At the monthly Muscatine Board of Water, Electric, and Communications Trustees meeting, the Trustees learned about Muscatine Power and Water’s (MPW) communications services expansion, reviewed upgrades in the Communications Utility’s network capacity and discussed plans for an Open House to share information about the Utility’s Powering the Future project.

An application submitted to the State of Iowa for its Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program Notice of Funding Availability #006 (NOFA #006) in July was approved. The grant will support expansion of MPW’s communications services. The Utility’s application was for a total project cost of $1.3 million, with grant funding covering 39.85%, or up to $547,149 of actual costs.

“This expansion of our communications footprint is welcome news for our neighbors to the east,” shared Gage Huston, General Manager. “We commend Governor Reynolds and her team for their forward-looking goal to provide every Iowan with at least 100 Mbps internet speed. We at MPW are excited to deploy fiber services to more rural neighborhoods, ensuring more Muscatine County residents have access to fast, reliable communications service.”

The expansion will target areas along Highway 22 east including Geneva Hills Rd., Sweetland Rd. from Hwy. 22 to Charles Way, Deerfield Rd., Mecha Ceba area and the Skylane Rd. area. Approximately 270 households will be able to access MPW’s premium fiber services.

A closed session of the Trustees’ meeting was convened to discuss specifics of recent internet service provider (ISP) core network improvements. The design of the MPW network is considered competitive and confidential information.

The upgrade from coaxial cable to fiber infrastructure has increased reliability – an expected outcome of MPW’s Fiber to the Home project which completed earlier in 2021. Since fiber construction and ISP core network improvements have been completed, reliability stats improved to 99.9% during first quarter and to 99.99% during second quarter 2021, which is on par with MPW’s Electric Utility award-winning reliability performance.

“Our behind-the-scenes maintenance and network enhancements have allowed MPW to provide best in class services and reliability, benefitting not just our commercial and enterprise customers, but residential customers as well,” said Erika Cox, Director of Customer and Technology Experience. “The ongoing investments supported by the Trustees position Muscatine for progress and growth for decades to come.”

Plans for a Powering the Future Open House, scheduled for October 14, were shared at the meeting. The event is part of MPW’s ongoing efforts to engage and educate the community about MPW’s power supply strategy and transition. Much like the Utility’s past Fiber Fun Nights events where customers directly engaged with MPW, staff will be on hand to share MPW’s balanced plan for transitioning the power supply and answer questions from interested customers. This setting will allow the MPW senior leadership team to engage in in-depth dialogue and one-on-one conversations with customers.

“The electrical grid – the interconnected network of electricity producers for the reliable delivery of electricity to consumers – has experienced a significant increase in reliability warnings in the last year,” said Huston. “Reliability-related warnings are likely to increase as the energy industry continues the necessary trend toward decarbonization. Now, more than ever, it is important for the community to understand MPW’s balanced approach in our transition of electricity supply.”

The Open House event, open to all MPW customers, will be held from 2:30 – 5:30 pm on
Thursday, October 14 at MPW’s administrative offices. All parking will be at MPW’s 3205 Cedar Street location; with optional bus rides to MPW’s proposed solar site offered at 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30 pm.

Mike Sawyer, Business Agent for the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) Local 55, addressed the Board and meeting attendees after the monthly Powering the Future update. “We have seen nationally the transition to natural gas production, like the new gas-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) MPW is proposing, has lowered emissions in the power sector. The proposed new gas-fired CHP unit will require many construction tradespeople and maintain power generating jobs of many of our local members who are dedicated to serving the Muscatine community. The proposed 30-megawatt solar facility will have an economic boost during the construction phase, but no long-term, full-time positions after that,” said Sawyer. “This diversified approach aligns with IBEW’s views on the need to combat climate change while also maintaining high-quality, good paying jobs that benefit the local economy. I support MPW’s planned power generation transition,” he concluded.

August was a strong financial month according to Mark Roberts, Director of Finance and Administrative Services. Roberts summarized the August results for the Trustees, explaining that MPW net income of $829,462 was 142% better than the $486,671 budgeted for August. All three utilities had solid results, with net incomes of $556,850, $101,218 and $171,394 respectively for Electric, Water and Communications. “Good performance from MPW’s generating units during a month that was 29% warmer than normal as measured by cooling degree days helped drive good August financial results,” said Roberts.

In other Board action the Trustees:

  • Approved payment for August 2021 expenditures and transactions.
  • Approved contract change order No. 2 and final acceptance for the Construction of Wells 47, 48 and 49 at the new well field.
  • Approved PSF – Unit 9 Air Preheater Cold End Element Replacement Project.
  • Were advised the MPW Customer Services will trial new Lobby Hours starting October 4, 2021. Lobby hours will adjust to 8 am – 4 pm, while drive-up and phone support will continue to be available until 5 pm M-F. HelpDesk hours will remain 6 am – midnight, 7 days a week.