Bent County Fire Takes Toll on Light Plant Power Poles

Photos Courtesy of John Robinson

“It will probably take the full summer to replace the power poles that were burned in the Bent County weekend fire,” announced Lamar Light Plant Superintendent, Rick Rigel. Rigel told the Lamar Utilities Board on Tuesday, he surveyed the burn area on Sunday and estimated that 15 poles in a three-mile area must be replaced. On the basis of his findings, Rigel suggested a cost-study analysis on using metal poles to replace the wooden ones that were destroyed. He said insurance should cover the replacement costs and hiring a contractor, but he has no estimate yet of the dollar loss. Rigel added the first priority will be to stabilize the remaining poles, especially at road crossings.

LUB members voted in favor of purchasing the second highest priced wooden power pole crossarms because the ten and eight foot wooden crossarms are already in stock with Techline Company. The price is only $373 more than the lower bidder, but that delivery date will take 4-5 weeks. Rigel said, “Because we’re on the fringe of the storm season and in light of the recent fire, it’s better to have them in stock now than delaying replacement for a month.” Board members tabled a decision to purchase a ‘125 foot’ man-lift for the Light Plant. Rigel said these devices are high maintenance, they have very limited to no warranty, and he is concerned about the safety issues associated with using the lifts. Their cost averages $120,000 and he wants to explore the options of a lease-purchase agreement with the companies that submitted a bid.

Board members went into executive session to discuss three matters: plant operation update, latest issues with the WildEarth Guardian lawsuit and to consider approval for a consent order on compliance for permit exceedences. In open session Rigel stated that repair work continues on the boiler system and tube weld inspections will take place through the month. Replacement and upgrades on the primary and secondary air handling systems will take about a month and will begin early next week. Rigel expressed optimism regarding the state court findings on the WEG litigation against the Repowering Project. He cited a preliminary analysis of the plant’s modified permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. The MACT, Maximum Achievable Control Designation, is not required for the LRP as the power plant is not considered a ‘major’ source of Hazardous Air Pollutants, and the plant is not bound by the emissions estimates under the EPA’s policy of, “once in/always in” he explained.


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