Last summer, Powell was hit by a series of power outages. Some were due to a June explosion and fire at the Vining Substation near the eastern water tower. Other outages were due to a different set …
Last summer, Powell was hit by a series of power outages. Some were due to a June explosion and fire at the Vining Substation near the eastern water tower. Other outages were due to a different set of maintenance needs on the city’s electrical infrastructure. And others were due to squirrels.
Beginning this spring, the City of Powell’s electric department will embark on a number of projects to address the problems and hopefully keep the juice flowing in town, electric superintendent Steve Franck told the Powell City Council earlier this month.
For instance, “we’re going to try to get ahead of some of these things so we don’t have so many outages ... from the squirrels,” Franck said.
The rodents often climb up power poles, and if they touch a hot point and a ground point, they cause a short that kills the squirrel and may cause an outage. The city has now bought a few systems to deter squirrels, and city employees will install them between Absaroka and Division streets, from Coulter Avenue to Seventh Street — the area of town where the problems most frequently occur. If the devices work, the city plans to purchase more of them, Franck said.
The department is also installing insulating components and insulated wire, which will help keep the animals from causing the shorts.
To further combat outages, the department plans to begin replacing lightning arrestors and cutouts (fuses that protect transformers). Last summer, when the area received high levels of precipitation, water seeped into cracks in the cutouts and caused them to blow.
The repairs will be performed in the same area as the squirrel deterrents and eventually expanded across the entire city.
Powell leaders are also continuing to pursue an expansion and upgrade of the Vining Substation. At its regular meeting Tuesday, the council approved a proposal for a $1.5 million capital construction loan, which will pay half of the $3 million for the project.
The loan term is for 10 years with an interest rate of 1.375%. The loan will be repaid from the city’s electrical fund, which is maintained through the revenues the city generates from electric bills.
City Administrator Zack Thorington said the city wanted to pursue the loan to avoid depleting its reserve account. With the loan covering half the cost, the reserve account will still have enough money to fund nine months to a year of operations, after the city pays the other half.
A loan through the Wyoming Municipal Power Agency, which supplies power to a number of municipalities including Powell, was considered, but the agency offered a term about half that SLIB would offer.
The city chose an engineer last fall to develop the designs for the substation project, and Franck said these plans are being reviewed and modified. He said he hopes to get the go-ahead from the council soon, because some of the parts have lead times of over 10 months.
If bidding starts this fall, construction would start in spring 2021. Franck said the duration of the construction will depend on funding: If the city can’t pay for all the work at once, it will need to do the project in phases.