By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Did you use a water faucet or switch on a lamp this morning?
If you live in Delano, you can thank Delano Municipal Utilities (DMU) for the power to do that.
DMU has been lighting up the city of Delano for 120 years, and it’s time to celebrate, with a free open house event Saturday, May 17.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the public is welcome to tour the power plant and water treatment facility, enjoy lunch from the Delano American Legion, take part in hands-on demonstrations, and learn about topics like solar power, LED lighting, and electrical safety.
“Outside, we’ll have our equipment on display, which will include the mud sucker, boring tool, bucket truck, and other equipment,” DMU Commissioner Harlan Lewis said. “And Tim Lipetzky, owner of Green Energy Products, will be showcasing his sun power solar system at the water plant.”
Attendees can also sign up for information about fiscal responsibility at DMU.
“We can do a comparison of their electric bill if it were with other utilities, and we can individualize it per account,” Lewis said.
Commissioners and staff will be available throughout the event. Current commission members include vice chair Lewis, chair Jonathan Ness, city council liaison Derek Schansberg, secretary Adam Steffl, and commissioner Randy Keranen.
The staff includes 13 full-time and four part-time employees under the direction of general manager Hal Becker. In March, Becker celebrated his 30th anniversary with DMU.
“My goal is to create a utility that provides really good service at a fair price,” Becker said in September 2013, after receiving a national award for his work.
In 1893, a year before DMU began, citizens of Delano started discussing a system of waterworks and electricity. According to the DMU centennial book, “everyone was in favor of the waterworks, but some people were hesitant about electricity. They didn’t know if it could pay for itself.”
In April 1894, they decided to go ahead with both, approving a $10,000 bond for the new system. A water tower was erected, and the power plant was built on the east bank of the Crow River, one block north of Highway 12.
At first, electricity use was limited to the evening hours, ending at 11 p.m. A few years later, electricity was made available for use in the morning, as well.
A substantial number of lights had been installed by 1899. “The electrical system turned out to be very popular and was here to stay,” the centennial book reported.
In 1931, Delano voted to build a new diesel power plant on the west end of the bridge. It went into service in January 1932, and generated power 24 hours a day. At that time, the residential rate was 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for lighting and small appliances.
The present & future
Today, the DMU power plant is capable of generating a total of 24.35 megawatts. For water, an average of 500,000 gallons is treated per day, with a current peak of 1.5 million gallons per day.
One major accomplishment in Becker’s career has been a 25- to 30-year infrastructure project that resulted in all power lines in Delano being buried as of 2013.
The next phase of the project involves looping the transformers, so that if one fails, it can back feed. This is an ongoing project, with each step adding reliability to the system.
Free food and free light bulbs
To show appreciation for its customers, Delano Municipal Utilities encourages all residents of Delano to attend its 120th anniversary celebration:
• When: Saturday, May 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Where: Open houses will take place at the Delano Power Plant (11 Bridge Ave. W.) and the water treatment facility (Tiger Drive). Shuttle service from Stahlke Transportation will be provided.
• What: Tours, demonstrations, bucket truck aerial rides, and more.
• Cost: The event is completely free, and includes complimentary hats, CFL light bulbs, and tickets for lunch at the Delano American Legion.
• Contact: For more information about Delano Municipal Utilities, go to www.dmumn.com or call (763) 972-0557.