Carthage Water & Electric Plant (CWEP) 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. CWEP 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, Carthage, Missouri, was one of the few hundred communities to embrace the relatively new concept of a municipal light plant. On November 22, 1898, Carthage held a special election on the proposition to issue $25,000 in bonds for the erection of a city-owned and operated electric light plant. The election resulted in an overwhelming majority voting in favor of the plant and Carthage’s municipal utility, now known as CWEP, was born.
The original plant, built near the location of the present CWEP 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 $100,000 bond issue to purchase a new 750 HP diesel engine was approved, with the plant turning a profit of $48, 375.85 during 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, construction on the current location of the CWEP 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 CWEP to supply the electrical needs of Carthage from this plant up until 1981. By this time, it had become more feasible to purchase the majority of the City’s power from other, larger generating facilities, but CWEP kept the plant maintained and it remains ready to provide power to the city as needed.
CWEP’s commitment to providing a dependable supply of power to business and residential customers was once again illustrated in the mid 1990’s when 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 CWEP 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 route for power is also reassuring to health care facilities and individuals depending on life support devices. These factors, along 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.
CWEP continued its role of planning and providing for expanded water and wastewater services. In 1996, CWEP approved the issuance of bonds to expand the water storage and distribution system and wastewater plant capacity. Improvements made possible by this bond issue and a commitment by CWEP to invest an additional $6 million ensured the community had 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 CWEP 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 aid as a peaking plant that's 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.
CWEP has always taken pride in the high quality and dedication of its employees and the benefits to the community are obvious. During severe weather CWEP 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 with reliable service.
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