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History
“The darkness, which has o’er cast the city of Pella for the past two months will be broken, and the rays of light from 204 electric globes will dispel the darkness and turn night into day.” – Pella Chronicle, May 25, 1911.
These words heralded on the opening days of Pella’s new municipal system in 1911. This step to public power began in June 1909 when a city election was held, approving bonds for both an electric plant and water works.
From History of Pella, Iowa 1847-1987, p.91-92, written by Loren Vanderzyl:
“In about the year 1909, the City of Pella decided to change the source of its water supply from wells located around the town, and an old wooden water tower located on West Market Square, to a newly designed water gathering facility at Howell Station on the Des Moines River southwest of Pella. A contract was let for a water plant, mains to Pella and around town, and a new steel water tower.
It was necessary to have electric power to operate the new large pumps. The existing privately owned direct current power plant in north of Pella was not capable of handling this type of power demand, so a power plant large enough to handle the pump load was added to the contract. It was also decided at that time to build a plant large enough to handle the river pumps and also furnish power and light for city residential and commercial customers.
A site in south Pella at the corner of Oskaloosa and East First Street, near the railroad tracks was chosen. A huge brick building was erected to house the equipment, and coal storage sheds were constructed back at the new plant. Meanwhile, private contractors were wiring houses, installing meters, and getting the City of Pella ready to go modern.
The original plant had a small smokestack to accommodate the two boilers. That stack became a landmark on the Marion County prairie. It was taller than the courthouse in Knoxville, or any farm silo in the three county area around Pella. When large boilers were added in later years, a new tall stack was built.
The original distribution system warehouse was on Main St. located behind the fire station. All billings were done by the City Clerk’s Office.
The municipal system has subsidized the city street lighting system, traffic lights, and many other municipal and civic enterprises over the years.”

Today the City of Pella is just as excited about its municipal utility, though they will likely refrain from starting any bon fires. They will, however, stress the fact that they have been delivering reliable electric service to our community for one hundred years. The electric utility is under the direction of the City Council, which has sole authority to establish rates and charges for electric service. The Electric Department Director supervises the electric utility operations and reports to the City Administrator.