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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.”

 

Obituaries

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.

 

Organization targets employees’ Facebook accounts

TUSK is targeting accounts where owners identify themselves as AEP employees.

(Story by Rachel Hammer)

A solar advocacy lobbying organization is waging an advertising and public relations campaign that targets utility company employee Facebook accounts to help spread its messages.

One of the tactics being used by the organization TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t be Killed) is to place paid ads on the Facebook pages of individuals who indicate they work or are retired from AEP and other targeted organizations. The ads tend to be very negative toward the organization.

Here’s the trick. The ads can be seen only by the employee until such time that the employee comments on the ad in an effort to defend the company. When an employee takes that step, they inadvertently share the post that previously wasn’t shared.

“We understand that employees naturally want to defend AEP when these ads appear on their Facebook pages. And we appreciate that,” said Josh Polk, AEP’s social media manager.  “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the organization wants because every comment creates free advertising and spreads its message.”

AEP encourages employees and retirees who see these ads on their Facebook pages to simply do nothing.

Employees can block posts with a few quick clicks.

Also, such a post can be easily blocked. According to Polk, a post can be blocked by following these steps:

  • Click on the down arrow ( v ) at the top of the post.
  • A drop down box will appear. Select “I don’t want to see this.”
  • The ad will be hidden from view.

 

The post can be reported to Facebook if it re-appears in a personal feed.

  • Click on the down arrow ( v ) at the top of the post.
  • A drop down box will appear. Select “Report post.”
  • A report will be sent to Facebook.

 

Should a retiree still choose to comment on the ads, they are reminded that they should be clear that they are AEP retirees, but that they are speaking on their own behalf and not for the company.

TUSK is sponsored by several solar developers and other advocacy groups. The group moves from state to state and typically follows the same tactics in each jurisdiction to attack utilities that are trying to make sure policies are fair to all customers who use the grid.

While AEP does not criticize TUSK for trying to advance members’ own business interests, it challenges TUSK to honestly represent what it is trying to achieve. TUSK positions this issue as the big monopoly utilities against the little guys who just want to put solar panels on their roofs, but the group represents solar developers, not the solar customers in AEP’s service territory.

February Retirements

AEP Service Corporation

Sarah Deckard, Gavin Plant, retired Feb. 1 after 29 years of service.

Reed Smolak, AEP Headquarters, retired Feb. 28 after 31 years of service.

Appalachian Power

William Bosta, Virginia State Office, retired Feb. 21 after 21 years of service.

Edgar Hannah, Central Machine Shop, retired Feb. 14 after 15 years of service.

Randy Hughes, Huntington Service Center, retired Feb. 28 after 21 years of service.

Guy Null, Amos Plant, retired Feb. 14 after 35 years of service.

George Wingfield, Lynchburg Service Center, retired Feb. 28 after 35 years of service.

Vonronstead Wright Sr., Fieldale Office, retired Feb. 18 after 25 years of service.

Columbus Southern Power

Stephen Sheets, Mound Street Service Center, retired Feb. 12 after 41 years of service.

Indiana Michigan Power

David Ferguson, Rockport Plant, retired Feb. 11 after 39 years of service.

Steven Henry, Muncie Service Center, retired Feb. 1 after 42 years of service.

William Loraff, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired Feb. 14 after 22 years of service.

John Moline, Cook Material Center, retired Feb. 28 after 30 years of service.

Pamila Shearer, St. Joseph Service Center, retired Feb. 12 after 32 years of service.

James Sims, Rockport Plant, retired Feb. 26 after 30 years of service.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Frank Estes, Energy Control Center, retired Feb. 28 after 37 years of service.

Tim Gray, Tipton Office, retired Feb. 28 after 23 years of service.

Michael Smith, Elk City Office, retired Feb. 16 after 11 years of service.

Lois Whitsett, Mid Metro Office, retired Feb. 12 after 30 years of service.

Southwestern Electric Power

Kenneth Crowell, Texarkana Operations, retired Feb. 12 after 36 years of service.

Althea Hartsfield, Welsh Plant, retired Feb. 3 after 10 years of service.

Patricia Norris, System Control Center, retired Feb. 12 after 25 years of service.

Texas Central

Irma Sneller, Electric System Operations, retired Feb. 1 after 20 years of service.

AEP River Operations achieves Zero Harm through environmental excellence

(Story by Jennifer Mason)

On Nov. 8, 2012, AEP River Operations committed to eliminating all environmental spills. It was simply a commitment to Zero Harm to the environment.  It focused on teamwork, communication, raising awareness and following policies and procedures.

Each vessel and facility at AEP River Operations received their own “Zero Spills” flag to fly with pride.

On Jan. 1, AEP River Operations successfully completed two calendar years without an environmental spill.  Another milestone was reached Jan. 16 when the organization reached 800 days of environmental excellence.

Each vessel and facility received their own “Zero Spills” flag to fly with pride.

In addition, Keith Darling, president of AEP River Operations, was presented with a congratulatory letter from Kevin Cook, Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard. Cook referenced the hundreds of other spills from other towing vessels and barges and commended Darling for leading an organization that has achieved zero spills for more than two years.

As stated in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, Part 110: Discharge of Oil. Section 3: “For purposes of section 311(b)(4) of the Act, discharges of oil in such quantities that the Administrator has determined may be harmful to the public health or welfare or the environment of the United States include discharges of oil that…(b) Cause a film or sheen upon or discoloration of the surface of the water or adjoining shorelines or cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface of the water or upon adjoining shorelines.”

