A crowd of approximately 175 people were on hand at the Wagoner Civic Center on Wednesday, June 22, to help Wagoner and the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) celebrate the first 75 years of a longstanding, public power partnership.
GRDA has supplied wholesale electricity to Wagoner since city officials first "flipped the switch" in July 1947. That was just seven years after GRDA had completed construction of Pensacola Dam. As Oklahoma's first hydroelectric facility, the dam was capable at the time of producing all the electricity needed to serve several communities in Oklahoma. Ever since, GRDA has supplied wholesale electricity to Wagoner, which is then sold and distributed throughout the community by the Wagoner Public Works Authority (WPWA).
Over the last 75 years both Wagoner and GRDA have grown and developed but the relationship – built on the benefits of public power – has remained strong. One primary benefit is that municipally-owned electric distribution systems, like Wagoner's, are custom-fit to meet local needs and are operated and maintained by men and women who call the community home. Also, the revenues generated by WPWA's electric system stay home in Wagoner, where they can do the most good. Annually, WPWA returns $500k to city coffers to help fund other city services.
During the ceremony to recognize the partnership, guests heard from Wagoner Mayer Albert Jones, GRDA CEO (and former Wagoner resident) Dan Sullivan and Wagoner City Administrator/Public Works Director Dwayne Elam. Elam is also the current chairman of the GRDA Board of Directors. They also viewed a video, produced by GRDA, highlighting the partnership and featuring Jones, as well as former Wagoner mayors James Jennings and Kenneth Peters (current special projects director for the Wagoner Public Works Authority).
"We are pleased to have all of you here today to celebrate this important milestone and our partnership with GRDA," said Elam, in addressing the crowd. "It has been a very good partnership for several years and we look forward to many, many more years."
During his address, Elam also thanked city employees for their efforts and the role they play in bringing public power benefits to Wagoner.
In recognizing the history of the partnership and other past successes in Wagoner, Jones told the crowd that "if we can remember the people who came before us and stand on their shoulders, we can see a lot further down the road."
In the video, he also highlighted the benefits of the partnership with GRDA, that go beyond just wholesale electricity.
"Anytime we need any support or help or engineering services, GRDA is there," said Jones, adding that the relationship also helps with economic development across Wagoner. "Being connected with GRDA helps us with our economic power rates in bringing business and also affordability to keep our rates low for our customers" he said.
In his address, Sullivan provided an update on current activities at GRDA, and told the crowd his organization works very hard to ensure that it produces and delivers power to customers like Wagoner in the most efficient and reliable manner possible.
"That is what these partnerships are all about, how GRDA can continue to serve communities like Wagoner and make sure the lights stay on and do it all in an affordable and reliable manner," said Sullivan.
GRDA is Oklahoma's largest public power electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an "Oklahoma agency of excellence" by focusing on the 5 E's: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees, and efficiency.