed more than just electricity to the City of Crawfordsville. Without CEL&P, local industry could not survive and the taxpayers benefit from the money the company contributes to the city’s general fund.

1971-1989

During the latter part of the seventies, another major issue faced CEL&P. A prolonged coal strike was creating a crisis. The situation forced the city, the state, and the national government to implement a program for energy conservation. The citizens of Crawfordsville, as in the past, rose to the challenge. Even national television networks visited the city and promoted our community as a model for conserving energy. CEL&P became active with ten other Indiana municipals in forming a joint action agency to strengthen its negotiation leverage regarding purchasing power.

In February of 1980, the state legislature passed a bill allowing a proposed joint action agency which was to be known as the Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) of which 11 communities would participate. Also during this time, CEL&P had another expansion. The utility constructed a new 40 MVA substation, a 138 kV transmission loop around the community, and a new utility service building. CEL&P also restructured its rates to modernize its service.

By early 1983, CEL&P began to receive its power from IMPA, which owned 24.95% of the PSI Gibson 5 station; the largest fossil-fueled generating plant in the world. By the end of the next year, the new service building was dedicated bringing to an end this most recent expansion of CEL&P. Even with the cost of the expansion, the Indiana Public Service Commission findings reported that Crawfordsville had one of the lowest rates in the state. At a later time, a SCADA system was installed which automatically monitors the substations for loads, voltages, current flow, and transformers. The SCADA computer allows CEL&P to quickly monitor, evaluate and control problems on the local grid 24 hours a day. The technology greatly improved the reliability of the system and gave CEL&P the ability to become a proactive planner as opposed to reacting to a problem. Also, microcomputers were acquired in order to automate the meter reading system.

In 1990, CEL&P celebrated 100 years of successful operations. As the oldest municipally owned electric company in the state, the anniversary of the utility was a notable event. CEL&P was again recognized by city officials as a valuable asset, not only for its ability to provide low-cost and reliable power, but for its role in the progressive growth of the city for a while. The annual contribution to the city was upwards of $275,000. Some of the monies that the city had received from the utility in the years had gone for the acquisition of Lane Place, the golf course, and the city building, along with several other assets. It was also noted that affordable electric rates attracted industry and commercial businesses into the community. The mayor also commended the five-member utility board for its ability to guide the utility during its expansion programs and its dedication to operating CEL&P like a business. As a part of the anniversary, a book was published, “100 YEARS OF PUBLIC POWER” (much of this information in this review/history section has been derived from this book).

1993

The downtown collection office for CEL&P, located in the city building, closed on May 1st and relocated to the CEL&P service building. Night deposit boxes were installed at the city building and CEL&P’s service building so that customers could have multiple payment location options.

1994

In order to improve the health and safety of CEL&P line workers, the implementation of fire-resistant clothing became a requirement at the end of the year. The utility’s move to provide FR clothing was a jump on new standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA requires employers to ensure that employees do not wear clothing that would contribute to a flash burn or fire, which many synthetic materials do.

The power plant underwent an upgrade including a new electrostatic precipitator, a gas startup burner, an improved overfire air system, a new distributive control system, oxygen monitors on both boilers, and a standby black-start generator.

1999

CEL&P was awarded the Scattergood System Achievement award from the American Public Power Association. The award recognizes sustained achievement and improved customer service of publicly owned utilities. CEL&P was among the first public power utilities to offer customers the choice of paying their bills with automatic bank drafts, automated clearing house transfers, and credit cards.

CEL&P initiated a mobile metering system. CEL&P vehicles are now able to drive down city streets and record monthly electric usage by homes and businesses. Electric meter statistics will eventually be transmitted to the billing office allowing for faster and more accurate reporting.

2000

The year 2000, also known as Y2K, brought worldwide concerns about a computer flaw that may cause problems when dealing with dates beyond December 31, 1999. As a precautionary measure, employees were asked to report to work at 9:30 PM on New Year’s Eve and stay until 3 AM in order to monitor potential computer problems. No issues occurred and employees were able to celebrate the New Year together.

