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Apr
18
2024
Infrastructure & Services

The Village of Yellow Springs electric department was recently given a “gold” designation through the American Public Power Association’s RP3 program, which evaluates utility providers on the basis of reliability, workforce development, safety and system improvement. Pictured are the members of the Village’s four-person electric crew: Lane Dykman, Dewaine Blair, Alex Krauss and Ben Sparks. (Submitted photo)

Village electric crew gets the ‘gold’

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Reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement — those are the four areas in which the Yellow Springs Electric Department was evaluated in order to receive an RP3 “Gold” designation from the American Public Power Association, or APPA.

The News recently spoke with Ben Sparks, foreman of the Village’s electric crew, about receiving the designation. 

“It’s a sign of dedication,” Sparks said. “From the people working the lines to Village Council getting us what we need, it takes us all.”

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According to Sparks, the designation is a culmination of years of work and training, and an honor for current staff — lead lineman Dewaine Blair, lineman Lane Dykman, apprentice Alex Krauss — and staff who have since left the Village or moved to different departments.

“I want to give credit to the guys who helped create the foundation for this success,” Sparks said. “Austin Pence, Dustin Harris and Jeff Horn were integral in this process.”

According to the APPA website, operational excellence awards have only been given to 275 of over 2,000 public utilities throughout the U.S. To receive the designation, electric servicers must submit an application packet in September. After that, a panel of judges reviews each program, checking reliability data, ensuring utilities have adequate safety plans in place, checking for evidence of long-term planning for system improvement and verifying documentation of ways employees are able to acquire continuing education and networking opportunities.

Since he started in 2014, Sparks said the Public Works Department has seen a lot of changes, including a separation of the water and electric departments, additional training and a reorganization of roles to include electric department positions of apprentice, lineman and lead lineman.

“Each piece piggybacks on the next,” Sparks said.

In addition to clearly defining roles within the department, Sparks said the Village has partnered with AMP, the Village’s energy provider, to offer professional development opportunities.

“We now have the opportunity to take classes at Northwest Lineman College,” Sparks said. 

According to Sparks, investing in workforce development increases reliability and safety.

“We have won several awards for keeping our staff safe,” Sparks said. “Safety ensures we are able to fully staff the department and be proactive about maintenance.”

Looking forward, Sparks said he wants to work toward being one of the top electric servicers.

“We will keep our gold certification for three years, but then I want to shoot for platinum and eventually diamond certification,” Sparks said. “Our goal is to keep it going.” 

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