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AEP River Operations sponsors visit by CNN’s Hero of the Year

Pregracke and Travis working to clean rivers and riverbanks of debris. Living Lands & Waters photo.

(Story by Rachel Hammer)

AEP’s daily activities rely on water – for cooling and processes and for transportation. Because the company relies so heavily on the water’s availability, the company makes a point of being a good steward of this essential resource.

AEP River Operations recently sponsored a presentation and discussion by Chad Pregracke, president and founder of Living Lands & Waters, for The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Professionals Network. Approximately 250 students, faculty and other interested people attended the event. His presentation was both informative and entertaining.

“Chad is a dynamic and extraordinary individual. The values and objectives of his organization in aiding, protecting, preserving and restoring the natural environment and the nation’s major rivers aligns nicely with the environmental philosophy and mission of AEP River Operations,” said Andy Koch, director of Boat Operations Support.

Pregracke said that his mission is simple: to clean up the nation’s rivers one river and one piece of garbage at a time. Pregracke notes that when he says garbage, he doesn’t mean just pop cans, but items like tires, barrels and appliances, including televisions and vehicles.

Pregracke became involved in river cleanup as a teenager. He earned money for college by diving for mussels in the Mississippi River and was frustrated by the amount of trash he encountered. A 10-minute conversation with a local industry executive led to a small sponsorship. A local newspaper, and eventually other media, picked up his story leading to additional sponsorships.

Pregracke with Mike Rowe of CNN. Living Lands & Waters photo.

Pregracke also told his audience about feeling frustrated and defeated in his efforts. Managing fundraising, logistics and trash disposal was not easy. But he thought about the people who had thanked him and about making a difference. “It might be small in the grand scheme of things, but it’s tangible and you can see it,” he said.

He has big plans for Ohioans: he plans to remove 1 million pounds of garbage from the Ohio River by the end of next year.

Living Lands & Waters focuses on removing unsightly and toxic trash that has accumulated in rivers and along riverbanks. Since its founding in 1998, Living Lands & Waters has involved more than 80,000 volunteers in collecting 8.5 million pounds of debris from along the nation’s greatest rivers. Pregracke was CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year.

The Environmental Professionals Network (EPN) brings together a broad range of professionals engaged in managing, protecting and using the environment and natural resources professionals to learn, share and collaborate on making the world a better place.

AEP previously has provided speakers to the EPN and has sponsored other events, such as a visit by Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of the television show Wild Countdown.

AEP expo aimed at careers for military veterans

(Story by Stephen Ostrander)

AEP’s military veterans and other employees have an opportunity to help veterans seeking employment or considering a career change by reminding them about the AEP Career Expo for Military Veterans May 1 at the A. Ray King Transmission Training Center in Pataskala, Ohio.

“Veterans trust and respond to other veterans,” said Trevor Sthultz, an energy coordinator at AEP and co-chair of the AEP military veteran’s employee resource group. “That’s why we especially urge our veterans as well as other AEP employees to use their networks and contacts in their communities to reach veterans who may be interested in learning about careers at AEP.”

The career expo runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (morning and afternoon sessions). Lunch is provided. Participants can register via email at Please respond by April 24.

Directions to Transmission Training Center

From the east side of Columbus on I-270 take Broad Street exit and head east. Follow Broad Street until you come to Mink Street. Turn left on to Mink. The Training Center is on your right at 6501 Mink St. Travel time from I-270 is approximately 10 to 15 minutes depending upon traffic.

From the west side of Columbus, travel east on I-70, going through downtown Columbus. Travel north on I-270 north, then take Exit 39 to eastbound Broad Street.  Follow Broad Street east to Mink Street. Turn left on to Mink. The Training Center is on the right. Travel time from I-70 is approximately 30 minutes depending on traffic.

EPRI publishes two reports regarding AEP’s ReCreation Land

AEP’s and EPRI’s analysis identified 25 potential shale gas well pad sites that would have manageable ecosystem services impacts at ReCreation Land in Ohio.

(Story by Timothy Lohner)

One of American Electric Power’s best known symbols of environmental stewardship is the 60,000-acre reclamation project in Ohio known as ReCreation Land. The land was surface mined for coal beginning in 1947. AEP later remediated the site, planting more than 63 million trees and creating more than 600 lakes and ponds.

ReCreation Land is available for public use for various outdoor recreational activities. With nearly 380 campsites, the site also provides opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking.

