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Newton plugs in

October 6, 2011

Harold Duckworth electrified the minds of Startown Elementary School children Thursday.

The faces of Ahna Smith, Taylor Melkner and Leng Khang lit up as Duckworth raised the bucket on a city of Newton power truck.

"That thing was awesome when it went up," said 5-year-old Cody Lutz, pointing into the sky.

Cody's peers agreed. Dozens of children waved to Duckworth and said goodbye as he raised the bucket. Duckworth waved back and smiled.

Newton power line workers educated Startown students on electricity safety as part of Public Power Week, a celebration of cities who own their own power systems.

Duckworth started climbing power poles in 1966 and has long worked for the city of Newton. He's 70 years old and still climbing into the air to work on lines, but Thursday was the first time he's shared his career with elementary school children.

"If they see that cord plugged in over there and know to leave it alone, then it's all worth it," he said.

Matt Kroeger, who also works on power lines for the city, explained his safety gear to students, including his hardhat, flame-resistant clothes and rubber gloves.

A buzzing sound and flashing light engaged 5-year-old Maddox Tallant.

Kroeger used the sound and visual to illustrate electrical current. He told children that electricity and water don't mix when swimming. He warned them to stay away from power lines when climbing trees, and he asked them to not put their fingers or objects into power outlets.

"It might look cool, but it's not cool," he said. "There's been many, many young children, your age, your size killed."

Gary Herman, the city's public information officer, said children and adults can also go to city hall to learn more about public power and safety. A display highlights Public Power Week.

"This is the biggest we've done Public Power Week," Herman said.

Beside the bucket truck, Duckworth showed Kenton Tran equipment that line workers previously strapped to their legs to climb power poles years ago.

"How heavy are those?" Kenton asked.

Kenton tugged at the straps.

"Pretty heavy," Duckworth said. "We used to use these. Then someone got smart and invented a bucket truck."

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