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September 11, 1998

Today's column continues the history of water and electricity service in the city of Perry, from the time of the opening of the Cherokee Strip on September 16, 1893, to the present day. Much of the information contained here was researched from our city council records by the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority (OMPA), which now serves this city. In the previous column, we related how various private enterprises were franchised by the city to provide water and electricity in the early years.

An entry in the January 6, 1898, council proceedings shows that the cost of light service from the Perry Water, Light and Ice Company from July 1, 1897, to December 31, 1897, was $1,125. At the time, David McKinstry was the treasurer and manager of the Perry Water, Light and Ice Company, and he also was the owner of Perry Milling Co., where "Pride of Perry" flour was milled. Mr. McKinstry issued a report to the council which was read into the proceedings of January 27, 1899. He advised the council that the company "suspended operations temporarily on account of necessity of making repairs ... and the company having been unable to secure sufficient cash for running expenses from warrants and obligations of city."

The dispute between Perry and the power plant prompted the city council to hold a special meeting on January 31, 1899. Members then unanimously passed and approved a resolution rescinding the water works and electric lights franchise. The resolution also made and passed by council resolving that Mayor (R.E. Wade) be authorized to notify Perry Water, Light and Ice Company to fill water mains and keep proper pressure thereon without delay throughout the city."

Council proceedings on February 6, 1899, mention that stockholders of the plant were going to meet to discuss repairs to the plant and to choose a contractor to undertake the repairs. Less than one year later, on January 13, 1900, the council exempted the Water, Light and Ice Company from taxes levied by the city.

After nearly a decade of buying water and electricity from privately owned companies, the city's leaders began taking a serious look at providing these services from the municipality. In other words, city ownership of utilities. On October 17, 1902, the council called a special election for city residents to vote on a water works bond issue. The issue was approved and on June 30, 1903, council members passed a resolution enabling the municipality to purchase the "Perry Water, Light and Ice Company, their entire water and electric plant, located in the City of Perry..." Included were all real estate, buildings, smoke stacks, boilers, machinery, franchises, water mains and everything else that belonged to the plant, except the machinery located in the main building. The price tag was $25,000 cash. From that point, the City of Perry was in the business of supplying water and electricity to its businesses and residents.

The water treatment plant that came with the purchase was vacated in 1992 when our new treatment plant was completed near the southwest edge of the city. The plant had not been used to generate electricity for some 30 years prior to that. Plant records show that two 20,000-gallon diesel tanks once held fuel to run electric generators and engines used in purifying water from Perry Municipal Lake for drinking water. The plant also manufactured ice. The old building, virtually abandoned years ago and badly in need of major repairs, was demolished earlier this summer. Various groups interested in preserving that bit of Perry history were unable to find an economical way of doing so.

The council's 1903 resolution allowed ice-making machinery to remain in the building for a period of five years, at a fee of $1 per year and to furnish Mr. McKinstry or his designated assignees steam power and water for the manufacture of ice in the building.

Thanks to the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority for providing most of the information contained in this brief history of Perry's water, light, ice and electric railway systems.