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AECI presents Excel awards to two teams at New Madrid Power Plant

Thirty-one employees at New Madrid Power Plant were among those honored at the 23rd annual employee recognition awards ceremony March 21 at the headquarters of Associated Electric Cooperative, a member-owned wholesale power supply cooperative.

Excel award recipients are nominated by their peers for the prestigious awards.

The Excel Award for Innovative Action went to a team of 23 employees, known as the New Madrid operations simulator team, who helped develop and program an operations simulator for assistant control room operators as well as senior operators. This allows operators to train and refresh on virtually an exact replica of one of the plant’s two units. Previously, assistant control room operators trained on a live unit, working with experienced operators.

Innovative Action award recipients are:

Control room operators with training – Earnest Fobbs, Scott Gilboe, Mike Medley, Kim Reno, Todd Scott, James Stinnett

Control room operators – Joyce Henke, Don Henry, Stacy McClendon, Linda Stovall

Assistant control room operators with training – Matt Hawks, Eddie Sanders

Assistant control room operators – Kelvin Anderson, David Courtois, Edith Partee                                                                                                                                                     

Assistant shift supervisors – Shannon Sprouse, the late Phillip Carter

Others – Steve Berry, assistant operations superintendent; Nathan Budreau, assistant plant manager; Greg Madigan, senior engineer; Webb Manley, operations superintendent; Alex Martin, training manager; and Clayton Powell, engineer.

Control room operators and engineers spent thousands of hours over three years working with the vendor, Emerson Industrial Automation, to get the simulator to match Unit 1, then tested the results over an entire year.

 “Countless hours of testing, evaluation and work with the vendor were necessary to achieve the overall success of this project,” said a nominator. “From the inception … the simulator team applied exceptional leadership, foresight and steadfast adherence to the lofty requirements of the simulator.”

 Malfunctions are rare on a unit, and years can go by without operators experiencing them. “This simulator has 40 built-in malfunction scenarios,” said Steve Berry, assistant operations superintendent. “What’s so great is that even for senior control room operators, something they may not have done in years or wondered about how to react to, now they can plug in the malfunction and hone their skills in reacting to abnormal conditions.”

 Project manager and senior engineer Greg Madigan added, “It was very much a team effort. There’s no way this large of a project could go on for this long a time without a lot of people making an effort.”

Control room operator Scott Gilboe, who has 16 years of operator experience, said it makes operators more aware of situations. “If something does happen on a live unit, you are more prepared. You can go through a situation and scenario (on the simulator) and learn from your mistakes. You can back up and go through it again and do as many times until you get it right. It’s such a confidence builder for operators.”


Second team award recognizes community service

Another team of employees received the 2016 Excel Award for Community Advocate. Nominated by their peers and co-workers, recipients are:

Mandy Blattner, chemical lab technician; Tim Graham, journeyman electrician; Danny Hampton, custodian; Jackie Harmon, financial analyst III; Michelle Hopkins, warehouseman second period; Amanda Hunt, office associate; Walter Hyde, senior outage coordinator; Ralph Palmer, training coordinator; Dino Wilkerson, material handling supervisor; and Phyllis Williams, buyer III.

These employees voluntarily served on the plant’s Associated Employee Community Involvement committee, which plans employee appreciation events throughout the year and responds to needs in the community with support from the entire plant, with donations of money, clothing, food, toys, toiletries and volunteer time.

“The New Madrid Associated Employee Community Involvement (AECI) team gives back to the community throughout the entire year. Not only do they make various contributions to local organizations, but they rally the entire New Madrid team to make a huge impact within the local community,” said the team’s nominator.

Among the community outreach projects in 2016:

  • The plant donated more than 6,000 items to food banks in Portageville and New Madrid and organized volunteer times at the banks. Associated Electric’s efforts fed almost 200 families at Portageville and more than 100 at New Madrid. “It was a “humbling experience,” said one volunteer.
  • Donated 400 hats, gloves and scarves before Christmas for a local charity to give to children.
  • Collected toys for at least 50 children through an Adopt an Angel program in collaboration with a family resource center and Division of Family Services office.
  • Made Christmas stockings filled with socks, hats, toiletries and other items for seniors at a local center.
  • Gave two $500 scholarships to students in New Madrid schools or to the children of employees.
  • Hosted raffles, a silent auction, bake sale and a chili cook-off to raise money for some of the committee’s charities, including $2,500 each to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and to the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center in Sikeston.
  • Donated money to local schools, sports teams and organizations.
  • Sponsored a Relay for Life team to fund raise against cancer.

Jackie Harmon, an AECI volunteer, explained that the committee was especially aware of the hardships families were experiencing after the closure of Noranda Aluminum. The goal, she said, was to get plant employees “to giving and thanking.”

As the nominator summed up, “The AECI team embodies the cooperative spirit of community involvement and makes our small corner of Missouri and the world a better place.”

Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. is owned by and provides wholesale power to six regional and 51 local electric cooperative systems in Missouri, southeast Iowa and northeast Oklahoma that serve more than 875,000 customers. Associated’s mission is to provide an economical and reliable power supply and support services to its members, including the “Take Control & Save” energy efficiency program, Associated is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative.

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