The Paris Board of Public Utilities was established over 80 years ago in December of 1938. Many people do not realize that electricity existed in the city of Paris prior to 1938. In fact, an electric system existed prior to 1926 when Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power purchased the system from the City.
Shortly after that sale, the city wanted to purchase the system for a number of reasons.? One, Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power was not strong financially and largely unable to extend the electric system beyond its small footprint.? Secondly, the city wanted to bring TVA power to our community. With our country reeling from the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created his “New Deal” to help America recover.? Included in the New Deal was the creation of TVA in 1933 to help the hard-hit Tennessee Valley.? TVA was tasked with improving the quality of life in the region.? City officials knew that TVA would help get power out to the rural areas.
John Sweeney was the city engineer for the city of Paris.? He was instrumental in the fight to regain the electric system.? Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power did not want to sell just one of their small systems. So, Mr. Sweeney, with the help of TVA, devised a plan where all 28 West TN communities would buy back their systems.
Going into 1938, it appeared theCity would in fact, be able to purchase the electric system back from Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power.? In October, the city created a special board, the Board of Public Utilities, to operate and manage the electric system and the small water system that the City owned.
The board first met on Monday evening November 7, 1938 at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall (located on the south side of the court square) next to the post office where FirstBank is currently located. The City appointed a three-person board:
- W.C. Leach, Chairman – Owner of Paris Radio Company
- B.M. Neese, City Commission Representative
- T.M. Mayo, Insurance Salesman
John Sweeney was named the first superintendent (now called the General Manager). Joining him in bringing the Board of Public Utilities to fruition were 11 Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power employees who became BPU employees:? Curtis Workman, Malissa Humphreys, Ira Melton, Nell Tucker, Charles Robertson, Jimmy Cooper, J.O. Tucker, Russell Ramsey, Arch Smith, and George Combs Sr.
Unlike today, where Board meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month, Board meetings were held the first Friday night of the month at 7:00 p.m. It was not unusual for there to be multiple meetings in a month. On December 13, 1938, the Board met twice in one day, discussing CSA and a $200,000 bond issue for purchase of the system.
On December 28, 1938, the deal was closed in Nashville at 4:00 p.m. and BPU took ownership of the electric system after a ten-year fight to get it back.? A celebration took place that night at 10:00 p.m. at the City auditorium.
In early 1939, BPU began the work of growing the system out into the rural areas and expanding the water system inside the City.
On April 18, 1939 in a meeting at Routon, Mr. and Mrs. Tim Bowden were the first family to sign up for rural electricity.
BPU has come a long way from serving 2,200 customers in 1939.? Today BPU serves roughly 21,000 customers,? along with 5,000 water customers and 4,000 wastewater customers. Regardless of the number of customers we serve or the number of years we have been around, our focus on safety, reliability, and affordability is unwavering and we look forward to serving Paris and Henry County for the years to come.