Billy Kirk and Clint Durrence, lead line technicians with Coastal Electric Membership Cooperative of Midway, along with a line tech from Cobb EMC and another from Washington EMC, this weekend are heading to Costa Rica, where they’ll bring electricity for the first time to a remote jungle village.
“We’ve never been to a third-world country before, but we’ve been all over Georgia, Mississippi and Florida, repairing power lines after hurricanes and ice storms,” Kirk said. “This is going to be a different experience because we’ll be helping people who’ve never had (electrical) power before. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Kirk said they will install a single-phase, overhead power line in the remote village of Santa Cruz, which is near an highway and a large national forest. Durrence said the power poles, which he expects will be like the 40-foot poles used in Georgia, already have been set by hand. The village is too remote for large trucks and heavy equipment to get through, so all the work will be done manually.
Kirk added that while they are installing the power line, they’ll conduct on-the-job training for Costa Rican power-company personnel, mostly about pole climbing. Durrence said because of limited resources, they’ll probably have to climb the pole, then, while secured to it, install the power line using hand lines. This method uses ropes to hoist the power line up to the line tech.
The men said their accommodations during their two-week mission in Costa Rica are not going to be as rustic as the village in which they’ll be working. They’ll stay in a nearby town at a motel that supposedly has a swimming pool, Kirk said. They are scheduled to work eight-hour days, five days a week, with one planned excursion to the Pacific side of the Central-American country.
When asked whether they’ll have to adjust to the high temperatures and humidity of a jungle environment, Durrence laughed and said he didn’t see how the humidity there could be any worse than summers in Coastal Georgia. He added, though, that he hoped the group would not cross the paths of jungle insects like spiders, scorpions and poisonous snakes.
The humanitarian mission was initiated by an email message from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association that asked for four volunteers from Georgia EMCs.
“We volunteered for this,” said Durrence, referring to himself and Kirk. “We grew up together around Midway. We fish and hunt together, work together. We get along great.”
Durrence said they will fly out of Jacksonville on Sunday, then go to Atlanta, where they’ll catch a four-hour flight to Costa Rica.
“I’m glad Coastal (EMC) is giving us this opportunity to volunteer,” he said. “It’s a great company to work for. I love my job.”
According Sarah Keep, public affairs associate with NRECA, Coastal EMC has service responsibility for about 575 square miles, consisting of nearly 1,500 miles of line in Bryan, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties. Coastal EMC is headquartered in Midway.