2005-2007

In the summer of 2005, CEL&P began a major remodeling and expansion project designed to accommodate future growth and provide better customer service. The project, which was completed in 2006, included a new warehouse, expanded space for customer service representatives, and the extension of the drive-up to allow for two payment windows. The completion of the project was celebrated in conjunction with our 115-year anniversary. Customers were given the opportunity to tour the newly completed service building, front office, and power plant. Employees from various departments also provided safety demonstrations for visitors.

After multiple years of planning, the installation of CEL&P’s fiber optic system began in 2006. The fiber to the home project allows customers access to high-speed internet and digital video capabilities. In 2007, Accelplus, a division of CEL&P, opened for business and began offering digital video and high-speed Internet services to residents of Crawfordsville. The 16.6 million dollar project allows Crawfordsville the ability to offer technology advancements within the residential and business communities.

2008

The future of the power plant became a major topic of discussion in 2008. The outdated equipment and large operating costs beg the question if the plant is worth keeping online. Discussions on what is best for the plant and the community will continue to be an important topic for the utility and the city.

2009

In May, the Board of Works approved the installation request of 16 new streetlights from North Street to Lafayette Avenue on US. 231. CEL&P installed the lights in the area from Kentucky Fried Chicken to Progreen Garden Center.

In September, Manager, Roy Kaser, announced that he would be retiring from CEL&P in January 2010. In November, Mayor Charlie Coons appointed Philip Goode to become CEL&P’s next manager. Phil has been an employee with CEL&P for 32 years. He began his career as a tree trimmer and worked his way up from apprentice lineman to line superintendent. Phil’s focus will be to continue providing reliable and low-cost electricity to our community while resolving issues regarding the Power Plant and Accelplus.

2010

A proposed rate increase, which began in 2009, was approved allowing CEL&P to raise electric rates for the first time in over 18 years. Customers will see an average increase of 5.8 percent on their electric bills.

2011

At the January Utility Service Board meeting, board members unanimously agreed to pass a resolution authorizing CEL&P to take the necessary steps to arrange for the sale or demolition of the outdated power plant.

Since the establishment of the fiber-to-the-home project, CEL&P and Accelplus faced significant challenges leading to revenue shortages and bond payment issues. The bond issue for Accelplus not only affected the utility but all of the city government departments. Mayor Todd Barton and the Utility Service Board began taking a serious look at CEL&P and Accelplus in order to determine what changes would be necessary so revenue can move in the right direction.

2012

Throughout 2011 and 2012, the sale of the power plant experienced numerous delays. In July 2012, the sale of the power plant was once again the number one topic at the Utility Service Board meeting. Negotiations between CEL&P and Bill Harrington continued to move forward and the board became hopeful the sale would be completed by the end of the year.

2013

In June, CEL&P purchased 10 acres of land on Memorial Drive that will be the future home of a sub-station. The new substation is designed to help with the bottlenecking of power on the north and east sides of Crawfordsville. The construction of the new substation is part of an extensive capital improvement plan designed to increase the reliability of the service area.

An agreement has been reached regarding the potential sale of Accelplus to Metronet. Metronet is buying the cable TV/ Internet operation from the City for 5.2 Million. The sale is expected to be finalized in the early months of 2014.

The city completed the sale of the Crawfordsville Power Plant to Sterling Energy on December 31st. The 16.5-acre plant sold for $155,000.00. The sale was announced on November 26th at a Utility Service Board meeting. 11 employees from CEL&P will transition to full-time Sterling Energy employees and will begin working full rotations at midnight on December 31st.

2014

In April, CEL&P announced that the utility would be investing $62,000.00 to make power supplied to Pace Dairy, Random House, Crawford Industries, Inland Container, and any future industries more reliable. A third feeder line was added to the service of those industries.

After much negotiation, the sale of Accelplus closed on April 5th. Metronet purchased the company from CEL&P for 5.2 million.

In October, CEL&P began installing streetlights along the very dark Memorial Drive. The installation of over 20 LED lights provided additional security and safety benefits to the area.

