Larned’s Public Power: Then & Now

Quotations taken from: Zook, Paul W. (ed.), “Panorama of Progress—A Century of Living, Pawnee County 1981-1972” Larned, Kansas: The Tiller and Toiles, INC 1972

Began in 1914
The meeting of the city council in February 1914 is an important date in local history. The meeting is recorded as the time and place when the decisive step was taken towards giving the City of Larned the right to own its electric lighting system as well as water works.

The city election on Larned in April 1914 resulted in a sweeping victory for progress in city affairs, and an endorsement of the polices advocated by the incumbent administration and most flattering to Mayor Lindas and the members of the city council who stood with him in the fight for a municipal light and power plant. It was a landslide in every ward in the city.

January 1915 - April 1916
Larned’s new municipal electric light and power plant was to be located on the Rahn lots at Main Street and Santa Fe Trail, facing the main line of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. The announcement was made January 1915. The city expected the new plant to be slightly affair set in the middle of a park with trees, shrubs and grass surrounding it. Hence it was thought desirable to have it on the railroad, so that persons passing through Larned on the train could see it, thus obtaining advertising value from the plant.

An electric wire, connected at the Arkansas Valley telephone office by a switch to the flag pole at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth April 3, 1916. The light was to be used as a police call.

The new municipal electric power plant is now furnishing current to all old subscribers of the Smith Electric and Ice Company. The lines of the Smith Company were cut in on the new system at eight o’ clock April 18, 1916, and the municipal plant pulled the load.

The “white way” (Main Street) was lighted for the first time on April 15, 1916 from 8 o’ clock until 11 o’clock while engines and generators at the new power plant were being given a final test before beginning the municipal long test.

December 1920
The city council faced three alternatives for the city light plant in December 1920: sell the plant, buy current, or issue bonds for new equipment. The plant doubled business in four years and made money in the face of doubling costs of both labor and fuel, and without an increase in the rates since its establishment.


The year 1929 opened with a move to get gas fuel for Larned when Western Gas Company came up with a plan to grant gas franchises to Great Bend, Hoisington, Hays, Russell, LaCrosse and Larned and build lines to serve these cities. On March 6 a franchise was granted to Western Gas Company of Salina, and Larned soon had clean fuel for its homes, June 1, 1929 with the city later using gas in its electric plant.

Electric rates were lowered to 20 to 22 percent in Larned by the city in February 1929, This was due to a surplus in the light plant’s earnings.

The Larned City Council decided to purchase a new 1.5—kilowatt unit for the city municipal light plant, a cost of $90,000. Increased load is the reason for the additional unit.

Equipment for the new boiler unit for the Larned Municipal Light Plant has been purchased. Installation work was begun in about three months. (May 30, 1940)

Boiler Furnace Explosion 1943
Three men miraculously escaped death or serious injury April 21, 1943, when a boiler furnace at the Larned municipal light plant blew up with a terrific explosion. George Smith and Fred Thomas, operators and John J. Haslam, of the Baily Meter Co., Kansas City, were in the plant when the north boiler furnace suddenly exploded without warning.

1965 - 1968

The Larned City Council let contracts January 28, 1965 for an aggregate expenditure of nearly $700,000 for a steam generator, turbine-generator, a surface condenser and pump for the condenser. The city issued revenue bonds to cover the cost.

The Larned City Power Plant held open house for the public in March 1968 after its eighth expansion, at the original site.

1976 - 1977
On December 1, 1976 the Tiller and Toiler reported that the city power plant was checking out “bugs” in its new diesel electric power generator. The machine was to be used as a peaking and standby unit, capable of generating 6,450 kilowatts per hour (enough to light 64,500 100-watt light bulbs), used when the main steam generator is down and for supplemental power during the heavy use period in the summer. The 18 cylinder diesel generator was purchased for $1 million dollars and officially went on line January 1977.

2003 -  Present
In November 2003 the city retired the steam unit and purchased and installed five (5) 2.5 MW CAT generators. The CAT generators went on line May 21, 2004.

Your Public Power Utility often is the “invisible” crew of the city employees who continually work for your benefit. These people are the ‘power’ behind our community owned power plant. The next time you see one of the crews—say “thanks”, they are the folks at the other end of the light switch.