Voters to decide fate of electric issue April 6

Voters to decide fate of

electric issue April 6

Hermann voters will make their choices know in the April 6 municipal election on control and maintenance of certain electrical infrastructure in the city.

The Hermann Board of Aldermen voted in January to place the issue on the ballot. The measure asks voters to consider a proposal to transfer ownership of a 69-kilovolt electric transmission line, near the Kit Bond Bridge, to Central Electric Power Cooperative in Jefferson City.

City officials have said that Hermann does not possess the proper trained personnel and equipment to repair downed or damaged electrical poles related to the transmission line. A subcontractor would have to be summoned to respond to any such emergency, according to Mayor Bruce Cox.

A positive vote in next week's election would shift responsibility for the line's maintenance and upkeep to Central. There would be no extra costs to the city from such a transfer. An information sheet recently distributed by the city explains the circumstances.

In 1981, the city established an industrial park east of Hermann. To provide electric service to the area, the city built a radial feed 69kV line to feed a substation. The line was connected to Central Electric's system at the point it crossed the former Missouri River bridge. That line was and is currently owned and maintained at the expense of Hermann Municipal Utilities.

Central lost a system tie-in that had crossed over the bridge when the span was removed. A river crossing was built in the Hermann Industrial Park to maintain system redundancy, and Hermann's 69kV line became an important part of Central Electric's system loop.

About 30 utility poles that make up the line are from 1981 and have reached their end point of service life. Officials say the cost to replace the poles is estimated at $400,000, without factoring in the impact of severe weather. For instance, in 2017, two transmission poles broke during a storm and had to be replaced for $86,000.

With voter approval next Tuesday, the city's electrical system would remain on a loop feed from the transmission supplier. The city would be able to operate under built circuits on the line for distribution reliability. The section of the line at issue would be regularly and professionally inspected.

"Eliminating unnecessary, very expensive maintenance costs for these lines will allow the city maintain its electric reserves account balance and keep your electric rates reasonable," the information sheet concluded.

The Central network does not supply electricity for use by Hermann residences and businesses, but rather serves the cooperative's own customers in the nearby region.

"Central Electric Power Cooperative believes the transfer of ownership of the City of Hermann’s 69kV transmission line benefits both parties," according to a statement Central provided to the Advertiser-Courier last week.  "The rising costs to maintain such facilities continues to put pressure on municipal budgets and ultimately rates.  We will assume the financial burden of owning and operating those facilities while also maintaining them to our standards.  This will ensure we can control the long-term reliability of this asset for our members as well as the City of Hermann."

The city has taken time in recent weeks to promote the passage via other means, including Facebook and reviews at BOA meetings.