History of the Electric Department

The historical era of the City of Sullivan Electric Department is a most interesting one, the contents of which sound quite comical to us now living in these modern times.

In 1892, the supplier of electrical energy to the City was privately owned by John H. Baker, a local attorney. The City purchased power from Mr. Baker to operate a total of 32 street lights for an average cost of $200.00 per month. It is noted in old City records that the night policeman was to procure a book in which to enter the amount of time the street lights burned. In turn, he was to submit a monthly time report to the City officials.

In 1901, the franchise with Mr. Baker expired and a new contract was offered by the Sullivan Electric Company, successor of Mr. Baker. This contract was to be for a period of one year, the cost to be $60.00 per light per year. At that time, the City was equipped with a total of 40 lights, standard 2000 candlepower. The City officials thought these rates completely unreasonable and claimed all contracts defective. The City therefore refused to pay for any power from said Company and on December 16, the City officials invited bids for lighting of said City. One stipulation of this request was, "The contract would require an all night service, on a moon light schedule, the Mayor to control the use of lights on dark or cloudy nights.

In 1903, the Street Light Committee was instructed to make arrangements for lighting streets of the City. It was decided the most suitable place to operate a power plant would be in the building of the City Waterworks. All necessary apparatus for conducting electricity was installed, and the Superintendent of the Waterworks was to have a general supervision over the electric light plant.

In 1913, Central Illinois Public Service Company asked for a franchise to supply the City with electrical power, but the proposal was tabled indefinitely. It appears the former supplier attempted to sell all rights granted to him by a City Ordinance to CIPS. They, in turn, proceeded to use all poles, transformers, etc. within the City with no regard to the City itself or to their legal right to this action.

1914 was the year that plans and specifications was presented for the erection of a municipal light plant, and the following year, the City terminated all CIPS operations within the City. This action resulted a lawsuit between the City and CIPS. A petition was circulated to all legal voters for right to pass the appropriation ordinance to enable said City to advertise for bids for a power plant.

As time lapsed of 13 years prompted the voters of the City to present to appropriate a large sum of money for the purpose of providing new, better, larger and additional equipment and machinery for the betterment and enlargement of the electric light plant.

As the old steam equipment was wearing out, and at the same time the demand usage was beginning to exceed plant capacity, it was decided to convert to the new diesel equipment. Two engines manufactured by the Fairbanks Morse Company were purchased to be installed in the newly remodeled power plant.

During 1983, Sullivan was a charter member in the organization of the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency. IMEA’s primary function is to provide wholesale electricity to its members, which they re-sell on the retail market. This enables Sullivan to have an alternate source of power plus another option for low-cost electricity.