Local Linemen help Build Navajo Nation

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During the month of April, The Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) sent four lineworkers, two from the City of Milford and two from the Town of Smyrna, to the Navajo Nation to power homes that have never had electricity. The company joined crews from other community-owned electric utilities across the nation in an effort known as “Light Up Navajo.” The pilot initiative of the American Public Power Association supports electrification efforts by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, the public power utility serving the Navajo Nation.

“We are proud to help power homes in the Navajo Nation on behalf of our community as a part of this historical initiative. Our members were eager to help when they heard about the situation,” said Kimberly Schlichting, COO – SVP Power Supply for DEMEC. “That is the true spirit of public power — helping each other in times of need and powering communities together.”

Of the 55,000 homes located on the 27,000 square mile Navajo Nation, roughly the size of West Virginia, approximately 15,000 homes do not have electricity. These households represent 75% of all US households that do not have electricity. Milford lineman Gary Johnston said that the eye-opening experience allowed him to see how much “we take for granted in our daily lives.”

“There are a lot of people [in the Navajo Nation] that don’t have electric or running water,” said Johnston. “They have to drive long distances to get water or fresh groceries each day. Without electricity they can only buy food, which can be an hour or two away, that can stay cool for a day or two.”

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While there, the Delaware crews worked with crews from the Navajo Nation, sharing tools of the trade while installing hundreds of poles to reach homes that were literally miles apart from each other. In six weeks DEMEC hopes to help light up 300 homes in the area, a number that the native crews usually do in one year.

“They were great guys to work with,’ said Milford lineman Rob Palladino. “They were very proud of their work, very precise and made sure that everything was exactly how they wanted it, no matter how long it took, right down to the angle of the bolts.”

One home that the crews helped used up four generators in the past two years because they ran them constantly. With a child that needed oxygen for medical reasons, there simply was no way around the need for electricity. Before last week, the family drove almost two hours to obtain gasoline to keep the generators running all day and night. For many of the Navajo Nation this has been a daily challenge to their lives that was passed from one generation to the next.

“After 10 or 15 years waiting on electric they told us now they finally have the needs to take care of their family,” said Milford lineman Rob Palladino. “It was amazing to see how much we actually touched these people by just giving them electric, something we take for granted every day.”

Before leaving, members of the Navajo Nation gave the linemen a dinner to recognize their efforts. Many of the families gave them handmade blankets, food and words of affection to take on their way back home.

“There was a lot of emotion involved,” said Johnston. “You could see it was very heart felt. It touched us really.”

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