This means just ONE drop creating a sheen on the water must be reported as an environmental incident. At AEP River Operations, the target is ZERO Harm.

Turk Plant featured in U.S. Chamber video

(Story by Kacee Kirschvink)

A video producer with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently visited the Turk Plant and produced a video that has been viewed more than 250,000 times and shared over 4,000 times on Facebook.

View the video.

A caption for the video, which is also on You Tube, reads: “Take a ride into America’s first Ultra Supercritical coal fired power plant at the AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company John W. Turk facility in Arkansas. Regulatory uncertainly has put on hold any plans to build more of these highly efficient and clean facilities to power America’s infrastructure despite the Turk plant’s unprecedented and proven technology innovations.”

The video is the most successful one ever released by the U.S. Chamber. It features views from various locations at the plant and includes comments from Energy Production Superintendent Andy Brannan and Coal Handler Paul Carver. The video crew even followed Carver to his home to visit with his family about the benefits of working at one of the cleanest coal plants in the nation.

“America, wake up!” one Facebook user commented after watching the video. “Businesses are the heartbeat of America. Here is a true business that has the answer to cheaper, clean, energy, but government is trying to restrict honest manufacturing. Don’t fall for false promises. Energy from USA is the best ( energy Independence ) and jobs.”

The video is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy campaign. A video crew spent an entire day filming the plant, from the coal pile to the turbine room floor.

AEP launches redesigned, responsive operating company websites

AEP Feb. 19 — using entirely in-house resources — launched the redesign of its seven operating company websites using responsive design, a relatively new technique.

Responsive design allows web pages to sense the size of the device an individual is using to view each page, and adapt itself to display properly on that device. This allows AEP’s operating companies to do a better job of serving the increasing number of users who come to their sites with a tablet or smartphone.

In November 2012, AEP became the first in the utility industry — and just the  third Fortune 500 company — to update its corporate website –aep.com — to a responsive design.

“We’ve redesigned the sites because of the increasing amount of traffic from phones and tablets,” explained Allen Glass, Internet strategy manager in AEP Corporate Communications. “Phones made up 32.5 percent of our traffic last year. Tablets added another 6.9 percent. During major outages, those percentages go even higher – well over 50 percent — because those are the devices that still work when the power is out.”

When AEP launched its mobile sites in 2010, mobile traffic represented a very small fraction of the usage, presumably because customers were still getting used to phones that would enable them to go online to conduct business, and most visitors were only seeking outage-related materials and information.

“But people got used to using their phones for other things pretty quickly, and the things they wanted to do on our sites began to change shortly after we launched the mobile versions,” Glass said. “Now when we survey our users, we find that they want to do the same things on their phones that they do on desktop computers.

“There’s still a little more focus on outage-related activities, of course – especially during major outages – but other than that, the percentages are pretty much the same as they are for desktop visitors,” he added. “Our current mobile sites now have billing and payment information, but it’s too expensive to try to keep adding new functions in both mobile and desktop versions. That’s why responsive design is such a great option for us.”

Responsive design allows a single site to serve desktop and mobile traffic. That means AEP doesn’t have to maintain two different versions of each site, which can be very time-consuming. Responsively designed web sites have a piece of code on every page of the site that asks your computer – desktop, tablet, phone, whatever – “Okay, how big is the screen?” Then the page reconfigures itself to fit on that size screen.

Responsive design allows web pages to sense the size of the device an individual is using to view each page, and adapt itself to display properly on that device.

“We’ve done a ton of research into user behaviors – what works and what doesn’t – as we’ve designed and built these sites,” Glass noted. For example, Eric Davis, user experience consultant principal in Corporate Communications, ran more than 20 separate user experience studies with more than 250 customers, looking at hundreds of site elements.

“Sometimes it’s as straightforward as trying to figure out what words we should use for a button so our customers will be able to find what they’re looking for,” said Glass. “One button went through six different iterations before we found the label that works best. We’re really picky about finding out what works for our customers so they can be successful when they try to do something or get some information on our sites. After all, we don’t succeed with our goals unless they succeed with theirs.”

Glass noted that a number of employees contributed to the success of the website redesign project, including primary developers Jared Utley, Dane Sapp, Derek Reynolds, David Azusenis, Ryan Roe, Stephen Payne, Chris Rowsell and Lisa Lawrence; designers Sarah Hunyadi, Nick Carron, Ruth Thurgood Mundy and Joshua McClurg-Genevese; Davis, who handled user research and a lot of the user experience design; Brian Phipps, Amanda Thatcher, Leann Bailey and Angela Brown, who reviewed the customer service functions; and Keenan Sanders and Josh Polk, who did a lot of the quality assurance work on the sites.

“We also need to thank other people in Information Technology who helped set up and configure the new web servers we needed for the sites and handled security and access issues for us,” said Glass, “including Steve Tulk, Zach Van Tassel, John Welday, Bruce Goetz, Bryan Young, Randy Urban, Chris Chapman, Ramanathan Chandrasekaran, Scott Grizzle, Nathanial Roberts, Bill Pratt, Kevin Knox, MaryJean Speno, Roy Peltomaa, Jeff Tennant, Adam Velegol and Frank Rao.”

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