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Our History

The following is a summarized history of Riviera Utilities. The information herein was the result of hard work and determined research by Former General Manager, H. Sewell St. John, Jr.

On October 2, 1916, the Town of Foley entered into an agreement with Swanstrom Brothers Saw Mill to install 12-50 Watt street lights for $60.00 and to furnish current at the rate of $15.00 per month. The Swanstrom Brothers had recently purchased a used 100 volt generator to supply electric lights for the mill.

The street lighting installation was completed during the month of December and Foley paid its first electric bill January 2, 1917. This was the beginning of public utility service in this section of town.

On October 8, 1917, Mr. C. A. Boller, then Mayor of Foley, reported to the council that, he had taken it upon himself to investigate the purchase of a lighting plant. The council set up a committee to continue the investigation and to report just what it would take to set up a municipal lighting system.

On December 21, 1917, a municipal election was held to determine whether or not Foley would issue $3000 general obligation bonds to purchase a light plant and wire the downtown area. There were 19 votes cast all in favor of the bond issue.

Orders were promptly placed and contracts were let to build and get the system in operation. It is interesting to note that the contract for the light-plant building went to Orville Orr, as lowest bidder of $161.40 and the job of erecting the distribution system to F. W. Walker, $115.47. The two 15kW Delco units rated at 110 volts D.C. (direct current) along with all other supplies and materials cost $2,266.11. The plant was completed about June, 1918. The town was now in the ELECTRIC BUSINESS. .

Total capacity of the plant would take care of less than two fully electrified homes as we know them today. Electricity was turned on around the middle of the afternoon and off at 11 P.M. The minimum rate was $1.85 per month and $.18 straight per Kilowatt-hour.

In November, 1919, another election was called for the purpose of authorizing an additional $1800 general obligation bond issue, to purchase a 25 H.P. engine and alternating current generator rated at 15kW. The D. C. units installed were not too satisfactory because of the limited distance D. C. electricity could be transmitted. This time 14 votes were cast and again all for the bond issue.

According to the record, the lighting system remained in rather serious trouble financially. By 1922, it had gotten to the point where it was either raise the rate or attempt to sell the property.

On June 24, 1922, the Foley Light & Power Company was incorporated with capital consisting of $7,500 (300 shares at a par-value of $25 per share).

On July 24, 1922, an election was held to determine whether or not the municipal lighting system would be sold to private interests. Sixty-one votes were cast for the sale, one vote against. The Honorable James T. Dumas was the Mayor of the Town of Foley and Frank W. Walker was the Town Clerk.

The first municipal electric operation terminated on August 23, 1922 when Mr. J. B. Foley purchased the system for $6,000, which approximately represented the outstanding debt at that time.

From that date to July 28, 1941, the system was operated by various private interests and under several company names. Riviera Utilities Corporation was formed on February 10, 1929 by Central States Edison Company, the then owner of the former Foley Light & Power Co.

Sherman F. Lemler, Riviera's first General Manager and an employee of Central States Edison, was sent to Foley on January 16, 1931 to see if he could assist in a more effective lightning protection method, which was supposed to take three months. He liked it so well, the climate, people, everything, that when he was given the choice of staying in Foley or going to Oklahoma, he elected to make Baldwin County and Foley his home.

In 1935, Congress passed the Public Utilities Holding Company Act (PUCHA) which among other things, gave holding companies five years to integrate their properties. Utility people called it the "death sentence clause" and certainly it was for Central States Edison Company, who operated in eight states; everything from Coca-Cola Bottling plants in Louisiana to a farmer's slaughter house and meat curing deal in Opp, Alabama. They were able to escape the ax with regard to their Riviera Utilities operation until 1941, because they were and had been making an earnest effort to comply with the act and liquidate their properties.

Prior to this time, Alabama had passed an act which permitted municipalities to issue and sell revenue anticipation bonds for the acquisition of electric properties.

The town council of Foley, consisting of Dr. Beesley, W. Max Griffin, S. W. Porter, M. R. Howell, Max Jewell and Frank Barchard negotiated for the purchase of Riviera Utilities Corporation and Baldwin County Electric Light and Power Company. They employed the investment firms of Watkins Morrow and Co. and Hugo Marx and Co. to work out the bond issues and Lide and Adler as Consulting Engineers to determine the financial feasibility. With consent of the Department of Finance and the Alabama Public Service Commission and under agreements with Robertsdale, Summerdale, Silverhill and Daphne, all of the other incorporated towns on these two systems, $550,000 revenue anticipation 4 1/4% bonds were issued and sold. The properties were purchased and on July 28, 1941 their operating responsibility was turned over to the Foley Municipal Electric Utilities Board which, under Alabama law, had been created for that purpose. This three-member board initially consisted of Messrs. S. F. Lemler, S. F. Parker and E. M. Howell.

Later, in 1951, the Alabama Legislature enacted a law which allows municipalities to create an incorporated utilities board for the purpose of owning, operating and improving an electric system, natural gas system, water works system, and a sanitary sewer system. Pursuant to that law, the Town of Foley established its Utilities Board on May 30, 1952.
This new board acquired the electric system and assets of the Foley Municipal Electric Utilities Board on July 1, 1952, as well as the water system and portions of the sanitary sewer system which were owned by the Town of Foley.

In 1956, the State Legislature increased the size of the utilities board of directors from three members to five, all of whom must be qualified electors of the City of Foley.
Presently, our Board of Directors has the following members: R. Timothy Russell, Mayor of the City of Foley Samuel F. Parker, Jr., Vice-Chairman Arthur A. Holk, Charles J. Ebert, Jr., Council Member of the City of Foley, and Robert M. Davis.


