Member Spotlight

Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin

The Highway 60 bridge in Prairie du Sac crosses the Wisconsin River. This stretch of the river, from the Prairie du Sac Dam to the Mississippi River, is one of Wisconsin's most popular canoe and kayak routes.

A new $68 million, 115-acre hospital campus now occupies a stretch of land with a view of wooded hills in Prairie du Sac. Construction crews work steadily both inside and outside the 140,000-square-foot building, and a network of nature trails is taking shape around the perimeter.

The Prairie du Sac Department of Public Works & Utilities recently completed a $500,000 project to install twin 3,000-amp service to the new facility, which is scheduled to open in spring 2014. While the local linemen did all the electrical work, other public works employees helped out where needed to install 40,000 feet of 500-MCM cable and new switchgears. Soon they will install new 1600-amp service to another medical office building on the site.

Nearby, workers are framing yet more new homes, adding to the subdivisions that have steadily expanded the village’s north side.

Farther up Highway 78, a trio of modern, Prairie-style office buildings overlooks the Wisconsin River in the North Ridge Business Park. The headquarters of the Culver’s Franchising System, Schwartz Insurance and the Badgerland Financial operations center now occupy what was an empty field four years ago, with vacant lots still available to others.

The population has increased by more than 20% since 2000, to about 4,000 people today, in the village about 25 miles northwest of Madison.

In the adjacent community of Sauk City – which shares a municipal boundary, school district, police department and the hospital with Prairie du Sac – the population has grown about 10% during the same period. The two communities maintain separate electric and water utilities, fire departments and libraries.

Village Administrator Alan Wildman said he expects Prairie du Sac to continue to grow. This year, the village even earned national distinction, winning the Golden Medal Award for having the best-tasting water in the nation at the Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C.

Hands-on Work Ethic

Prairie du Sac's Public Works & Utilities staff includes, from left: Steve Haas, Gregg Coenen, Paul Kippley, Troy Murphy, Tom Meyer, Arlyn Oetzman, Kim Foye, Mark Young, Rick Rothman and Pat Drone.

The ongoing expansion has created plenty of work for the locally owned, not-for-profit utility, which serves 2,000 electric and water meters.

Public Works & Utilities Director Patrick Drone started working at the utility as a lineman in 1977. Since he became superintendent in 1991, he and his crew have had many opportunities to be involved directly with planning and constructing the village’s electrical and water systems.

“Because of our size, we all have to work together as our load continues to grow,” Drone said.

Under his supervision, the village has put in new overhead lines, the Tower Street Substation and a new well, in addition to extending electric, water, sewer and stormwater services to new homes and businesses.

Creating redundancy has been important. In 2004, the utility constructed the new substation, building all of their own ties between Prairie du Sac’s two substations. Now either can carry the village’s full load, explained lead lineman Troy Murphy, who has done much of the expansion work in his 16 years with the village. Today his electric utility crew includes Paul Kippley and Gregg Coenen.

In fact, the department’s staff of 10 has only grown by two positions over the years, which Drone attributes to the quality of his employees and the fact that everyone wears multiple hats. Public Works employees, including Drone, share responsibilities.

The village’s largest customer, Milwaukee Valve, comprises about half the electric utility’s load. The management has been receptive to energy-efficiency changes, most recently by installing new controls. It’s one of the many practices the company details on a separate website devoted its sustainability efforts,

Other companies based in Prairie du Sac include American Data, founded in 1984 by a nursing home administrator to provide software to the health care industry; Ganser Construction, which has been in the business of building homes since 1977; and Wollersheim Winery, which got its start in 1972.

Energy Services Representative Jim Schieble has taken a proactive role with helping customers identify and implement energy-efficiency improvements. With the utility’s assistance, Sauk Prairie High School and Grand Avenue Elementary School have earned ENERGY STAR® certification. The high school has replaced its lighting, added variable speed controls to its heating and ventilation systems and installed automated controls. It also has a 4.18 kW fixed solar photovoltaic system that was installed in coordination with the utility, Focus on Energy and WPPI Energy.

Upgrade Planned

The utility’s programs for residential customers include Tree Power, AC Tune-Up, lamp recycling and offerings through Focus on Energy. During Public Power Week, the village invited customers to stop into the office for treats, gifts and prize giveaways.

In the year ahead, Drone and his staff will work toward upgrading to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for both electric and water.

As with all projects, he has done his research. He and long-time Village Board member Eldor Fruehling have visited other communities to learn more about implementing AMI, recently selecting Elster electric meters and Sensus water meters.

In the meantime, Drone – who was honored with the American Public Power Association’s Harry Hobart Seven Hats Award for outstanding management of a small public power system in 2008 – says he looks forward to getting up at 1 a.m. to help plow the village streets when it snows, as he does every year. 

This Member Spotlight originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2013 Power Report newsletter.

Prairie du Sac fast facts

County: Sauk

Number of customers: 2,033 electric and water customers

Member website:

Prairie du Sac’s electric utility was formed in 1914.

Each August, Prairie du Sac hosts its Annual Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw & Festival. The event draws more than 40,000 people every year, with hundreds of competitors, plus an art fair, concerts and a 10K run.

WPPI Energy member since 2001