Middletown honors electric lineworkers who restored power in Puerto Rico after hurricane

Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan honors Duke Energy linemen with a proclamation on Wednesday, National Lineman Appreciation Day, outside the City Building. RICK McCRABB/STAFF
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Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan honors Duke Energy linemen with a proclamation on Wednesday, National Lineman Appreciation Day, outside the City Building. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

The “special relationship” between Duke Energy and the City of Middletown was celebrated Wednesday morning on National Lineman Appreciation Day.

Of the cities Duke serves, Middletown is its second largest, only behind Cincinnati, said Tim Abbott, manager of government and community relations. He said Middletown has a “very important customer base.”

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Jim Sochacki, vice president of distribution, construction and maintenance for Duke, said the success of the energy company is directly tied to the success of its customers. Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky’s operations provide electric service to about 850,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in a 3,000-square-mile service area and natural gas service to approximately 529,000 customers.

“We appreciate that partnership,” he said.

He addressed the linemen standing near two bucket trucks that held a large American flag and told them: “You inspire me. You amaze me.”

Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan presented a proclamation and told the linemen it’s easy for customers to take electricity and utilities for granted. He said linemen are “first responders” when there’s a disaster. He also applauded those Duke employees who responded to a power restoration assignment in Puerto Rico last year after Hurricane Maria devastated the region.

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Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico suffered catastrophic damage, including destruction of its previously damaged electrical grid.

One of those 240 Duke employees who spent 54 days in Puerto Rico was Luis Amaya, a 29-year veteran at Duke. Repairing the electricity in Puerto Rico was a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, Amaya said.

He said the task was completed, though workers were without much of the proper equipment.

“It was a challenge,” he said. “But we were up to the challenge.”

After nearly three decades with Duke, Amaya said he enjoys watching employees rise through the ranks, from training to be linemen to becoming supervisors.

“Pretty cool,” he said. “It’s nice to see them grow.”