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Local electric co-ops team up to serve Air Force bases

Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex aren’t actually in the service areas for the state’s electric cooperatives, yet the federal government’s decision to privatize some of the services at military bases and posts brought an opportunity for Central Alabama Electric Cooperative and Dixie Electric Cooperative to team together to support these Montgomery area installations. 

“We own and operate the electrical distribution systems at Maxwell and Gunter,” says Julie Young, CAEC’s vice president, business and administrative services, of the joint arrangement. Although Alabama Power owns the substations that feed the base locations, the co-ops take over from that point.

The bid process for the contract was quite lengthy – beginning in 1999 and culminating in 2004 with a 50-year contract. “After the five-year period, we won the bid,” Young says.

At the time, she says, other branches of the service had already outsourced these services. “We knew a few co-ops across the country that had gotten involved in the bid process.”

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s Joe Wright and Stan White at work at Maxwell AFB.

Because of size considerations, Central Alabama and Dixie formed Cooperative Utility Services, LLC to strengthen their bid and their ability to serve the bases. “It made sense for us to join hands and do this together,” Young says. The CEOs and two board members from each co-op form the six-person board that oversees the LLC, and the tasks are divided between the co-ops.

“We’ve been thrilled to have this contract,” Young says.

“When the opportunity came about, we knew it was something we needed to do for the benefit of both our membership and the community,” says Gary Harrison, Dixie’s president and CEO.

“We were excited about the opportunity to work with Maxwell/Gunter AFB because it is such an integral part of the River Region,” Harrison adds. “We realized how important it was to help improve the infrastructure of the facility while working to keep costs down for our military.”