Create a Website Account - Manage notification subscriptions, save form progress and more.
The Coldwater Board of Public Utilities was featured prominently in the May 2020 edition of Currents, a publication of the Michigan Municipal Electric Association. The edition features two articles about the future of the CBPU and its connection to a cleaner, more energy-efficient, and technologically advanced Coldwater. Read these great pieces below...
By Dennis Hicks
The Covid-19 virus, as terrible as it is, does not represent the first nor the worst crisis America has faced. We have endured the 1918 flu pandemic, two devastating world wars, the Great Depression and many other monumental events. Through all of it, we have found reasons for optimism and the means to press ahead toward a better future.
The Coldwater Board of Public Utilities (CBPU) is uniquely positioned to be the linchpin in the city’s future development. And that positioning is not by accident, but by design.
The first step in moving toward the future we desire is to take a look around and see where we are in the present.
“We are in a good place for logistics,” said CBPU Director, Jeff Budd. “We’re close to where I-69 and I-90 meet. That, combined with our very competitive public power electricity rates, makes us an attractive community for businesses to locate. Some of our biggest customers are Maroa Farms, a greenhouse vegetable producer, Clemens Food Group, a pork producer, a Honda manufacturing plant, and a Walmart distribution center.”
Of course, the key to success in public power is the public. CBPU and the City of Coldwater are very good at reaching out to the community for input and then listening closely to what the community has to say. “We have been a very progressive utility,” said Jeff Budd. “We were one of the first public power providers in the state to offer broadband internet, and we have our own MMEA Currents | May 2020 5 Information Technology department. These days, people have more connected devices and more people work from home, so we recently announced development of a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) fiber-optic network to enable high-speed internet access. This year should see the final deployment of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure system we launched in 2010. This will allow for really quick data on our utility infrastructure and better customer service.”
The City of Coldwater and CBPU also see sustainable energy and environmental stewardship as important parts of their mission. EcoSmart Choice is CBPU’s green pricing program. The program allows residential and commercial/ industrial electric customers to offset up to 100% of their electric usage with renewable energy for as little as an additional .007 cents per kilowatt hour. The Home Energy Check-up program allows residential customers to schedule a one hour walk-through of their home to assess the condition of insulation, heating and cooling systems, water heating equipment, windows, doors, lighting, appliances and air leakage. After the Home Energy Check-up, customers receive a report summarizing important findings, recommended improvements, and opportunities to reduce their energy use and costs, while improving the comfort of their home.
In 2018 CBPU launched its Solar Field, a 1.3 megawatt solar array on a former brownfield site. “We are part of a consortium with American Municipal Power and the Michigan South Central Power Agency who own the facility,” said Jeff Budd. “We took a brownfield and turned it into a ‘brightfield.’ The area was the former location of Midwest Foundry which was demolished in 1990. The land sat empty for 27 years after that. The community is pleased to have the land being used again, especially for a project like this.”
With the trend toward electrification of the transportation sector, CBPU embraced the future back in 2011 by installing an electric vehicle charging station. The Level-2 Charger uses the ChargePoint Network and has a standard plug type used by Chevy, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota, and can be used by Tesla vehicles with a special adapter.
Thanks to these, and other, efforts to bring Coldwater’s energy policies and infrastructure into the 21st Century, the City was recognized for environmental leadership by the Michigan Green Communities Conference for exemplary action in its sustainability initiatives.
While awards are great, the City of Coldwater and CBPU are motivated by other considerations. It’s about the people in their community. “I like being involved, having a major impact on the future and the lives of our citizens,” said Jeff Budd.
This sentiment is shared by others as well. Dr. Robert W. Browne, and his wife, Lynn, for instance, made a gift of $14 million dollars to the community for a major expansion of recreational facilities. The project, completed in 2015, includes an aquatic center as well as a major expansion of the Heritage Independence Recreation Gymnasium with indoor basketball, volleyball, tennis, soccer, walking track, community rooms, and other community activities.
“Dr. Brown was a 1942 graduate of Coldwater High School. Even though he now lives in Grand Rapids, he wanted to show his gratitude to the city where he grew up,” Said Jeff Budd. “His generosity allows us to have some of the best recreation facilities for a city of our size.”
For outdoor recreation, Coldwater is situated on or near a number of rivers, lakes, and parks, providing opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking, camping, snowmobile trail riding, or just living by the water.
While the future looks bright, the people of Coldwater are also proud of their past. That includes the downtown historic district, home to 64 commercial buildings, mainly in the Italianate, Gothic Revival, Neo-Classical styles. One of the flagship buildings in the district is the fully restored Tibbits Opera House. The 526-seat Italianate theater was built in 1882, was later remodeled (some might say re-muddled) into a movie theater, and then sat empty and neglected for years. The Tibbits Opera House restoration project won the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation in 2013. In 2014, the Jeff Daniels summer tour included a stop at the Tibbits Opera House.
Coldwater has no illusions about its place in the world. It is a small city of about 12,000 residents. Its economy is based on logistics, manufacturing, and agriculture. It also has a growing service sector and hopes of serving the “new economy” sphere of knowledge-based workers who create their own jobs and often work from home. That requires the city to lay the groundwork for the workers of the future with affordable, sustainable energy strategies, advanced, high-speed internet connectivity, the infrastructure to support electric vehicles and devices of the future, and incentivizing the public to adopt wise energy use practices.
But it also means Coldwater has to be a livable city, with a history to be proud of, and a self-confidence that comes from believing in its vision. Coldwater is not just hoping for the best and waiting for the future to happen. Instead, the city is charting a deliberate course, slowly, patiently, The Tibbits Opera House carefully, and optimistically.
By Patrick Poole, MCP Information Technology Director, Coldwater Board of Public Utilities
After investigating several options for improving internet speed and reliability, the City of Coldwater and the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities have chosen to adopt Active Ethernet technology for its scalability, security, redundancy and manufacturer agnostic components. All of these factors make Active Ethernet technology the most futureproof and cost-effective technology available. Symmetrical, secure and dedicated bandwidth up to 10Gbps to each home and business will help encourage innovation and curb our rural community’s brain drain. In the mid-1990s Coldwater residents and businesses suffered with limited cable television lineups, slow Internet speeds, unreliable service, and high prices.
In 1997, the citizens voted to allow the CBPU to install a state of the art HFC (hybrid fiber coax) plant order to take control of Coldwater’s digital destiny. As a result, TV lineups expanded, Internet speeds increased, service levels improved and prices decreased. The project improved Coldwater’s community status and lead to new and diverse economic development opportunities. Looking back over 20 years later the project was a resounding success.
Over that 20 years demand has changed and Coldwater continues to embrace and enhance smart city technology. People no longer listen to music on Walkmans, watch video on VCRs or always work from brick and mortar offices. Coffee pots, thermostats, garage doors and refrigerators can be accessed across the Internet along with countless other widgets and gadgets. Autonomous vehicles, telecommuting, online schooling and telehealth are moving ever closer toward the main stream. Allowing customers to proactively manage their electrical and water consumption are built on strong and stable networks.
Simply put, the Internet has changed and continues to change the way people live, work and play, and new technology was required to prepare Coldwater’s digital destiny for the connected future.
A 2019 PC Magazine study indicated that 6 out of the top 10 fastest ISPs are either community-run or public/private partnerships and that Active Ethernet technology is being utilized by 5 of the top 6 of these providers.
Coldwater’s advanced Geographic Information System expertise and infrastructure were utilized to create the highly resilient design. CBPU’s infrastructure expertise and experience in the ISP market makes it the obvious choice to build the network of the future, enrich the lives of the community, and continue to compete for economic development opportunities.