1) Some of the plant items purchased by the Foley Light & Power Company from the Town of Foley on August 23, 1922:

  • Power house consisting of an 18' x 22' building located about where the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce building is presently located
  • Two Delco generators, 120 Volts, 25 Amperes, 1200 RPM
  • 54 battery cells
  • One 25 HP Fairbanks-Morse Model "Y" oil engine
  • One 15 Kilowatt Fairbanks-Morse compound-wound generator
  • 150 poles
  • 15,000 feet of insulated wire
  • 50 direct-current meters
  • 300 insulators.

Riviera Utilities History Time Line

  1. On March 1, 1926, the Foley Light & Power Company, acting through the Troy Graham & Company, acquired the electric system owned by the Duel Light & Power Company for $25,200. The Duel Light & Power Company's electric system was located in the towns of Robertsdale and Loxley.
  2. On April 3, 1926, the stock owned by the J. B. Foley Estate was purchased for $37,200 by Mr. Douglas Graham, who represented the Central States Public Service Company of Chicago, Illinois.
  3. On July 28, 1926, the Foley Light & Power Company authorized capital of $100,000 consisting of 4000 shares, with 2000 shares of 7% Preferred Stock at a par-value of $25 per share, and 2000 shares of Common Stock at a par-value of $25 per share.
  4. On October 30, 1926, Central States Public Service Company acquired the stock of the Foley Light & Power Company.
  5. On March 28, 1929, Riviera Utilities Corp. converted all 4000 shares of its stock to be Common Stock with a par-value of $25 per share.
  6. On March 29, 1929, Riviera Utilities Corp. acquired the assets of The Consumers Ice & Creamery Company, Inc. (later to become the Gulf Ice & Cold Storage Company, Inc.) for 1000 shares of Common Stock in Riviera Utilities Corporation ($25,000 par-value).
  7. On July 1, 1929, Riviera Utilities Corp. moved its principal office to Monroeville in Monroe County, Alabama, and Mr. A. C. Lee was designated as the corporation's agent in Alabama.
  8. On October 10, 1929, the Central States Edison Company (which was the successor to the Central States Public Service Company) was awarded a management contract by the Board of Directors of the Riviera Utilities Corporation for a five-year period at $300 per month.
  9. On December 27, 1929, Riviera Utilities Corporation entered into contracts with the Gulf Ice & Cold Storage Company in Foley and in Robertsdale as Gulf's provider of electricity, and also authorized an offer to purchase the electric system owned and operated by the City of Fairhope.
  10. On April 30, 1930, Riviera Utilities Corporation spun-off the Gulf Ice & Cold Storage Company due to disapproval by the Alabama Public Service Commission for Riviera Utilities Corp. to operate non-utility property; total consideration amounted to $71,822.30.
  11. On December 22, 1930, Central States Edison Co. lowered its management fee for services to Riviera Utilities Corp. from $300 per month to $200 per month.
  12. On July 8, 1931, a Power of Attorney was conveyed by the Board of Directors of Riviera Utilities Corp. upon Mr. W. J. McNally, an employee of Riviera, authorizing him to execute financial matters on behalf of the corporation.
  13. On December 30, 1932, the Central States Edison Co. created the Central States Service Co., which assumed the management contract affecting Riviera, and lowered the monthly service fee to $50 per month, effective January 1, 1933.
  14. Sometime during 1933, the assets of the Silverhill Power Company were acquired by Riviera Utilities Corp.
  15. On April 15, 1935, Riviera Utilities Corp. cancelled the management contract with the Central States Service Co., and entered into a similar agreement with Loeb & Shaw, Inc. of Summit, New Jersey.
  16. On October 2, 1936, Mr. Sherman F. Lemler, among others, was authorized to sign checks on accounts at the State Bank of Elberta, Alabama.
  17. On April 2, 1937, Mr. Sherman F. Lemler was elected Vice President and General Manager of Riviera Utilities Corp.
  18. On October 11, 1937, Mr. Sherman F. Lemler was authorized to enter into a contract with the Baldwin County Electric Membership Corp. to sell BCEMC electric power and energy.
  19. On July 9, 1941, the council of the Town of Foley adopted Ordinance No. 22, which created the Foley Municipal Electric Utilities Board for the purpose of operating and improving an electric transmission and distribution system.
  20. On July 7, 1941, the Town of Foley adopted an ordinance authorizing the sale of $550,000 Revenue Anticipation Bonds at 4 1/4% per annum in order to provide for the purchase and acquisition of the assets of Riviera Utilities Corp. and of the Baldwin County Electric Light & Power Company.
  21. On July 28, 1941, the purchase of the assets of Riviera Utilities Corp. and the Baldwin County Electric Light & Power Company by the Town of Foley was formally closed.
  22. A description of the diesel-powered generators installed in Foley's first bonafide power plant, and the date of their respective installation, are shown as follows:
  • Worthington 2-cylinder diesel, 180kW. (1922)
  • Worthington 3-cylinder diesel, 270kW. (1926)
  • Busch-Sulzur 8-cylinder diesel, 400kW. (1929) [In 14 years, Foley saw its capacity needs increase from about 600 Watts to 850,000 Watts, or a staggering 141,566 %!].

In 1941, the Busch-Sulzur unit was sold to the U. S. Government, was moved to the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Strait separating Alaska from the USSR . . . where its ship sank before being unloaded. During WWII, the 3-cylinder unit was sold to Mexico, and the initial unit was sold to Jack Heilmeier for junk.

Source: H. Sewell St. John, Jr.
Former General Manager Riviera Utilities
February 22, 2000

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