In addition, portions of the site have been leased for oil and gas exploration. Oil and gas companies have approached AEP about leasing ReCre­ation Land property for shale gas production, a technology that previously had not been used at the site.

With help from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), AEP evaluated ecosystem service impacts caused by placing well pads on dif­ferent sites throughout the property. To map the site and assess the impacts, EPRI suggested a tool called Integrated Valuation of Envi­ronmental Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST).

In late March, EPRI announced the publication of two reports related to this evaluation:

ReCreation Land consists of 60,000 acres of formerly surface-mined land remediated for recreational use.

Ecosystem services are life-supporting services provided by natural systems, such as pollination, erosion control, carbon sequestration, rainfall and climate regulation. Without these services, societies would cease to thrive.

Detailed site and mapping information already existed from an assessment EPRI conducted in 2002 to consider possible revenue from establishing environmental market credits (endangered species, greenhouse gas and wetland mitigation credits). The ecosystem services analysis was conducted on more than 200 potential well pad locations for shale gas production. The goal was to evaluate potential impacts to biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient and sediment retention and pollination.

The study found that the modeled ecosystem impacts were relatively small overall. It also found that those impacts could be mitigated within 30 to 40 years through active restoration to allow vegetation regrowth near the well sites. EPRI conducted further analyses to identify well pad locations that would be least impactful, and AEP used that information to identify 25 well pad sites.

Mike Williams, AEP Forestry supervisor, and his staff, were instrumental in performing this study. They provided mapping information and answered many questions regarding land use at the site. Tim Lohner, consulting environmental specialist, provided project oversight and noted that publishing the reports is a big step in sharing the results with the public and demonstrating AEP’s commitment to the environment. Their work also resulted in an [EPRI Technology Transfer Award ]to AEP.

The Nature Conservancy, Stanford University, World Wildlife Fund and other groups have received briefings on this effort. The results also have been shared with faculty members at The Ohio State University, who are using the project as a case study. The effort began in 2011 and demonstrates the value of multi-year, innovative, research projects.

Choosing a primary care doctor is an important decision

Finding a primary care physician who meets your needs is an important healthcare decision.

Choosing a primary care doctor is one of the most important healthcare decisions you can make. But it can be difficult to find reliable, easy-to-understand information about doctors or practices. You can talk to friends and family members, and check out online ratings reviews. Here are some additional strategies and resources that can help you find a new doctor, or take a closer look at one that you already have.

If you know a doctor, nurse, or health care professional, ask for the names of doctors or practices in your area they like and trust. You should also consider what kind of doctor you want – someone who can care for your entire family, or who focuses on women, children, or older people?

Then, use your insurer’s directory or search on its website for doctors in your network. Because doctors often add or drop plans, call the office to verify that the doctor still accepts your insurance. In addition, your choice of doctor can determine which hospital you go to, if needed, so find out where the doctor has admitting privileges. And be sure to find out how that facility compares with others in the area.

Video: How to choose a primary care physician – IU Health (1:42)

Editor’s Note: This video is from an external source and is provided for informational purposes only. AEP does not endorse any specific medical institutions or healthcare facilities, individuals, or specific medical recommendations noted.

Be aware of red flags. They include malpractice claims and disciplinary actions. Even a good doctor can get sued once or twice, but more than that raises serious questions. You can check state medical boards and other online resources to check up on doctors.

Consider compatibility. Most Americans focus on personality and compatibility when choosing a doctor, and why not? You hope this is going to be a long-term relationship. Use your first visit as a “job interview.” Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting? Does he or she display empathy and care? Does he or she fully answer your questions? Do they explain your diagnosis and treatment, and specify a date for a follow up visit?

Other factors to consider:

  • Office policies and staff. Ask how long it takes to make an appointment for a routine visit (it should be less than a week), whether same-day appointments can be scheduled, and how long patients can expect to wait in the waiting room. Look for a staff that’s friendly, efficient, and respectful. You will probably spend more time interacting with these folks than with your doctor.
  • Doctor-patient technology. Electronic health records let your doctor efficiently track your medical history. Online, secure access allows patients to view their health information, book and track appointments, request prescription refills and email questions to their doctor.

Source: Consumer Reports

AEP top-ranked company in 2015 J.D. Power utility website study

For the third year in a row, AEP was the top-ranked utility company in overall ease of use of utility websites, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Utility Website Evaluation Studysm (UWES) released March 19.

