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City will hold public hearing on electrical plan

Modified: Thursday, Jan 17th, 2013

A lot has been hashed out by the Flandreau City Council in regards to the citywide electrical upgrade they decided to embark on during their October 15, 2012 meeting. In order to properly inform the citizens of Flandreau of what will go on, they will hold a public hearing at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 11th, at the Community Center.

The project, which as been deemed as ‘way overdue’ will consist of upgrading the city’s current electrical out put from 2,400 kilowatts per hour, to 12,500 kilowatts per hour. The upgrade will reduce, if not eliminate, ‘brown outs’ because of the extra wattage to everyone’s household. It will also greatly reduce power surges throughout the town.

To go along with the power upgrade, the city will also be burying all of the lines underground, and taking out all overhead power lines.

“After the storm in July of 2011, it became pretty clear that we needed to bury our power lines underground. It is a safety hazard, and is costing the city a lot of money,” one city official said.

It was estimated that it cost the city just about $200,000 to clean up, fix, and replace all of the damage done to the power lines during that storm. Not only that but it was estimated that the city losses around $50,000 a year from line loss to the power system.

The biggest issue the city believes will concern most citizens is how it will affect their wallets. Although the project will be completed in four phases, the city has only planned extensively for the first phase, the cost of which is estimated to be about $1.675 million on the high end.

The city will borrow that money in the form of bonds at an interest rate that is hard to pass up. At just 1.2% the city will be getting an interest rate that is 3% lower than the current bonds they have out on the city’s electrical work, which sits at 4.3-4.6%. The new bonds are for 22 years. Although phase two hasn’t been fully planned, they will also borrow that money at the same time in order to get that low interest rate for both phases.

That money will pay for all materials and labor up to the homeowner’s meter, leaving most families in Flandreau with no construction costs at all. Some families with older homes may have to put up some extra cash. Later this week, city workers are meeting with a firm that will determine which houses in town will be ‘up to code’ as far as their indoor electrical systems are concerned. Those deemed out of date, will have to pay to get their system upgraded.

There will be one cost the citizens of Flandreau cannot run from, and that is the necessary cost hike on their monthly electrical rates. Although the city has not made a decision as to exactly how high they are going to raise the rates, an increase is inevitable if they are going to be able to pay for the project.

Currently, Flandreau has some of the lowest electrical rates in the entire state. Each household pays a base cost of $11.80 and then $0.071, or just over seven cents per kilowatt-hour used. Compare that to another town in South Dakota with a similar population, Hartford, who pays a $15.00 base cost and then $0.095 cents per kilowatt-hour up to 500 hours and then $0.085 after that. Another Moody County town, Colman, pays a $10.40 base cost and then $0.088 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Phase one will take up 23 city blocks starting from Veterans street, down to Wind Street, and starting back up again at Prairie Street, all the way to the east edge of town.

The plan is to make the project as convenient for the homeowner as possible. That means that when the company unplugs the current wire connected to your meter, so they can connect the new underground wire, they will do it in about 90 minutes during the middle of a workday when the homeowners are gone and kids are at school.

The old overhead power lines, which are dangerous and a serious eye sore to visitors, will be replaced with small green electrical boxes placed at the edge of properties to keep them out of the way.

The entire project will go through 2019 with the odd years being construction years and the even years being design years. The projects for phase one will be heading out for bid in the coming weeks and months and should get under way in the spring. The City believes phase one will be completed by years end 2013.

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