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story.lead_photo.caption Utilities Supervisor Darrell Dunlap poses with a reliability award the city's electric department recently earned. The average city customer only experienced 23 minutes of outage in all of 2019. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

The City of Fulton's Utilities Department was recently recognized for reliable service by the American Public Power Association.

Each year, the industry organization recognizes utilities around the country through its Reliable Public Power Provider (Rp3) program. According to APPA, RP3 designees demonstrate reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. Currently, of the nation's more than 2,000 public power utilities hold an RP3 designation.

Fulton is among a smaller number of cities to earn the "Diamond Level" recognition, the highest of the three recognition levels. Diamond designees meet 98-100 percent of program criteria, as determined by an 18-member panel of national public power experts tasked with evaluating utilities' applications.

"We got the top award — we've earned the award before but we've never been top-rated," said Darrell Dunlap, Fulton's utilities supervisor, during the June 23 Fulton City Council meeting.

RP3 designations last for three years, after which utilities may reapply.

Other Missouri public utilities to earn the recognition include the Hannibal Board of Public Works, Carthage Water and Electric Plant, Columbia Water and Light, Independence Power and Light and Marshall Municipal Utilities.

According to Dunlap, the Electric Department earned an additional reliability recognition for minimizing the amount of time the average customer spent without power in 2019.

"You take the total number of minutes power was out and divide by the number of customers," he explained. "We were in the top quartile."

The average Fulton customer spent only 23 minutes without power in 2019. The national average, by comparison, is 143 minutes.

"The real credit for the award goes to the guys in the field," said Bill Johnson, the city's director of administration. "They're keeping the trees trimmed, the wires up and the lights on. They earned this due to the exceptional job our crews do in the field every day and every night."

According to Dunlap, one way the department has cut down on outages is by logging and investigating flickers in the system — those times when a customer's power cuts out momentarily before resuming.

"You start seeing trends," Dunlap said.

The plaque awarded to the department will be on display at the department's warehouse, he added.

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