Town continues needed electric upgrades


FERDINAND — The Town of Ferdinand is moving along on phase 2 of a three-phase project that will ultimately replace a decades-old substation and upgrade electric equipment in the town’s innermost areas.

The substation being replaced is one of the two that power the town. Both are located near Fifth Street Park on the town’s southwest side.

Phase 1 of the project took place in 2018 and involved the installation of an interim transformer on the same grounds as the existing stations. That portion cost about $150,000 and wrapped up in October.

Phase 2 is a longer, more costly process and involves constructing the new substation. It is expected to cost about $1.4 million. In January, the Town Council awarded the project to Power Construction Group LLC of Uniondale.

“It’s still months away from completion,” said Town Manager Chris James.

Right now, the crews are pouring the concrete that will hold the new electric equipment. The town began acquiring that equipment last July when the council approved purchasing a new substation transformer for the town from Pennsylvania Transformer Technology Inc. at a cost of $291,834. The council approved the purchase of additional equipment at the May meeting for a total of about $211,000.

Town officials realize the project is costly, but say it’s past time for the work to be done. The transformer in the substation that is being replaced was installed in 1967 and runs off 4,160 volts. Today’s industry standard for municipal utilities is 12,470. The old transformer also isn’t compatible with the second transformer, which runs 12,470 volts and powers MasterBrand, the town’s shopping center, the Tri-County YMCA, and buildings and businesses on the town’s south side, as well as the town hall area on the north side.

Once the project is completed, both substations will run on 12,470 volts, and one will be enough to power the whole town. That gives the town a backup for when maintenance has to be done on one of the substations and will hopefully cut down on the number of planned power outages for the town’s businesses and residents.

“It’s something that needed to be done to make the system more reliable,” said Ron Weyer, a town councilman and one of the town officials in charge of overseeing the project.

Of course, upgrading the substation to 12,470 volts means the infrastructure that carries power from the transformer to homes and businesses has to be upgraded, too. That work will come in phase 3, which will immediately follow phase 2.

“It’s not something where we build something now, and then we come back in a few months,” James said of the project. “This is something you start and you finish.”

Even so, Weyer said the infrastructure upgrades around town will occur over several months. Some of the old infrastructure will work on a 12,470 volt system, Weyer said, so phase 3 will start with the incompatible pieces. Eventually, though, all of the old system will be replaced.

“We put some bandaids on to keep it going for a while,” Weyer said. “But we felt like it wasn’t going to be reliable.”

Town officials have not yet pursued estimates for phase 3, opting to get further into phase 2 first. So far, though, the town will be able to cover the project cost with existing electric department funds, and James said no rate increases have been or are being discussed.

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