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Why is it Important for the City of Greer to Own and Operate its Utility System?

Published on Sunday, April 28, 2013

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Mary Moore Driggers won a $1,000 scholarship for her essay explaining the advantages of Greer CPW operating a public utility system. Her parents are Christy and Ed Driggers.

Mary Moore Driggers won a $1,000 scholarship for her essay explaining the advantages of Greer CPW operating a public utility system. Her parents are Christy and Ed Driggers.

By Mary Moore Driggers

CPW vs. Duke Energy? Local vs. non local? If the lights go out, who would you call – someone you know, or someone in another state? It is important for the City of Greer to own and operate its utility system because CPW is locally and publically owned, local planning can be more beneficial to the community, and local government and directors are voted on by the citizens of Greer.

Greer CPW, Commission of Public Works, is locally and publically owned which really fits the Greer community better than an investor owned utility company. Providing electricity, natural gas, water, and sewer to residents and businesses in Greenville and Spartanburg counties, Greer CPW is subject to forms of public control with local community-based groups.

Rather than an investor owned utility, Greer CPW works together with local chambers of commerce to improve economic development in the surrounding communities by assisting businesses large and small, whereas a large corporation would only be interested in making a profit.

The people you see working for CPW are our neighbors, parents of the kids we go to school with, friends, the people we see in the supermarket, and members of our churches that work to strengthen and serve the area in which we live.

“There’s something to be said about local,” said City Administrator Ed Driggers. “A public utility has the ability to adjust its long range plans according to the needs and planning efforts of the local community. In contrast, an investor owned utility has as its first priority making a profit for its shareholders,” added Driggers.

Also, local planning can be more beneficial to the community instead of regional, state, or even national planning. As a community minded company, CPW does everything for the good of the people living in this area. Since the utility began one hundred years ago, the people of CPW are involved in many local groups and organizations, donating their time and money to area charities.

Instead of large utilities, CPW has the mindset of the community when making decisions and opening up new opportunities in the area. 

Mayor J.F. Gilreath, along with Aldermen O.P. Smith, E.L. Bailey, J.A. Robinson, J.T. Wood, W.M. Ballenger, and R.M. Hughes, unanimously approved appointing a special committee of the town council to investigate the possibility of having a town Electric Lights and Water Works.  At the time, the town street lighting was with oil light fixtures. 

The town council hired someone to light and extinguish the lanterns daily, and fill the lanterns with oil, when needed.  On February 5, 1906, W.B. Moore of Yorkville was invited to meet with Town Council to talk over matters of Electric Lights and Waterworks in hopes to light the streets of what was then called “Greers”.

Through the next four years, city council met and discussed the pros and cons of lighting the town. With much consideration and thought put into the movement, a motion was made to light the depot and have the trains run slower through the city, wire and light City Hall with electricity, and most importantly, have the town operate its own Electric Lights and Waterworks for the town. And 100 years later, CPW is still providing reliable utility services at a competitive rate as a publicly owned system.  

Finally, this local government and its directors are voted on by the citizens of Greer only, meaning those people will make the best decisions for Greer. CPW has its own locally elected Board of Commissioners. “These elected people are our neighbors and have direct accountability to the citizens of Greer,” City Administrator Driggers explained.  “Unlike a Board of Directors for a large private electric company which has no connection or relationship to any specific community,” he added. 

Greer is the type of town that needs the type of utility that is community focused and accountable.  CPW instituted the Public “works” program to inform the community of involvement and commitment to local initiatives that work to strengthen and serve the area in which we live.

A locally owned Utility System operated in Greer is who I would call if the lights went out, rather than someone in another state. Greer CPW is a better fit to the community than a mega company like a Duke Energy, with it being a utility company doing everything for the good of the people. Through Commissioners voted on by the people of this area, they get to have a say in what goes on and what is the best for our community. The importance of the City of Greer’s own utility system is that it is operated locally, with community in mind, and made great by the people commissioned to do what is best for this area.

Works Cited

Driggers, Edward R., City Administrator, City of Greer, "Greer CPW."  Personal interview. 23 Mar. 2013.

"Greer Commission of Public Works."  |  Public “Works”. N.p., 2009. Web. 23 Mar. 2013.

White, J. W., Clerk, Town of Greers Council Meeting Minutes. 20 May 1910. City Hall, Greers.

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