Greenfield Municipal Utilities: 125 years celebrated

GMU staff members are, from left: Steve McCann, Craig Ford, Maxwll Brashear, Jessica Foster, Jason Bruce, Twyla Faust, Jared Masker, Dixie Dingman, Jonathan Pilgreen and Scott Tonderum. GMU staff members are, from left: Steve McCann, Craig Ford, Maxwll Brashear, Jessica Foster, Jason Bruce, Twyla Faust, Jared Masker, Dixie Dingman, Jonathan Pilgreen and Scott Tonderum.

Greenfield Municipal Utilities is holding its 125th anniversary celebration 2-6 p.m. Friday, June 12, at the utilities office, 202 S. First St. 

The public is invited to meet the staff and join tours of the electric and water facilities that will leave from there. Drawings and giveaways will be held as well.

GMU history: The Light Plant

A short 10 years after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, a group of Greenfield city councilmen and businessmen began planning a municipal light plant to provide the town with electricity. In the fall of 1890, their idea became a reality when Greenfield was one of the first towns in Iowa to have a plant.

A $10,000 bond issue made the plant and its 75-horsepower boiler and engine possible.  The first plant operated between sundown and 11 p.m. and, during the winter, from 5 a.m. until daybreak.

Getting water for the boilers proved to be a problem. After several wells were dug, Lake Ping Pong was built in southeast Greenfield and a large windmill installed to pump the water to the plant.

Growing demand led to an expansion in 1905. The first light meters were installed in 1906 and a rate schedule of 50 cents a month for a 16-candlepower light was established.

Several expansions followed with additional steam engines.

Steam gave way to diesel-powered engines in 1924. Bonds of $45,000 financed the new plant. Additions followed in 1939 and 1940.

Following World War II, demand for electricity grew dramatically, and electricity became a necessity instead of a luxury. In 1956, the utilities signed an agreement for a connecting transmission line, giving Greenfield an alternative source of energy. This interconnection of lines continued to grow, and Greenfield joined the Central Iowa Power Cooperative, giving the town access to multiple sources of power, including coal, hydroelectric, nuclear and gas.

Greenfield continued to add engines to make sure the town had energy in case of outages.

Greenfield’s growing industrial park required the addition of a second substation and connection to CIPCO’s 69,000 volt transmission line. This substation currently serves the industrial area and the northern area of Greenfield.

The addition of the North Power Plant and two Caterpillar diesel stand-by engines with the capability of producing up to 1,825 kilowatts each was completed in 2001 at the site of the industrial substation. This new Power Plant building was designed to house a total of six diesel engines, should the need for additional stand-by generation arise. Due to additional electrical requirements from the residents of Greenfield and the expansion of Cardinal IG, this need came sooner than expected and two additional Caterpillar 2,250 kilowatt diesel engines were installed in 2011.  

This area where the North Power Plant and the Industrial Substation is located was renamed Armstead Energy Park in 2014 when long-time General Manager Duane Armstead retired.

Management and Employees

Detmer Moore served as Superintendent of Greenfield Municipal Utilities from September 23, 1959 until his retirement in April 1, 1977. Gary Stuve succeeded him, followed by Bob Guikema until April 1, 1984 when Duane Armstead became the superintendent until his retirement on April 1, 2014. Scott Tonderum was hired on Dec. 9, 2013 as assistant general manager and promoted to general manager in 2014 and continues in that capacity. 

As Ed Sidey so eloquently wrote in the
GMU centennial observance “History of the Greenfield Municipal Light Plant”:

“Through the years, the growing needs of Greenfield for electricity and water have been met with constant changes and upgrades of plants, equipment and lines.  But another and perhaps even more important part of the story is the long succession of loyal employees, those people that tended to the engines through the night in those early years, and answered the call when mother nature caused the lights to flicker and go out from time-to-time.  

“Also, behind this group of employees is a board of trustees that served the community as volunteers and have had the vision to look into the future, and plan accordingly before the need arrives.”

Board of  Trustees

Members of the Board of Trustees are Lynne Don Carlos, chairperson, appointed i November of 1994; Terry Schneider, appointed February of 2012; and Bob Guikema, appointed January of 2015.


Courtesy of Tammy Pearson, Adair County Free Press 6/3/15.

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