Fairbury City Manager Collin Bielser came to the Jefferson County Commissioners on Tuesday, to ask for their help in providing services in the wake of the power plant losing its insurance.
Currently, the power plant is staffed 24/7, Bielser explained, so that people can report outages day or night. If the city is unable to find insurance by Feb. 28, the plant, which has been in Fairbury since 1910, will close its doors.
“The majority of what the power plant serves is as a dispatch center for electric calls that come in after hours, or water leaks,” Bielser said. “Our insurance was not renewed for the mechanical aspects of the plant. I have not heard from another insurance company as of yet as to what they’re willing to do. So, it appears at this moment the power plant will not be in operation following February 28.”
Bielser asked the commissioners if the county would be able to help the city to resolve part of this issue by having the county dispatch take reports of power outages after hours.
“We reached out the John McKee (Emergency Manager for Jefferson and Saline Counties) and Nels Sorensen (Jefferson County Sheriff) about our radios, and they think the county can handle this intermediate period and see how it goes,” Bielser said. “We met with dispatch, Nels, Chief of Police Chad Sprunk and other department heads. I know the electric linemen feel more comfortable with the county being able to provide a dispatch service for us for after hour calls.”
Bielser explained that the City of Fairbury is still examining its options about how to remedy the issue, addressing the situation with a number of organizations.
“We have visited with three entities,” Bielser said. “One was Nebraska Public Power District. They have a service to offer, but it takes 60 to 90 days to set up. We’ve discussed it with our power pool dispatch services. They believe they can meet the March 1 deadline, but they do not have radio capabilities at this point.”
The Jefferson County Commissioners asked about the impact of the service, and Bielser explained that with the exception of major storms, it is rare for calls to come in for power outages. In times of major demand, the city will bring in a staff member to handle the extra work load. Bielser emphasized that this service would be for a brief period of time to see how it works. They will work to determine some form of compensation plan.
“At night the service would transfer to dispatch, then during the day it would transfer back to the city,” said Bielser. “Then if there is a storm at night where multiple lines are down, it would transfer back to the city as well.”
The commissioners indicated their willingness to help with this project, and they will officially decide during their meeting on Feb. 21.