2015

In the early months of 2015, Indiana Municipal Power Agency began construction on the City’s first solar park. The 23-acre project has the capabilities to create 3 megawatts of electricity for the City of Crawfordsville. IMPA and CEL&P celebrated the official opening of the solar park on September 21st. The solar project is a renewable energy source for the community and will provide CEL&P with additional opportunities to provide low rates and reliable service.

In July, CEL&P announced a plan to increase electric rates for customers. In September, the Crawfordsville City Council gave final approval for a proposed rate increase. Final approval from the Indiana Office of Utility Consumers Counselor (OUCC) could take months. Customers would not see a change in their rates until 2016. The money collected from the increase will go toward improvements to the CEL&P system and capital improvement projects.

In August, the utility launched a new website allowing customers the ability to pay their bills online. The website featured electrical safety information, energy efficiency tips, contractor information, utility news, and contact information. The original website was launched in 2002.

During Public Power Week in October, CEL&P celebrated 125 years of service with a public open house and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate this achievement. As one of the first public power utilities in the state, CEL&P has and always will be committed to low rates and reliable electric service.

2016

During a windstorm in early 2016, a decorative light pole on South Washington Street was blown down and other poles were found to be damaged and leaning. CEL&P crews discovered that the decorative light poles, which were less than 15 years old, had a significant defect causing them to corrode and create an extremely dangerous situation. All of the decorative light poles along Washington Street were promptly inspected and removed if corrosion was present. South Washington Street remained dark for several months as new poles were ordered. It was determined that the road salt and other ice-melting chemicals hitting the bases of the light poles caused them to rust long before they should have. The powder coating issue was corrected and new decorative light poles were installed.

In February, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumers Counselor (OUCC) and CEL&P reached a settlement agreement in the utilities pending rate case. The settlement allowed CEL&P an annual revenue increase of nearly 10.8 percent. The increased annual operating revenues provided by this settlement allow for necessary improvements to CEL&P electric distribution infrastructure. Even after the increase, CEL&P’s rates continue to be some of the lowest in the state.

In March, Indiana line workers were recognized by the Indiana State Legislature for their dedication to keeping the lights on for Indiana’s more than 6 million residents. To pay tribute to their dedicated service, representatives from Indiana’s electric utilities, including CEL&P, were recognized by State Legislators as they passed a resolution honoring their service. The resolution recognized Indiana’s line workers for their dedication to constructing and maintaining the state's electrical infrastructure, ability to persevere in challenging situations, and dedication to their craft.

In July, CEL&P announced that all capital improvement projects scheduled for 2016 would be placed on hold until 2017 due to an operating deficit of $800,000.00 for the year. Christina DeWitt of Umbaugh and Associates met with the Utility Service Board and explained that steps to correct the situation had already been taken and that the recently approved rate increase was badly needed. The rate increase take effect in August and allowed the utility to end the year in positive financial standings. The utility finishes the year in the black for the first time since 2008.

2017

In April of 2017, Manager, Phillip Goode, was named to the 2017 American Public Power Association’s Honor Roll. The award recognizes individuals and municipally-owned systems working every day to improve and strengthen public power throughout the nation.

Strong storms pass through Crawfordsville on May 26th causing significant damage to the electric system throughout the city. With over 2,000 customers without power, CEL&P crews worked around the clock making repairs and restoring power. Fellow Indiana Municipal Power Agency communities Lebanon, Scottsburg, and Rensselaer sent crews to assist with the repair efforts.

2018

In January 2018, CEL&P joined the social media world with the creation of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. The addition of these communication platforms allows CEL&P the ability to communicate quickly and efficiently with the community. Electrical safety information, energy efficiency tips, and power outage information is the focus of information on these platforms.

The Spann Avenue and Big Four Arch Road Substations underwent upgrades to help maintain reliable service for our customers. 35-year-old oil-filled circuit breakers were replaced with SF6 Gas 138 kV circuit breakers. This change increased the reliability of the system and eliminate the environmental impact of the old oil-filled devices.