The UWES is based on evaluations from more than 14,500 electric and/or gas residential customers, with 5,235 of these customers providing feedback about their online experience using a mobile device. The 66 largest U.S. electric and/or gas companies are included in the study, which was fielded from December 4, 2014, through January 16, 2015. Note: This year’s study was completed before the launch of AEP’s newly redesigned utility sites, so customers were reviewing the old sites.

For the third year in a row, AEP was the top-ranked utility company in overall ease of use of utility websites, according to J.D. Power.

The study, now in its fourth year, was redesigned and this year combined mobile enabled/app and desktop/laptop/tablet (desktop) into one index.

The study explored the usability of utility websites by examining 12 tasks based on the type of utility: set up an online account; account log in; view consumption history; review account information; make a payment; research energy-saving information; update service; report outages; view outages; locate contact information; perform account and profile maintenance; and locate gas leak information.

Of the 66 U.S. electric and natural gas utilities included in the study, 57 of them, including AEP, currently offer an online mobile channel for customers either through a mobile-enabled website or mobile app. However, satisfaction among customers using their utility’s mobile website/app is lower than among those using the website from a desktop (410 vs. 426, respectively). With 12 percent of electric utility residential customers using their mobile device when interacting online with their utility, the underperforming mobile sites and apps lead to lower customer service satisfaction and, ultimately, overall satisfaction.

AEP’s utility company websites are:

IBEW Local 329 wins LIVE United Award

Lee Allred (center), Southwestern Electric Power senior line mechanic, and Todd Harris, line mechanic B (right) accept the LIVE United Award from Bruce Wilson, president and CEO of the United Way of Louisiana.

(Story by Carey Sullivan)

The United Way of Northwest Louisiana recently recognized the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 329 with its LIVE United Award. The award is given to a company or organization that demonstrated the LIVE United culture and spirit and is selected by United Way’s staff.

IBEW Local 329 was recognized for:

  • Raising more than $18,500 from its Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) employee members during its first campaign in 2004;
  • Contributing more than $39,000 in 2013, a 210 percent increase over its first campaign; and
  • Giving more than $308,000 to the United Way over its 11-year partnership with SWEPCO.


SWEPCO has about 300 union employees working in Northwest Louisiana. They’re meter readers, troublemen, linemen, field revenue specialists and meter servicers. Some work in storerooms, fleet, the meter shop and in power plants.

In 2004, IBEW Local 329 and SWEPCO leaders partnered and ran their very first United Way campaign.In the 11 years since, SWEPCO and IBEW Local 329 have been recognized many times for coordinating one of the top campaigns in Northwest Louisiana, both in the number of dollars raised and the number of employees participating.

“Please join me in congratulating Local 329 for this wonderful recognition and for their commitment to help others,” said [Venita McCellon-Allen], president and chief operating officer of SWEPCO. “This has been a rewarding partnership that gets stronger every year.”

Employee writes book about earlier form of water power

AEP employee Ken Drenten (right) talks with visitors at an author book signing event at a Zanesville bookstore about his self-published book, “Waterwheelin': A Travelers’ Guide to Ohio Mills.”

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — Several years ago, AEP employee Ken Drenten wanted to find out more about Ohio’s mills in order to visit a few of them with his family. The Corporate Communications consultant, who lives in Zanesville, had visited several of them, and his wife’s interest had sparked his own further.

Drenten’s wife, Sandy, has a special interest in mills with waterwheels, such as the one at Ye Olde Mill in Utica, Ohio — where the couple was married — and at Rock Mill in Lancaster, Ohio.

“I couldn’t find what I was looking for — a single website or publication that had all the information I wanted in one handy place,” he said. “Over the years, I had taken a number of photos of old barns and mills for fun, and I had some source material at hand, so I thought, why don’t I just write something myself?”

Ye Olde Mill, in Utica, Ohio, the home of Velvet Ice Cream Co., is among the 27 mills featured in the book.Photo by: Ken Drenten

After more than two years of planning, visiting mills, taking numerous photos, talking with and corresponding with people, writing, editing, and designing, the result was a self-published, 101-page book, “Waterwheelin': A Travelers’ Guide to Ohio Mills.”

The book provides information about visiting 27 mills that are open and operating for people to visit.

Drenten recently appeared at an author book signing at the Walls of Books bookstore in Zanesville to talk about his work.

“I think that mills as a group are among Ohio’s best-kept secrets,” he said. “In the second half of the 19th century there were more than 1,000 mills across the state. Mills are part of the state’s history, and only a few of them are still here for us to enjoy.”

