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NEWBERRY – For the fifth consecutive year the City of Newberry has won the 2020 “Building Strong Communities” award. The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) issued the award in recognition of the City offering its citizens extra services and programs beyond those normally provided.

Newberry was announced as an award recipient on Nov. 2 at the FMEA Energy Connections Virtual Conference, which ran through Nov. 6.

This year, 22 winners were selected for community programs that included environmental improvement, community education, public safety, charitable donations and sponsorships and other special services, such as lighting ball fields and playgrounds, parade and festival participation and building car and phone charging stations.

“We commend the City of Newberry for everything they have done to positively impact the lives of their families, friends and neighbors, especially in a year that has been everything but normal. We thank all the recipients for doing what they do best by putting the community they serve first,” said FMEA Executive Director Amy Zubaly Zubaly.

In the past year, Newberry supported a variety of community organizations and activities that impacted almost all of its residents.

Notable projects during the past year included support for the Newberry Watermelon Festival –the longest running festival in Florida, hanging holiday lights at Christmas and hosting the Tree Lighting event, support for numerous local volunteer organizations, providing support for charitable events through the community by sponsoring Relay for Life, United Way contributions, conducting an employee-donated food drive at Thanksgiving and a children’s gift/toy drive at Christmas.

Additional projects included sponsorship of the Energy Whiz Expo at Oak View Middle School, providing customers a free do-it-yourself online energy auditing tool, free yearly energy and water audits and energy efficiency kits to help customers save money as well as providing other energy-saving educational items.

Efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic were also recognized. Public power utilities across the state suspended disconnects for unpaid bills, waived late and reconnect fees and offered payment assistance plans to help customers financially impacted by the pandemic. The City of Newberry offered meal delivery and homework printing services, hosted food distribution events, leveraged financial resources to lower utility bills, waived online fees, and established a donation fund to provide assistance to those needing help.

“Public power utilities have always been community-focused and invested in programs that give back to their communities” said Zubaly. “This year, with the pandemic impacting nearly every facet of our daily lives, public power utilities have found many ways to assist their communities during this difficult time. From easing financial hardships for customers to providing distance learning resources to students and teachers to providing food for those in need, public power utilities have stepped forward to help community members navigate the challenges COVID-19 has brought.”

According to FMEA, Florida’s 33 public power utilities, combined, are the third-largest electric provider in the state, serving 14 percent of Florida’s customers. Florida’s public power utilities serve more than three million customers and are a statewide employment leader with more than 5,400 employees.

“The City of Newberry’s utility serves 2,600 customers and employs numerous area residents,” said Director of Finance and Administration Dallas Lee. “For over 100 years, the City of Newberry has made it possible for residents of Newberry to own and control its energy future while receiving affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible power,” he said.

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