NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — New Bern became the first city in North Carolina to unveil a new license plate honoring the state's utility workers Wednesday (Oct. 9) morning during a gathering at City Hall.
A bill creating the new plate was signed by Governor Roy Cooper in early September, the same week that Hurricane Dorian struck eastern North Carolina. ElectriCities of North Carolina supported the effort to have the plate approved as part of a partnership among ElectriCities, North Carolina's electric cooperatives, and Duke Energy to pay tribute to the state's lineworkers and other utility employees.
The specialty "Keeping the Lights On" plate features artwork depicting a lineman scaling an electric pole against a backdrop representing the three regions of North Carolina - the mountains, the plains and the coast. The plate will cost the normal registration fee plus $30. Of that amount, $20 will benefit the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care.
Addressing the city electric workers gathered at City Hall Wednesday, New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw said he appreciated how important their work is to municipalities across the state.
"I know we in New Bern and throughout North Carolina and the nation want to do everything we can to make sure you guys are safe and getting the right training and the right tools to do your job," he commented. "At the end of the day they (customers) call me when the power goes out and all they want to know is how soon it will be back on."
Outlaw said the city's utility workers were especially important during severe weather events such as Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Dorian. He described the workers as "a family of people who respond no matter the heat, the cold, the wind, the snow, and the hurricanes."
"Thanks to our staff, mutual and public power crews from across the state, and more than a dozen from across the country we were able to restore the power to 66 percent of our customer base within 48 hours of Hurricane Florence, and 90 percent were restored within four days," said Outlaw.
ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones echoed Outlaw's remarks.
"You all are right here when the hurricanes come through and you're the first responders," he told the line workers. "You guys work and sacrifice time and time again. ...
"What's important is being able to have that local control, where public officials put forth rate schedules and talk about what are competitive rates for residential and commercial and industrial customers," said Jones, "Those decisions are made right here in the community. The profits and the value of that system stays right here in the community."
"I just want to thank everyone who was instrumental in getting this license plate put together," said Charles Bauschard, director of Public Utilities, City of New Bern. ...
Specialty license plates are available to owners of most motor vehicles registered in North Carolina. The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles has not given an exact date when the new plate will be available. Motorists can visit www.ncdot.gov/dmv/title-registration/license-plates/Pages/specialty-plates.aspx to learn more.
Information from: The Sun Journal, http://www.newbernsunjournal.com