Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
By Amy Kronenberger
Study shows St. Marys needs $5M in electric grid work in next seven years
  ST. MARYS - The results of a preliminary study of the St. Marys electrical grid shows an estimated $5 million of work needed over the next 7 years.
City electrical superintendent Joel Johns told council members during their regular meeting Monday that officials from Spectrum Engineering, Auburn, Ind., presented preliminary results of the city's electrical grid study that was conducted over the last year.
Spectrum recommended 22 projects ranging in size and scope to update the grid by 2020. Johns said Spectrum's estimate was likely on the high side because it included the purchase of new trucks and equipment that officials would have included in the city's budget anyway. It also included the cost of labor that could be done by city employees.
He said the most expensive item would probably be replacing an aging substation, estimated at about $2 million. Expansion of some of the newer substations and new transformers would also be expensive.
City workers have already started minor projects, including installing 50 to 60 new fuses at various locations in the city. The fuses will isolate power outages to smaller sections "so we're not losing a third of the town," Johns said.
Preliminary results showed 80 percent of the city's power load goes through one power plant that has smaller transformers than the others. Workers have begun transferring much of that power to other substations.
Mayor Pat McGowan said the main concern of the study was to find the cause of and stop the frequent, minor power outages happening in the city.
"The main issue is that we want to keep the commercial customers up and running so they won't have any downtime," he said. "The goal is to never have these issues again."
Council member Dennis Vossler said $5 million over the course of seven years is not that much money and the benefits of making the upgrades will only benefit the city and its residents and businesses. Other council members agreed.
Spectrum officials will meet with the electrical committee and council in the coming weeks to go over final results, Johns said. The $120,000 grid study was funded over a two-year period ending in 2012.
Also on Monday, council members passed under suspension of rules an emergency resolution allowing fire chief Joey Weaver to apply for a Bureau of Compensation Grant to purchase a Stryker Power Load Cot and a Homeland Security Grant to help cover personnel costs.
Safety service director Greg Foxhoven said the cot runs on hydraulics and includes a loading system that the company installs into the ambulance. Weaver has three rescue squads, one with the Stryker cot. He would like to eventually have a cot in all ambulances. The device adds about five seconds to the loading time, Foxhoven added.
"The cot is designed to handle all patients," he said. "Basically it really helps out with the larger patients as far as lifting."
In other action, council members,
• heard first reading of an annual ordinance modifying St. Marys codified ordinances to fall in line with changes in state law.
• heard second reading of an ordinance vacating a 12-foot alley in the Cloverlawn addition.
• heard second reading of the preliminary 2014 budget. Total expenses are predicted to be $45.706 million, up $1.8 million from this year.
• learned SummerFest was a success. McGowan thanked the city employees for their hard work during the event.
• scheduled a streets and sidewalks committee meeting for 7 p.m. Monday at the municipal building to discuss the possibility of replacing the brick road on a two-block stretch of Walnut street with property owners who live there. The street is the last remaining brick road in the city. The next regular council meeting is 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at the municipal building.
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