Walton EMC Recognized as Best in Georgia at Protecting Underground Utilities

MONROE, Ga. – We rarely notice it, but a complex maze that plays a vital part in our daily life lies quietly just below our feet. But let something go wrong with even a small part of that maze and it’s immediately noticed!

Wires, pipes and fiber carrying power, water, natural gas and internet are buried along almost every roadway and driveway. The depth of these lines can vary anywhere from feet (for power) to inches (for communications). Accidentally digging into one of these lines can cause a major disruption in utility service that consumers will immediately feel.

“Electricity and internet service are so intertwined in our activities that most people become aware of an outage almost instantly,” said Walton EMC Communications Coordinator Savannah Chandler. “With more and more electric service being installed underground, our crews use great care in avoiding utility disruptions before they even put the first shovel (or backhoe) in the ground.”

The process begins when a consumer, contractor or utility notifies Georgia 811 that they intend to dig at a specific location. In turn, Georgia 811 notifies all underground utilities in the area so they can mark the location of their lines. This marking is done with paint or small flags on the ground. Whoever plans to dig must allow at least three business days for marking to be completed before beginning.

In addition to avoiding utility outages, safe digging also helps avoid damage to equipment and hazards to people.

Because Walton EMC crews are so diligent in avoiding underground utility damage, two have been recognized by the Georgia Utility Coordinating Council (GUCC) for their excellence.

The Golden Backhoe Award is presented annually to the outstanding utility crew in each of the seven GUCC districts across Georgia and is based on the number of underground locate tickets, avoiding at-fault underground utility damage, participating in local utility coordinating committees, attending safe digging training and a supervisor essay.

At the recent GUCC annual conference and awards ceremony, Walton EMC’s Watkinsville underground crew was honored with the 2023 Golden Backhoe for Region 2 (East Central Georgia) and the co-op’s Monroe underground crew received the 2023 Golden Backhoe for Region 1 (Northeast Georgia).

Out of the seven Golden Backhoe winners, one is selected as the statewide outstanding crew and receives the Lester Feathers Award. Walton EMC’s Watkinsville underground crew also took home that trophy.

Linemen David Abbott, Ernie Greene, Coby Pickett, Bryce Watson and Supervisor Mike Beck make up the Watkinsville crew. Linemen John Spence, Cody Jarrett, Jacob McNary, Phillip Mork, Reed Gogan, Logan Burleigh, Landon Robertson, Ryan Mitchell, Jason Higgins, Arthur Thomas, Isaiah Glasper and Supervisor Matt Britt comprise the Monroe crew.

Two other Walton EMC employees were also recognized at the conference for their contributions to protecting Georgia’s utility infrastructure. Jean Hyman was named Region 1 Chairperson of the Year and Derrick Hendricks was named Region 2 Chairperson of the Year. Hyman chaired the Barrow County Utilities Coordinating Council and Hendricks chaired the Morgan/Jasper/Greene Utilities Coordinating Council during the past year.

Walton EMC is an innovative, customer-owned and -focused electric utility serving accounts in 10 Northeast Georgia counties between Atlanta and Athens. In its long history of meeting members’ needs, the cooperative established successful natural gas and security subsidiaries as well as nationally recognized residential and commercial solar initiatives. For more information, visit waltonemc.com.

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