The book includes historical and visitor-oriented facts about mills that are now used as restaurants, museums, inns, wineries, antique shops, country stores, and more. Some are incorporated into public parks, and many are small businesses that support the local economy. A few continue to grind grain for flour and meal.

“Without a doubt the best time I had creating this book was the family time we had discovering these amazing places together,” he said. “That’s what I want to pass along to others. By far the most common reaction by people when they first see the book is that they didn’t realize Ohio had so many mills.”

New Albany Data Center building is complete; focus shifts to migration of servers and applications

Chris Crosby (left), chief executive officer of Compass Datacenters, hands the keys to the New Albany Data Center to Ram Sastry, AEP vice president – Infrastructure & Business Continuity. Photo courtesy of Compass Datacenters.

(Story by Tom Holliday)

AEP has formally taken ownership of the company’s new corporate data center building in New Albany, Ohio.

Matt Forshey, Workplace Project & Business Services manager, “received the keys” to the new building March 15 as scheduled in the project plan. “It’s taken a lot of planning and hard work to complete everything on schedule, but in the end, we were able to meet our commitments and finish the building on schedule,” said Forshey.

At this point, the building is now ready for the real work to begin – the migration of some 3,000 business applications and servers from the company’s current data center in the 1 Riverside Plaza building to the new facility. The migration will begin in late June and continue through the end of the year.

According to Pat Collins, director — IT Corporate, who is managing the program, some preparatory work is already under way. “We’ll actually start moving some foundational IT infrastructure and applications immediately to begin preparing for the core migration activities in the latter half of the year,” he said. The migrations are planned to take place over 10 weekends between June and December.

A change management team is already implementing a plan to share information on an ongoing basis with AEP’s business units about the timing and details surrounding the migration of their specific applications.

AEP broke ground ]on the new $19.6 million facility last August as one aspect of the company’s response to the power and data interruptions that occurred Feb. 28, 2014. The new 24,000-square-foot facility is designed to improve the reliability and resiliency of AEP’s IT infrastructure. Compass Datacenters, a Dallas, Texas-based firm that specializes in the construction of data centers for corporate customers, was engaged to build the new center.

Forshey indicated that before the major migration gets under way, plans are being developed to allow employees to tour the facility. “We are still working on the details but we’d like to give our employees in central Ohio an opportunity to see the building before we need to secure it for the migration activity,” he said.

AEP’s Customer Operations Centers recognized

AEP’s Customer Operations Centers have been recognized as a Certified Center of Excellence by Benchmark Portal, a  global leader in contact center benchmarking, certification, training and consulting.

Benchmark’s certification process requires that customer contact centers “be both efficient and effective, providing service that is of superior quality and lower overall costs compared with other centers in your industry.”

Benchmark said AEP’s Customer Operations Centers have “effectively optimized the use of people, processes and technology to consistently deliver a level of customer service that surpasses most others in your industry.” The company benchmarks the performance of thousands of customer contact centers in over 50 different industries.

To earn the Center Of Excellence designation, a contact center must meet objective, quantitative criteria and pass audits by Benchmark Portal researchers. The key drivers of superior contact center performance in customer service include operational efficiency, service level standards, customer satisfaction, leadership, quality/training, staffing/scheduling, and contact center support.

“We have been awarded this honor for the sixth time because of the great combination of talents within Customer Operations and our support organizations,” said Rob Cheripko, managing director, Customer Operations. “It requires a very agile and adaptable team to be able to keep up with all the changes in our industry. I am proud of our Customer Operations team, and I thank all of our managers, associates and support staff for helping AEP achieve this great distinction.”



Appalachian Power Company

James Bradley, 82, retired, North Charleston Service Center, died Feb. 1.

Reese Bowen Jr., 82, retired, Bluefield (W.Va.) Service Center, died Jan. 23.

Stephen Collins, 71, Woodlawn Service Center, died Dec. 31.

William Griffith, 86, retired, Amos Plant, died Jan. 14.

Robert Hardy, 84, retired, Kanawha River Plant, died Feb. 24.

Woodrow Holbrook, 98, retired, Beckley Service Center, died Feb. 12.

Don Jonas, 81, retired, Clinch River Plant, died Feb. 11.

Willard Kestner, 72, retired, Abingdon Service Center, died Jan. 9.

Rolound Kiser, 87, retired, Clinch River Plant, died Feb. 1.

