• Last modified 758 days ago (July 15, 2020)


Sparks fly over blackout

Marion businesses concerned about equipment damage, lost revenue

Staff writer

A blackout that lasted 9¼ hours Saturday again knocked out power for many in Marion, particularly Main St. businesses.

Gambino’s Pizza co-owner Judy Smith doesn’t know how many more power failures her business can take.

“My equipment is so old that if it takes more jolts like that, it may put me out of business,” she said. “The oven is old, and to replace it would be $20,000.”

Gambino’s loss of business was limited because it usually opens at 10 a.m. and power came back on at 12:15 p.m., but Smith’s husband still had to turn away multiple customers.

“What can we do about it?” Smith asked. “We could complain but what good is it going to do to complain?”

Marion Auto Supply had a generator installed Saturday, and co-owner Mike Regnier said it came at an opportune time.

“When electricity is off, then we’re out of business,” he said. “We struggle by but we basically can’t do anything.”

City officials blamed the extended blackout on workers from Funk Electric having what the city described as “a parts failure.”

The power failure began as an intentional blackout that was supposed to have ended by 7 a.m. Saturday. Power was not restored until 5¼ hours later.

The city’s announcement of plans for the blackout Friday morning said power would be out from 3 to 7 a.m. to finish installing a buried line and to allow city workers to replace fuses at a city electrical substation.

According to Holter, Marion County wants to bury overhead lines near the substation to protect transfer station workers.

Marion also is upgrading its 2,400-volt line, which is the line that often proves problematic.

Mayor Dave Mayfield thinks the city might want to move everyone to its 7,200-volt line.

“Have an engineering firm come in and give us a cost of what it would do to get this 2,400 line out of the city and hook everyone up to the 7,200 line,” Mayfield said at Monday’s city meeting. “Just get it done and get it all up at once.”

Regnier is used to seeing situations in Marion from multiple angles. In addition to being a business owner and resident, he has close dealings with the city from his 40 years as Marion fire chief.

“People don’t like it, but they’re dealing with it,” he said. “There are times when we’re just dealing with it.”

The blackout drew no shortage of frustration on social media, with comments that there was “always some kind of problem with the electric,” and that it wasn’t a surprise.

However, few showed up Monday to express concerns to Marion city council.

Alison Tajchman representing Taco’s Food Truck and her downtown residence, mentioned wanting more community members to show up but said she was hopeful for the possible changes mentioned at the meeting.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be addressed, so I’m glad to hear a plan in play,” she said. “I’m disappointed in the community that didn’t show up, which is very invested in that.”

Mayfield didn’t have cost estimates in mind for possible upgrades, but he did expect a bond issue would be needed to help with the cost.

The city already has $200,000 in a fund for upgrading some residents to a 12 gauge/5 strand line. That money help finance Mayfield’s idea.

12/5 wiring has five separate strands with insulation between them, as opposed to one solid cable.

Mayfield would like to see installation completed on a 12/5 line near St. Luke Hospital as well since materials already have been purchased.

A damaging blackout June 5 resulted in half power that burned out some air conditioners and other appliances in town. It was blamed on a connecter near the substation that either was not installed properly or failed. A blackout a few days before that was blamed on use of buried cable near the substation that wasn’t sufficiently moisture-resistant in an area that floods after heavy rain.

Last modified July 15, 2020