By Tony Contrino,
Westfield Gas & Electric general manager
Earlier this year, it would have been hard to imagine the challenging and heartbreaking effects the 2020 pandemic would have across the world. This has been a year none us will forget any time soon. In Westfield, we know that these effects are felt acutely, as many residents have experienced changes to their employment status, income, work environment and school plans.
As Public Power week approaches, we have an opportunity to reflect on the benefits that Westfield residents, and the community as a whole receives, when served by a locally owned utility. A municipal utility differs from an investor-owned model because any profits we make are reinvested locally, rather than being distributed to shareholders. Profits from WG+E are used to maintain our gas, electric and telecommunications distribution systems and help keep rates low for our entire community.
It is comforting to know that the preventative maintenance we diligently perform pays off with fewer interruptions to these services. Our crews and equipment are both stationed right here in Westfield, which helps us address any problems quickly.
As your local utility, we are committed to helping our community in countless ways. Right now, that happens to include employee donations of school supplies to support Westfield students as they get back to classes. This year especially, it also means that we are further committed to helping customers who are having financial hardships, by instituting a new program to help residents and small businesses who have been economically impacted by Covid-19.
Details will be announced in the weeks ahead on how that process will unfold. In the meantime, our customer service team is available to help customers in many ways, including setting up payment plans, connecting customers with local aid services and providing direct financial support through WG+E’s Westfield Warm program.
I’m sure we can all appreciate the opportunity to hear good news during this difficult year. During this time when so many households are being asked to work and school from home, high-speed internet has become more important than ever.
Whip City Fiber provides essential access for Zoom calls with employers, family and friends, remote learning for students and teachers, online shopping, telemedicine, and enables many local businesses to develop an online presence necessary for their viability. We are very happy to announce that through our ongoing efforts to reinvest Whip City Fiber revenues toward incremental growth and expansion, construction is already underway to provide internet service to an additional area in Westfield. Residents who live in the Russell Road area from Fairfield Avenue to Lloyd’s Hill Road will now have access to Whip City Fiber by year’s end.
You see our trucks around town with the slogan “together we have the power to make a difference.” Those words are more relevant today than we could have ever imagined and isn’t that what this pandemic is teaching us all right now? We wish continued safety and good health to all.