Lisa Lackland, 56, John W. Vaughan Center, died Feb. 9.

Howard Lasley, 89, retired, Clinch River Plant, died Feb. 2.

Winston Martin, 82, retired, Bb&T Building, died Jan. 27.

Joseph Patchell, 79, retired, North Charleston Service Center, died Jan. 28.

Jack Riddle, 84, retired, Beckley Service Center, died Jan. 17.

Ronald Wentz, 83, retired, Clinch River Plant, died Feb. 19.

Columbus Southern Power Company

Sharon Clark, 71, Energy Delivery Headquarters-Gahanna, died Jan. 12.

Donald Hammersley, 81, retired, Conesville Plant, died Feb. 12.

Robert Hopkins, 84, retired, Chillicothe Office, died Feb. 3.

Margaret Maxwell, 98, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Jan. 28.

Richard Noggle, 71, Mound Street Service Center, died Feb. 3.

James Rogers, 82, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Jan. 27.

Warren Smith, 89, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Jan. 19.

William West, 96, retired, Hillsboro Service Center, died Jan. 25.

Indiana Michigan Power

Irene Bonfiglio, 94, retired, Elkhart Service Center, died Jan. 23.

Richard Dudding, 90, retired, Cook Nuclear Plant, died Jan. 13.

Jack Green, 90, retired, Muncie Service Center, died Feb. 4.

Roy Hall, 59, Cook Nuclear Plant, died Feb. 13.

Charles Handschy, 68, Spy Run Service Center, died Jan. 28.

Michael Harter, 70, Marion Service Center, died Jan. 28.

Einer Jensen, 90, retired, Spy Run Service Center, died Jan. 24.

Benny King, 76, retired, One Summit Square, died Jan. 31.

Norman Roberts, 85, retired, Rockport Plant, died Jan. 31.

Raymond Rospopo, 79, retired, South Bend Service Center, died Jan. 21.

Omer Schmeltzer, 87, retired, Tanners Creek Plant, died Jan. 28.

Kentucky Power Company

Hershel Adams, 91, retired, Hazard Service Center, died Jan. 20.

Conrad Hoenig Jr., 64, Big Sandy Plant, died Jan. 27.

Richard Nash, 95, retired, Ashland Office, died Feb. 1.

Ohio Power Company

Auten Cole, 97, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 26.

William Deames, 97, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Feb. 11.

Kenneth Dennis, 85, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 16.

James Duffalo, 63, Muskingum River Plant, died Dec. 11.

Richard Godwin, 92, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 11.

Hubert Greathouse, 84, retired, Lancaster Office Building, died July 26.

Earl Higginbotham, 82, retired, Lancaster Office Building, died Jan. 23.

Gerald Marshall, 89, retired, Zanesville Office, died Feb. 1.

Andrew McHenry, 91, retired, Mitchell Plant, died Jan. 23.

Dale Miller, 84, retired, Zanesville Office, died Jan. 19.

Alan Pease, 63, Steubenville Service Center, died Feb. 9.

Arthur Piatt Jr., 84, Belmont Service Center, died Feb. 8.

Joseph Savinell, 58, Cardinal Plant, died Feb. 10.

Edward Smith, 68, Mitchell Plant, died Feb. 13.

Harold Smith, 91, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Feb. 7.

Gerald Updyke, 93, retired, Central Ohio Coal Company, died Jan. 31.

Gust Winkler Jr., 83, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 2.

William Zartman, 88, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Jan. 17.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

James Holt, 72, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Oct. 28.

Lois Hoskins, 89, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Jan. 27.

Frank Meyer Jr., 94, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Nov. 1.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Lula Deprato, 87, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Feb. 14.

James Chadwick, 74, retired, Mineola Office, died Jan. 18.

Jane Hawkins, 65, Longview Operations, died Feb. 13.

Walter Kirkpatrick, 82, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Feb. 20.

Frank Macon, 68, Flint Creek Plant, died Feb. 14.

Ronald Mueller, 73, retired, Shreveport Operations, died Feb. 2.

Kenneth Ocheltree, 83, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Jan. 26.

Texas Central

Leta Bryson, 94, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Dec. 30.

Vivian Frieda, 88, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Feb. 19.

Sylvia Medrano, 72, Western Division Office, died Jan. 15.

Encarnacion Perales, 85, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Jan. 12.

Texas North

W.A. Everheart, 84, retired, Abilene General Office, died Jan. 24.



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