The Beginning – 1883
In 1883, the need for a municipal water system became increasingly apparent. The City of Holland proposed a bond to cover the cost of construction for a water works system.
The Holland BPW Water Treatment plant was built in
The Early Days - 1885
The Holland Water Works building was completed in 1885 and a Board of Water Commissioners was appointed to oversee the system, which was comprised of four and a half miles of water mains.
In these early days, problems related to control of use was prevalent as residents were often found using water without the proper permits or use of meters.
Expanding the Water Supply – 1886
By 1886, Holland was in need of a larger water supply. Permission was obtained from the Common Council to drill in search of more water, and a new well was constructed.
Searching for Test Wells – 1888 through 1890
More test wells were established and by 1890, a third well was completed.
Electricity is Added – 1890
In 1890, Alfred Huntley and W.A. Holley commissioned for permission to add electric lighting for commercial purposes. Permission was granted with the understanding that if at any future time the city decided to establish a power plant for street and commercial lighting purposes, Huntley and Holley would be required to forfeit their right-of-way privilege and remove the poles. This action prompted the establishment of the Wolverine Electric Light Company to supply electric lighting to the city's commercial businesses.
Street Lighting – 1891
The city entered into a contract for gas streetlights through the Globe Light and Heat Company of Chicago, however, the service was unreliable and street lighting became a heated issue in 1981. At a Common Council meeting, 112 citizens submitted a petition asking the city to contract with Wolverine Electric Light Company for lighting on 8th Street and River Street.
The committee could not agree on a recommendation, as the majority favored installation of eight electric arc lamps through Wolverine and a minority favored the construction of a municipal power plant. The Common Council tabled both reports and the issue was dropped until much later, when a petition bearing 205 signatures was presented to the council. The petition called for a referendum vote to decide whether bonds should be issued for a power plant to be constructed to light the streets of Holland.
A Municipal Power Plant is Approved – 1892
In conjunction with the city's petition, Wolverine Electric Light Company also presented a proposal to provide lights and electric power. Common Council rejected the proposal instead approving the referendum vote on the municipal power plant.
The 524 to 210 votes in favor of establishing a city-owned power plant, proved residents were happy with the conduct of the 10-year-old water department.
Wolverine filed a suit against the city, stating the vote was not conducted according to charter requirements. A judge in Ottawa County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying Holland Common Council could not issue electric bonds.
Plans were made to amend the city charter and provide establishment of a Board of Public Works to manage the water works, electric light plant, sewer system and other public improvements.
A Revised Charter and the Beginning of Municipal Electric Production – 1893
A revised charter was approved by state legislature in 1893 and the vote for a city-owned system was overwhelming. With this, the City of Holland's municipal electric production and distribution system had begun.
Land was purchased from Hope College on East Sixth Street near Cedar Street (now College Avenue) to build the electric production facility. The plant became known as "Fifth Street Station."
Today – 2013
Today, HBPW provides electricity, water filtration and supply, and wastewater collection and treatment for nearly 28,000 customers. The system has grown tremendously in size, technology and reliability.
From the 40 streetlights installed in 1893, HBPW has expanded to a service system that includes street lighting, industrial electric service and fiber optic technology. The decision made more than 100 years ago by the voters of Holland to initiate municipally owned utilities has proved to be a valuable asset to the community.