PLAQUEMINE — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to declare an emergency and authorize the mayor to purchase a new electrical transformer for the city.
Mayor Mark “Tony” Gullotta told the board that preliminary cost estimates were between $3 million and $3.5 million to purchase and deliver the transformer, pour a new foundation and slab and conduct wiring work.
The mayor added that funds from the city’s renewal account could be used to cover a required 30 percent down payment, and that additional — but not total — funding could come from a current $8 million loan program the city has through the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Gullotta said that a recent power plant fire in Morgan City that knocked that city’s electrical grid offline for about 48 hours has him worried.
“Morgan City and Plaquemine are on pretty similar systems, including backup steam plants,” he said. “The minute I heard about what happened, I thought, ‘That could happen in Plaquemine.’ ”
Gullotta said that the city’s current transformer, which is still in good operating shape, was built in 1958, but installed as a used unit in 1973.
However, the city’s backup steam power plant can no longer act as an adequate backup during the summer due to its age, the mayor said.
“The best our steam plant can do is about 21 megawatts,” he said. “That’s putting us 5 to 5.5 megawatts short of the city’s maximum load we’ve experienced during the summer months.”
Engineer John Bergeron with consulting firm Power & Energy Systems Engineering said that the city has the opportunity to purchase a new dual-rated transformer earlier than initially expected.
Wisconsin-based company SPX Transformer Solutions has offered a production slot for the city that could have the new transformer shipped as early as late December, Bergeron said.
The city would refurbish the current transformer and be able switch between the two units as needed, Bergeron said. He added that the new transformer is expected to have about a 40-year life span, depending on load levels.
Gullotta said the city had only a four-week time frame to secure the manufacturing spot.
In making the motion to declare an emergency, which allows the city to bypass typical purchasing procedures, Mayor Pro Tem Oscar Mellion said that he feels the situation warrants the move.
“With such uncertainty there, if we did nothing, we would be negligent,” he said.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved