Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Residents vent electrical anger

August 29, 2001

Power may have been out in Baldwin City over the weekend, but there was plenty of steam rising. Residents and business owners alike were irate after outages early Saturday morning and Sunday night.

"This reoccurring situation is just unacceptable," said Walt Faber, owner of Walt's Pizza Cafe in downtown Baldwin. "I've lived from LA to Tennessee and I've never seen anything like this.

"It's quite a financial drain for me," said Faber. "I had a complete staff here ready to go Sunday night and I couldn't send them home. I've lost money for the week. Sunday is a big night for us."

Baker University officials weren't too pleased, either. A picnic and other activities for around 300 incoming freshmen and new students had to be adjusted because of the outage.

"I think the city needs to get this problem solved," said John Fuller, Baker spokesman. "We're the city's largest customer and I think Baker and everyone in town has the right to expect reliable electrical service.

"Sunday's outage was particularly bad for us because we had all of our new students there," said Fuller. "We had a picnic and other activities planned that we had to switch around and ended up canceling those that were planned for inside because we didn't have any electricity."

Not only was it an inconvenience, he said, but much like Faber, those outages cost Baker money.

"It's more than just annoying," said Fuller. "It costs the university money because we lose productivity when we don't have electricity."

It also doesn't cast a good light on what Baldwin has to offer new Baker students in the power department.

"It's an introduction to Baker, but it's also an introduction to Baldwin City and it wasn't a good introduction Sunday," he said. "Welcome to Baldwin City, we have no power."

It did serve notice to the new students that a supply of candles and/or flashlights will be necessities.

"That's unfortunate, but true I guess," said Fuller.

Sunday's outage was blamed on transferring the incoming electrical load from Ottawa to Gardner, according to City Administrator Larry Paine. The supply had been switched Saturday because of wind damage that knocked out power poles which caused that early morning outage.

Saturday's damage left many KCPL customers without power for as long as 17 hours. One of those customers was Heritage Tractor, whose co-owner Ken Wagner is also a Baldwin City Council member. Wagner was none-too-pleased by the KCPL or Baldwin City situation.

"Absolutely we were without power all day Saturday," Wagner said of his business. "We're not on city power, we're on KCP&L. I didn't see KCP&L lighting the world on fire to get power restored.

"We're going to have to do something as a back-up plan," he said. "We have to have power. We made the decision to stay open Saturday because it's a big day for us. We tried to make it as seamless as possible."

He said they are investigating generators as a back-up plan. As for Sunday's outage in the city, Wagner was even less pleased by that.

"The Sunday night thing was pretty disturbing to me," he said. "I've tried to stay away from the power plant, but I went down there and I was pretty disappointed that we didn't fire up the generators earlier.

"Based on what the people who drove by were doing, I'd say they were mad and I understand that," said Wagner. "Once we fired up the generators, the people who were driving by were cheering and giving the thumb's up sign. I would like to see us as a utility make the decision sooner to fire the generators up."

Paine said that wasn't done sooner as a safety precaution for utility workers.

Fuller said he wished Baker had other options, but there aren't any.

"It needs to get better," he said of electrical service. "I'm not sure what we can do about it. We have very high standards and I don't think it's high of an expectation to have reliable power."

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