The Fort Payne Improvement Authority, in conjunction with more than 2,000 other utilities across the country, celebrate Public Power Week this week by acknowledging their commitment to the customers each electric provider serves.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed a proclamation proclaiming the second week of October as Public Power Week in the state of Alabama. More than two million Alabamians are served through Alabama’s public power utilities. A specific public power utility to the area is FPIA.

Nearly 80 years ago, on March 3, the city of Fort Payne contracted with the Tennessee Valley Authority to purchase power. A month later, it was voted on to create the Improvement Authority of the City of Fort Payne.

General Manager Mike Shirey said today, FPIA serves a total of 8,600 customers.

“The whole focus about Public Power Week is important because it is public power,” he said. “It is different than the investor-owned power business in that we don’t have shareholders and stockholders; we just have neighbors.”

Shirey said everything FPIA operates on is done with its customers in mind.

“We exist to serve the people,” he said. “Everything we do from our decisions to what we do with our revenue and how we reinvest it in the system is to improve the service that we provide.”

Shirey said the motive of Public Power Week is to help people understand what public power is all about.

“FPIA was voted on by the people of Fort Payne in 1940,” he said. “That was the purpose of our whole founding was to be a public power provider for the good of the people who make up the community.”

Shirey has filled the role as FPIA general manager for close to three years now. He said while serving as the general manager, he has the opportunity to uphold FPIA’s mission of existing for the people while also serving his hometown community.

“I am grateful for the role that I have,” he said. “When I got the opportunity to come back and be the manager here, it was an opportunity for me to invest myself in the community that I grew up in. Certainly, I want to see the community and the people prosper, because the message is that we exist for them.”

Shirey said his role, plus the role of every FPIA employee is taken on with the betterment of the community in mind.

“What we do at FPIA, which is support the economic development and growth throughout this area, is the responsibility of all 29 of us here,” he said. “We take our roles very seriously and everything we are trying to do now, and the investments that we are making in our system right now is aimed at improving customer service and providing infrastructure to help this community grow.”

Shirey said FPIA’s mission is reflected through its continued growth and improved customer service.

“What sets public power companies apart is our dedication in putting the customers, not profits, first,” he said. “We invest every dollar back into the system so we can keep energy and prices low and provide the reliable power that our customers depend upon.”

Shirey said an example of improved service and reliability can be seen in an upgrade in metering infrastructure, which is currently in the works.

“Over the next few years, FPIA will be improving service and reliability by upgrading to an advanced metering infrastructure and constructing a new substation on the south end of our system,” he said. “These two investments will greatly improve our reliability and service to the citizens and this community. It will also strengthen our ability to provide for economic growth in the area.”

Shirey said by opening new channels of customer interaction, and by expanding the online business, customers will be provided with more transparency to view their usage and it will also provide a more advance customer interaction.

“We will have much more flexibility in how we handle customer accounts. Plus the work we are doing with TVA to install this new substation on the south end of town will make us better equipped to serve in the future.”

Shirey said at its core, Public Power Week offers a chance for FPIA to show its appreciation to the friends and neighbors it serves.

“The true value of public power goes above and beyond finances,” he said. “Every FPIA employee is the heart and soul of our mission to help make life better in our community. That’s what public power is all about. We were created and exist to operate with the public in mind.”

What does public power mean to you?

• no stockholders – just neighbors 

• locally owned and controlled 

• not for profit 

• reinvest in community for common good 

• decisions based on what is good for all 

• mission to improve the quality of life for the people of Fort Payne and the surrounding community.

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