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Baldwin City Council updated on utility initiatives

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December 8, 2015

About 20 Baldwin City homeowners can expect to get letters from the city in January informing them their power could be shut off if they don’t replace outdated or dangerous electrical meters or fix faulty exterior electrical wiring.

Baldwin City electrical distribution supervisor Chris Croucher told the Baldwin City Council on Monday of his department’s progress in getting homeowners to replace outdated meter “cans” and faulty electrical wiring. He first came to the council in April about the need to replace a number of outdated meters and 60- to 70-year-old cloth-insulated exterior wiring in the city. Both concerns can led to house fires, he said.

The city sent out 17 letters to homeowners in August, Croucher said. The letters explained the homeowners needed to obtain a permit to make the upgrades and that they had a year to make the improvements. The letter further explained the city would extend an interest-free loan of up to $1,500 to hire a licensed electrician to make the upgrades, which customers could pay off through their monthly electrical bills.

Croucher said a majority of the notified customers were positive about the initiative and some expressed gratitude the city would help finance safety improvements they knew needed to be made but couldn’t afford. As of Monday, only two of the homeowners hadn’t applied for a permit to make the improvements, but they have told they Croucher would do so before the Thursday deadline. If they fail to apply for a permit by that date, they would have their power shut off and would have to pay the $75 service restoration fee, he said.

After conversations with the first 17 homeowners, he and city codes inspector Tina Rakes have revised for clarity the letter to be sent to the next 20 homeowners with meter safety concerns, Croucher said. Again the goal is to get the safety improvements made without causing financial strain or the cut-off of power to residents.

“I personally don’t want to shut off power to anybody,” Croucher said. “I hate that part of the job.”

The council was updated on an another utility initiative slated for next year during a public hearing on the city’s application for a Kansas Department of Health and Environment low-interest loan of $1.47 million for waterline replacement. The project will replace cast iron 4-inch water mains with 8-inch PVC lines in the city’s older sections. Shut off valves and fire hydrants will also be added.

Baldwin City public works director Bill Winegar brought the loan opportunity to the council’s attention in August, suggesting its use would allow the city to undertake much of the waterline replacements on its capital improvement list in one year rather than piecemeal.

That would ultimately save the city money because of inflation and by offering a single contractor mobilization cost, said Alex Darby, an engineer with Professional Engineering Consultants. He also told the council Monday that he had talked with the KDHE director and was assured there would be money for the project.

His firm was starting work on the project’s preliminary design now, Darby said. He anticipated work would begin in the “spring” and take four to five months to complete. City water customers would only experience disruption of service when the old lines were shut down and water rerouted to the newly installed mains, a process that could be completed in 30 minutes, he said.

“It shouldn't be a problem unless you’re in the shower,” he said.

Winegar told the council in August the locations of the waterlines to be replaced are:

• High Street from 11th Street to the Santa Fe Depot.

• Fifth Street from High to Dearborn streets.

• Fourth Street from Dearborn to Ames streets.

In other business, the council:

Agreed to waived city fees for the Habitat for Humanity home to be built next year at Eleventh and Fremont streets. The council approved the request, although it was noted a similar request of the first Habitat home built in 2004 was denied.

Learned from City Clerk Laura Hartman that she was working with RG Fiber on an update of the city website.

Originally published at: http://www.baldwincity.com/news/2015/dec/08/baldwin-city-council-updated-utility-initiatives/