In November, CEL&P and IMPA announced that for the third consecutive year, IMPA’s wholesale electric rates to its member communities have decreased. Beginning January 1, 2019, CEL&P will see an average 1.1% decrease in wholesale electric rates. IMPA’s ongoing commitment to providing a low-cost, reliable power supply to its members enables CEL&P to pass direct saving onto our customers.

2019

The installation of two electric vehicle chargers in the downtown area was a positive highlight of 2019 for CEL&P. The chargers are located at the public library and at the Dr. Philip Q. Michael Trailhead Park on South Washington Street. The EV charges are level 2 charging stations, which provide approximately 25 miles per hour of charge. The chargers were the first publicly available EV charges in the Crawfordsville area.

In 2019, Indiana Municipal Power Agency announced the expansion of the solar park on Memorial Drive and the addition of four other solar parks throughout the Crawfordsville Community. CEL&P worked hand in hand with IMPA to create the infrastructure needed to build the proposed solar parks. Once completed, the solar parks will have the ability to produce a little less than 30 megawatts. The energy produced will stay in Crawfordsville. The solar parks will allow IMPA and CEL&P to reduce our carbon footprint while providing a low-cost energy opportunity for the community.

2020

2020 marked the 130th anniversary for CEL&P. The utility had originally planned public and employee events to celebrate this monumental accomplishment but that quickly came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the country and the Crawfordsville community. The payment office was closed to the public and the drive-thru lanes became our customer’s main form of contact with the front office staff. Scheduled projects were placed on hold, conferences were canceled, Zoom meetings became a weekly occurrence, and employees were instructed to wear a facemask and to stay 6 feet apart at all times.

During this challenging year, CEL&P was honored to receive several notable awards:

  • American Public Power Association Sue Kelly Community Service Award
    The award recognized the “good neighbor” activities that demonstrate the commitment of the utility and its employees to the community.

  • Reliable Public Power Provider designation from the American Public Power Association
    The RP3 designations recognize public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement. Criteria include sound business practices and a utility wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity.

  • American Public Power Association’s Safety Award of Excellence for Safe Operating Practices in 2019
    The utilities receiving this award have proven that protecting the safety of their employees is a top priority.

  • Large Business of the Year by the Crawfordsville Chamber of Commerce
    The large business of the year demonstrates success through growth and stability, commitment to quality, creating unique solutions to challenges and overall contribution to the community.

In February 2020, CEL&P announced to the city council that a rate increase was needed to generate more funding for system upgrades. The proposed increase would take effect in 2021 pending regulatory approval. While reviewing the proposed increase, it was discovered that CEL&P had been under collecting since 2016 when a rate error occurred. The utility requested the rate increase be delayed so that additional research could be conducted. In June, Phillip Goode presented the updated rate case to the Utility Service Board. The proposed increase of 14.5% in residential rates would take place over the next two years. The average residential customer would pay an additional $12.93 on their monthly bill when the full increase takes effect. In a 5-0 vote, the Utility Service Board passed a resolution approving the rate increase. The resolution was sent to the City Council and an ordinance adopting the new rates was approved pending final approval from the state utility regulators. The utility is anticipating that the rates will be implemented in mid-2021.

2021

The COVID-19 pandemic continued for much of the year with customer and employee relations returning to some form of normalcy during the fourth quarter. The cost of service study and rate case was completed with our new rates going into effect on July 1st averaging a 6.6% increase across all classes. CEL&P played a large role in securing Tempur Sealy as Crawfordsville’s latest economic development success. Crews began setting poles and running lines to power the new plant. The project is expected to be completed mid-2022. Fiber optic was installed to IMPA Solar Park 5. LAN was extended to the West Street substation for meter data collection and downtown to accommodate a new camera at the mural. The meter department continued to deploy Tantalus meters and implemented a meter data management system. CEL&P was awarded a Volkswagen grant through IDEM for a fast EV charger to be installed near Interstate 74. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.