Keeping the Lights on in My Hometown

By July 22, 2021uPDate

Blake Dicus

Substation Engineer Blake Dicus grew up riding bikes, playing basketball, and exploring the rivers and waterfalls around Sparta, Tennessee. With a population of less than 5,000, it’s a place where everyone knows your name. So, when Blake’s name appeared on documents recommending modifications for the town’s only substation, people noticed.

Sparta’s 30-year-old substation desperately needed equipment upgrades to increase reliability. Blake explained, “The city is fed by one substation. If the substation loses power, so does everyone in the city of Sparta.” The substation, jointly owned by the City of Sparta and Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, provides power to Sparta and the entire county, so when Sparta loses power, the whole county does as well.

Patterson & Dewar Engineers, Inc. (P&D) has a longstanding relationship with Caney Fork EC and the City of Sparta, so the utilities asked P&D for recommendations on improving their infrastructure. Since this pursuit was important to both the City of Sparta and Caney Fork EC, they agreed to fund this initiative together. P&D evaluated the aging substation and presented its recommendations, which included replacing relays and other equipment to improve reliability. “These are large ticket items that are submitted to the utilities and must be approved by the city council and the cooperative boards before the project can proceed,” explained Blake.

Blake, his father, Buddy, as Santa, and his sister.

Albert “Buddy” Dicus serves as the independent auditor for the City of Sparta. He’s also Blake’s dad. So, Buddy received the surprise of a lifetime when he saw Blake’s signature on invoices from P&D. “He was so proud of me, to see how far I’ve come, and to see his son doing this kind of work in the town where he grew up,” Blake said. “I grew up knowing many of the men on the city council. So, they are especially proud of my part in this project.”

The equipment modifications are still in progress in Sparta. “Once it’s all said and done, my family will look at it and know that I had a part in this project,” said Blake. “It’s right by the Walmart, so everybody sees it. It’s nice to be able to go back home and see something you worked on. I take pride in my work, and to see it on that scale, improving the electric reliability of the whole city and county gives me a great sense of pride.”