The American Public Power Association is recognizing Kaukauna Utilities (KU) with two awards for efforts the utility made during the pandemic. KU is the recipient of both the Sue Kelly Community Service Award and the E.F. Scattergood System Achievement Award.
The Sue Kelly Community Service Award recognizes “good neighbor” activities that demonstrate the commitment of the utility and its employees to the community.
KU wanted to do its part as a community neighbor and help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with its member-owned wholesale power supplier, WPPI Energy, the utility did a 100 percent match of a donation from WPPI to give back to the area it serves as part of a COVID-19 Community Recharge initiative. This money continues to help residents get back on their feet after struggling through the crisis. An employee-led committee, formed in 2020, assisted in allocating funds.
In total, KU donated $75,000 to local organizations and initiatives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that, KU donated $30,000 to area nonprofits that help community members with rent or mortgage payments, food, gas and more. This money assisted more than 90 local families with essential needs. To multiple area schools, KU donated $4,000 towards the purchase of Chromebooks and internet hotspots, supporting families and their children with virtual learning. Other donations included the Kaukauna Library pantry, Loaves & Fishes food pantry, coloring contest for local children, tokens of appreciation to local teachers, fire, police, and post office workers, and many other area organizations.
“Reliable electricity is our number one priority, but we also value being a good neighbor,” stated Jeff Feldt, General Manager with Kaukauna Utilities. “As a locally owned utility, we’re grateful we were able to help the community we serve.”
In addition to the community service award, KU also received the E.F. Scattergood System Achievement Award, which honors systems that have enhanced the prestige of public power utilities through sustained achievement and customer service.
While assisting the community through the COVID-19 pandemic, KU also implemented a new outage management system, as well as an interactive voice response system, that enabled customers to easily report outages and receive text alert updates. The utility decided it was time to incorporate modern technology that would simultaneously help customers and staff. This dual system allowed KU staff to connect with customers across multiple channels.
Updates on outage status and restoration time are among the highest requests from customers, and this system allows for improvements in these areas. Since implementation, KU now has more than 11,000 customers enrolled in the outage management system, which represents 72 percent of its customers.
“These systems have helped us better communicate with our customers,” said Feldt. “It was a big project to undertake in the midst of a pandemic, but our staff did a great job and we’re going to continue exploring ways to enhance our services in the future.”