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Students thank GUC for turning on their AC and video games

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Students from two Lakeland, Fla., schools sent thank you notes to Greenville Utilities Commission linemen who spent about 10 days restoring rebuilding electric lines after Hurricane Irma.

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The thanks continue to roll in for Greenville Utilities’ work in Florida following Hurricane Irma.

Two schools in Lakeland, Fla., mailed thank you letters and handcrafted cards to GUC. Staff displayed the items during Thursday’s board of commissioners meeting.

“Those are fun to read,” said Tony Cannon, GUC general manager/chief executive officer. “They show the priorities of middle schoolers and kindergartners, and video games and air conditioning are at the top of the list.”

Greenville Utilities, along with two contracting firms and the city of Kinston, sent 54 linemen and support personnel to Lakeland, a city of more than 106,000, located nearly 60 miles southwest of Orlando. The crews spent 10 days rebuilding electric lines, often pulling lines out of deep water. A Lakeland Electric spokeswoman said the GUC team did a lot of work in the city’s most damaged areas.

The letters were written by Lawton Chiles Middle Academy and a kindergarten class from South McKeel Academy. The kindergarten cards were made of sky-blue construction paper and had a cutout yellow light bulb on the front and cutout utility poles inside. One of the kindergartners wrote "Thank you for working hard to get our light back on. Love to you."

“It was really nice. Whenever we’re done, there all the people were so appreciative. But it is nice to see it visible, the kids write in, it feels good to know you went down to help out,” said Ken Wade, GUC substation controls engineer, who went to Lakeland.

The display will be taken to GUC’s operations center on Mumford Road so the linemen may read the letters.

GUC Commissioner Joel Butler asked Cannon if GUC would send a team to Puerto Rico where approximately 82 percent of the island’s population does not have electricity nearly one month after Hurricane Maria destroyed the electric system.

"I think we should sent our team down to Puerto Rico and knock that thing out in a week," Butler said.

Cannon said GUC had started discussions with its mutual aid organization about the logistics of traveling to Puerto Rico.

"We were looking at what we could be facing if we went down there," Cannon said. During discussions the island's electric provider decided to employ a private contractor to undertake rebuilding efforts and did not request mutual aid. The contractor does have crews from two Florida and one New York public power companies working in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s governor has pledged  that 95 percent of the island’s power will be restored by mid-December. 

According to an article in a publication of the American Public Power Association, nearly 86 percent of residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands are without power. The island’s governor is pledging that 90 percent of electricity will be restored by late December.   

Cannon said restoring the commonwealth's electric system will be a massive undertaking because 50,000 utility poles must be erected and 6,000 miles of line replaced.

"We haven't ruled out providing assistance if the opportunity is right," Cannon said. The contractor organizing the recovery effort wants teams to commit to a 30-day tour on the island.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.

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